Years ago — before kids, marriage, dog ownership, smart phones, 9/11, Isis etc. — I made some art about human commonality. Even back then when things seemed simpler and less volatile, there was deep division and focus on our differences.
I screen printed 196 yellow handbags on tiny pieces of paper and, on the back of each, wrote a county and their population. Numbers = people. Every one of them in need of a satchel to carry things. Every one of them with a favorite color. They hung on a clothesline by stitched thread.
I thrifted an old gun case and lined it with burgundy satin. I filled it with phrases printed on transparency film. Things every human has in common. I thought it would be a struggle to come up with the thousands I needed to fill the box but it was a snowball activity, gaining momentum and ease as I typed.
I was born.
I feel sad.
I have a favorite food.
The sun feels good on my skin.
I am thirsty.
The earth is my home.
I can’t share images of either of these pieces. I don’t know where the slides are and I don’t have the work any more. I left the yellow handbags on a trip Andy and I took to New York City in 2004. I placed them on the subway, sidewalk, cafe table and so on, all over town. The gun case sold to a lawyer in a small Montana town. Last I saw, it was still in her waiting room.
We watched the World Series seventh game a few nights ago. And, I was having these thoughts that I didn’t say out loud but I couldn’t quiet. Things like
People spent $10000 on a ticket and kids at our school are hungry. Why is everything disposable? I wish this many people cared as much about the presidential election. Why are there zero women working anywhere in this profession?
I wanted to just be in it with Andy who was definitely IN IT. I wrote this when we were at Wrigley Field for Pearl Jam last summer:
My husband grew up playing baseball in Red Lodge, Montana and the only Major League Baseball he had access to was on channel WGN Chicago. At six years old — the first game he ever saw — he was gobsmacked. So, the Cubs was his team. And Ryne Sandberg hit a home run so he was his favorite player. Forevermore.
His friend Clancy gave him Pearl Jam’s Ten cassette tape 25 years ago and since then, PJ had been his band. Forevermore.
So I set my sights on Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field, assuring him we could swing this. Because I just feel so lucky to be his partner in this giddiness. Forevermore.
I turned my thoughts around, which was pretty easy actually. I saw what he saw. The commonality and strength in rooting for a thing. The hope, excitement, energy, hugs, feelings, investment. The humanity.
In this bananas presidential election and general global atmosphere, I am 100% for more of the feel-good, embracing, benevolent parts of our world. And, I think every person watching that game was craving an uplifting, shared experience.
And, before I move on: I am of course, of course voting. For Hillary Clinton. Now is not the time for apathy, friends. What a wonderful right it is to be able to vote! Use it. Fact: one of two people will be president of our country for many years and will affect your life and the lives of those you love. Let’s think about our kids and what we want them to inherit. I am voting for capability, vision, inclusion, sincerity, gun control, women’s rights, education for all. I am voting for you and me — we are not mutually exclusive. We are all in this together.
If When! you vote, leave a comment here telling us about it. If you took a photo of your I VOTED sticker or yourself at the polls, feel free to link up in your comment! Rules: be kind and respectful. On November 9, I’ll choose a winner who will get $50 credit at DIG + CO.
Comments closed! Winner: Nikki V.
Back to baseball, art and commonality.
I fell asleep with Ruby when the Cubs were up by two. Andy woke me up, exhaling a stressy BABE. IT’S TIED, with a few expletives in there. I returned the to living room, grateful he wanted to experience this with me. And together we stayed up so late, watching and hoping with the millions of others.
In the overwhelming and heartening truth that things cosmically align in wonderfully surprising ways, I taught a lesson (that I planned over a month ago) to my daughter’s third grade class yesterday. About community and human similarities. I want to tell you a bit about it because it was lovely and kids are full of hope.
I read Same Same but Different to the class. I asked the teacher assign partners ahead of time, emphasizing creating pairs of children who don’t know each other that well. And they interviewed each other. Click here for a free download of the interview sheet.
They then did a continuous line drawing of their partner, focusing on their face and the detail of their interview. Not paying attention to perfection. No erasers, no lifting their pen. One line. It’s a game. It’s a practice in noticing, studying the actual details and beauty of a peer, a neighbor, a human. They incorporated words from the interview into their drawings. We mounted the interview next to the art on construction paper and each child keeps the portrait their friend drew.
This practice of studying a person serves us well in situations of disagreement, adversity and difference. It’s always helpful to take a deep breath and dig into our well of empathy. To see and be seen.
In politics, in baseball, in third grade: We can then be brave and honest and kind as we express our opinions and convictions. And we get to vote.
Go Cubs! Go Caring About Our Neighbors! Go Art! Go Feminism! Go Same Same But Different! Go Hillary! GO VOTE!
A note on volunteering in the classroom, in response to your past questions on instagram: while I appreciate any involvement in my daughters’ classrooms, I especially like facilitating and executing larger projects (as opposed to the weekly or bi-weekly shift). This approach is satisfying: it allows me to use my skills and passion, get to know my kids’ friends on a deeper level and it gives the hardworking teacher a solid break for a few hours. At the beginning of the school year, I simply email the teachers and tell them what I like to do and what I know about. I tell them I’d love to teach lessons, where appropriate and supportive of their curriculum. For this lesson, Margot’s teacher (3rd grade) told me they were studying community. I led Ruby’s class (1st grade) last week in an art project about full moons, owls, spiders and bats (in response to an animal unit they studied).
Nici–I think you are my favorite person that I don’t know personally. If our lives did intersect I am quite certain we would be friends. Thank you for this–I’m going to do it with my 4th grade students pronto. With much gratitude & admiration.