It's like when you get an irritating-but-catchy tune in your head, and even though you don't want to think of it, it's all you can think of, you know? I talked with him later that night, and it turned out that since artists (and campers) share their work with each other all the time, by the time he was ready to draw his patterns all he could think of was hearts, and stars, and rainbows, and he wasn't about to fill his drawing with all that dreck (no offense to the girls out there; it's just a boy-thing). But he couldn't think of anything else, just like that annoying song!
So we got to talking about the patterns in nature, like the ridges on a scallop shell or the scales of a snake, and soon my youngest joined us, and then we were talking all at once, rattling off examples - zebra stripes! spiderwebs! honeycombs! leopard spots! And on and on. We talked about how so many artists are inspired by nature, by the sights and sounds and textures of the natural world, and I wondered, had we never discussed this before? I feel like we must have, but maybe this is the type of concept that must be brought up again and again before it takes root in their young minds? The boys were still talking about it the next morning, and later on my eldest proudly showed me that he had completely filled in his drawing with all his favorite patterns, dragon scales, and spirals, and animal tracks arranged in stripes ... a visual triumph of self-expression!
In the past few weeks we've been to the zoo, the coast, the backyard, and now it seems everywhere we go we see patterns, especially my youngest. I feel lucky that we found ourselves in this specific situation, a direct occasion to talk about patterns in nature, to wonder about them and go looking for them. How often does such an occasion present itself in our hurried and stressed-out lives, or more to the point, how often do we recognize it when it does? And how likely is it that our children are being given the chance to wonder about and explore these kinds of concepts in their hurried and stressed-out school days?