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I never promised you a rock garden - Anna Rosenblum Palmer
He is refusing to come inside. This isn’t the first time. He is still busy at the edge of the porch, small fingers scrabbling through what appeared to be dirt. Pausing in the unusual spring sunlight I don’t plead my case. Instead I stop to look and realized that my four year old is digging the grout out from our cobble walkways, separating grout into the paste part and the particulate. He has a small pile of rock to his right. He looks up at me as I wait, uncharacteristically patient, and rewards me with a smile that lights his face from side to side. “Isn’t it beautiful Mama?” Decades before my father is asking me the same thing. He is holding a rock that looks like a turd. “Isn’t it beautiful?” He asks, half challenging and half protective. He has the object cupped in his rough sculptor’s hand, and he is using his other pointer to gently stroke the surface of the rock. Beneath his squared nail is a bit of clay which I see clearly in the light of the gallery. Behind him the wall is filled with niches designed to perfectly fit their pieces. Not too many of these look like poop. “You have to get beyond the idea of pretty to the idea of beautiful. You can’t judge these things by how they look, but how they make you feel. Great art is not pretty.” Years later I try to follow his advice. I tilt my head and drop my agenda and I can see what my son means, glints of reflected light shine from his rock pile and he has clustered things in a way that the balance of the stones is surprising. This is something else that my father taught me…the way physical objects can challenge our perceptions. A solid stone can be pierced with holes if you look closely enough. What appears to be wood can actually be bronze or ceramic, what seems to have been created by nature can actually be worked subtly by the hand of man. We need to look harder to see the story in everything. My boy is getting to his feet, carefully carrying his pile to the base of our outdoor sculpture. He needs to re-form it into its previous shape but nothing is exactly the same. This time it is even more precarious and I hold my breathe imagining that a single exhale could topple things and set off his upset. He is volatile. He sits the little bits of rock that now seem to make a single stone next to a pile of pebbles that he had scavanged earlier from our rock garden. They are both perched on a natural rock basin, filled with a fourth kind of stone which steadies the a large boulder. He is satisfied now…he has gathered the five types of rocks together. H is ready to head inside. At dinner he picks at his food, mouth moving with talking more than taking ...