I used to love watching my children play.
Pre-school, we led a quiet sort of life together - home based, but with a gentle timetable of play groups we showed up to and friends we spent time with. It was lovely. We didn’t do any organised sports or music lessons or language classes or anything like that.
We did a lot of walks with sweets at the shop on the way home. We picked up a lot of leaves and sticks and acorn hats and made flower garlands which we drooled onto on long bus rides home.*
I loved it, though the hours were long, of course, and there was a lot of wiping and cleaning and kissing knees and reading the same story again and again (with all the different voices).
But watching them play was like magic. Fascinated by their creative little brains, I used to get out three or four random items from the toy cupboard and set them out on the wooden floor. And then I used to stand back and watch.
The best ‘toys’ are multi purpose (and non-gendered. Don’t get me started on toy irons and ironing boards). And ones which make you think. So we had a lot of random items in that cupboard that ‘shouldn’t’ be toys, and which certainly don’t go together: rice / dried chickpeas / cardboard tubes / magnets / spoons / stray wheels.
And they just used to come up with games you couldn’t even have imagined.
It was totally magic.
I find myself playing with drawing in the same way now, which is somehow pleasing and full circle, like it’s my turn at last. I like making pictures from random connections that really shouldn’t go together, but somehow do, in a marvellous rabbit hole of odd delight. Like this picture above: Jacobean revenge tragedy / geisha white make up / or Elizabethan face powder? / a programme I watched on punks.
I didn’t even know I was going to make it, until I did. It’s not even finished really, and it’s a little bit blurry (which i like!) and not at all perfect and might lead nowhere, or everywhere.
That’s because it’s playing.
* I drooled too, because who doesn’t, dropping off on the bus ride home?
PS: I highly recommend listening to Paul Simon talking about the collaborative making of his track Graceland, on the 25th Anniversary Graceland album. It’s so interesting, and talks all about this same playful collecting of random yet somehow connected thoughts, to make something new and musically fresh, but with rich undertones of history. I listen to it a lot! It’s very inspiring.