Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Living creatively

Rain threatens today, and I'm hoping it will come. The grass is thin and browning, already crispy in places. A neighbor's pond already looks like it was mid-summer, not spring, and it will be nothing more than a big mud puddle if we don't get rain (or he doesn't get his windmill going).

But my garden is planted, tomatoes and all, and even though nights are still cool, things seem to be growing well. Our weekend was cooler and easier to work outside -- I spruced up flower pots and cleaned off porches, and it looks much better, although there's still (always) work to be done.

This is Missoula Children's Theatre week here, and those of us on the Tehama County Arts Council are busy helping with the production. It's exciting to watch kids from age 5 to 17 audition on Monday, rehearse all week, and then perform on Saturday. Kids today just don't have the arts opportunities that I did as a child -- at least in rural communities, and I'll bet even in urban areas that such programs are not often found in ordinary public schools.

I got art lessons through our wonderful art museum, drama opportunities both in school and through the parks department, all the books I could read through the county library's bookmobile system which brought them to a nearby park every two weeks, and a terrific school music program that started in fourth grade. Back then, there were not sports leagues for girls -- and I was a bookworm anyway, and decidedly unathletic -- so when my brother would play on Little League teams, I'd bring a book along.

Funny. Even with all the technological advances and vast information we have today, I believe my public education was superior to what is offered in many public schools today -- more than 50 years ago. There's something just wrong about that.

Children are hungry for expression -- for creativity -- for knowledge. They soak up information and ask questions (if they're allowed). Even the most awkward child will draw with crayons or chalks or paints (until they're told they have no talent). They'll sing and dance, even TV jingles if they have no other music sources (until they're criticized for making too much noise or breaking something). They'll play make-believe under tables, in boxes or hidey-holes under trees and shrubs, and pretend to be princesses or soldiers or kings or athletes or cowboys (until they're told it's silly and they shouldn't do it).

And then we spend the rest of our lives trying to regain that stifled creativity, don't we.

If you have a child in your life, encourage them to play creatively, to create, to perform. Take them to see the MCT performance at the State Theatre this weekend. Talk about books and music and art. Sometimes it's the only thing that still make sense in this world.

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