Updated: Feb 25, 2022
Joyful imagination need not end with childhood mud pies and memoir;
women of a certain age can still craft their visions.
The other morning my four-year-old granddaughter and I gathered flowers and leaves for “potions.” She served me “soup” of dandelion, grass, and pink clover, “cooked” atop a fat pumpkin by her front door. And like Alice, I toppled down a rabbit hole 70-years-long into memories of my own pure imagination.
I remember making mud pies, thoughtfully
decorated with spikes of plantain, the yellow fuzz balls on pineapple plant, and twigs. The warm sun, the security of clapboard house walls, the wet grass twinkling with raindrop prisms, plus a goldfinch or two -- back then that was my normal. Just an ordinary day. Hindsight renders it magical.
One time my mother gave me a scrap of pie crust dough, enough to make a shell in my 3” dolly plate. All the blueberries had been used, so I slipped outdoors to forage for my own fruit to bake in my pie. Indeed, I found something much nicer. I arranged the top crust by myself and Mom baked my creation. Imagine her surprise when we cut into my tiny baked pie of -- white gravel! (My cooking has improved a lot since then …)
A few years later, an old piece of white fence and imagination became my most favorite toy ever: my stick horse with a knot hole eye. The long, low fence by the driveway was broken, perhaps by heavy snow. I found a board about 4-1/2 feet long, 2-3” wide and ¾” thick. The wood grain emerged through the white paint. My horse, Silver, emerged from little girl dreams of my very own horse.
How I galloped around the yard and dirt roads by my house tucked away in the country with no other homes in sight. Sometimes I fashioned a bit of clothesline into reins and threaded it through the knot hole, the better to control my mount. Other times I just raced over the grass and stones and streams for hours, long enough to wear the rear end into a point.
Occasionally my brother would ride a stick horse with me, but no one quite enjoyed riding stick horses as I did. You see, I wasn’t just astride some broken fence. O, no. I thundered across the high prairie and truly felt the wind in my horse’s mane, felt his muscles ripple under my saddle. Even now, I think of riding this stick in my sunlit childhood and feel again the exhilarating breeze of first freedom.
Many years later, as a student at the University of New Hampshire, I entered a literary contest on the theme of Fantasy. The prize was a free ticket to the Boston performance of "Midsummer Night’s Dream" by the Royal Shakespeare Company. This production by Peter Brook featured Titania on a trapeze and other non-traditional staging, radical for its time. I won with my poem about a horse, Fantasy. Like much of my writing, the original has fluttered off in the intervening 50 years, but I do recall a few lines:
…Your whips can’t bruise my Pretty One!
Your barns can’t hold my Champion!
My Fantasy sprints freely where Reason plods, tethered.
This poem bobbed up in my brain recently when I visited my old high school friend, Nancy Sander, a sculptor and puppeteer, to see her birch bark horse, Betula, at the Annual Outdoor Sculpture at Maudslay Exhibit in Newburyport, MA.
(Perhaps one horse had led to another…)
Nancy confided that she had qualms about pulling off the sculpture, yet over a year ago began collecting bark, anyway. Bit by bit, bark and images piled up in her shed and in her mind. This masterful horse sculpture proved to my friend that she could, indeed, execute exactly what she had envisioned in her mind’s eye, even as an artist of a certain age. In fact, many of the artists who exhibit at Maudslay are in their 80s and 90s.
Clearly, imagination has no “best by” date. ###
Invitation/ Your Turn
· What imaginary games did you enjoy as a child? How did they make you feel?
Photo credits: Carmargue wild horses by James Everitt on Unsplash