My son has begun to leave traces of his drawings and coloring everywhere. He loves drawing these days because Mo Whilems taught him how to draw a pigeon trying to drive a bus. He also loves coloring because alpha blocks are zesty and full of colors. They taught him how to color within alphabet known as blocks. It’s as if he has begun an endless hunger for art. But it’s his art assignment at school that has me mesmerized this morning. Coloring or drawing didn’t come naturally or easy to him. Here is a boy for whom coloring between the lines or within spaces was a chore. There were assignments full of coloring that he never really completed, never really understood, and saw as a waste of time, if as things to assign. The colors he placed rather haphazardly disturbed nothing, moved nothing too. From then on, coloring became a chore, another thing to do, another thing, often described as boring, this thing that we bore into him.

Pigeon from Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.
Alpha block

Until this summer, our summer of light, our summer full of discoveries. It was this summer, one with no therapy, that my son discerned for himself, the intimate sustained surrender to art for art’s sake. In the absence of demands, through frames that are separate, yet particular, a pigeon, alphablocks, and now the Virgin Mary, this thing that was once boring, complements his minds’s many dazzling ways, deepening an enduring desire to do more, be more, involved yes, but consumed more with what he creates with his own hands. A pigeon, alpha blocks, even the Virgin Mary all pry open the pages of his intriguing mind. His art, has become now, more important, than his silence, more important than days where his mind frays or melts down. This is a keep worth reliving over and over again, one where his art is becoming life, one frame at a time.

Virgin Mary

I asked him, why he even painted Virgin Mary brown. Most depictions are of a fair lady, fairer than the white of snow. His is only 7 years and I am fascinated with how he depicts humanity. His response as clear as a sunny day: because she is supposed to be brown. I don’t take this response lightly. His mind is a puzzling masterpiece to all of us that know him intimately. To see this journey, to watch as he follows his path, through art, through colors, through people, is to see possibilities with minds on a spectrum. All of us that are typical have so much to learn from children on the spectrum, whether from their thoughts on pigeons, or alpha blocks or Virgin Mary. Don’t wait for society to tell us how they should act or speak or even react to ways that are untypical to a typical mind. Each of us are destined to use the skills we have to meet minds that dream of days were dreaming is life’s streaming, this beaming in need of more esteeming. I am learning each day that those of us with the privilege to see how the brain works differently are the lucky ones. How each coloring, each drawing becomes a thing worth keeping is my prayer for you, for me, a desire for what to come when we all keep coloring. Keep it, because it’s what you, we, are all supposed to do.

The most famous holiday in Mexico is today, The Day of the Dead. It’s a day were large numbers of tourists descend upon Mexico to watch a range of artistic displays, carnivals, even ritual performances all around the theme of death. Plus there are skulls, lots and lots of skulls and skeletons too, all confronting mortality in ways that honor the deceased. Some have described this day as Mexico’s obsession with death, a fondness for dying and reverence for the deceased. Today is also Mexico’s version of the Roman Catholic celebration of All Souls Days. A day we celebrate the souls of people like my father and my father in-law from whom we are able to flourish.

Stanley Brandes in his article entitled ‘Is there a Mexican View of Death,’ noted how today is so salient in Mexico than anywhere else, as a form of national identity, an effective way to create and maintain ethnic and national boundaries in an era of globalization’s where boundaries become porous. But it’s the ubiquitous presence of skulls, in whimsical colors and humor, as an aesthetically pleasing acceptance of death that makes this day unique and creative for me. For art today, my son took a stab at creating his version of a skull mask to celebrate the day. Any color was permissible, whether blue teeth or red shaped heart nose, or purple eyes or flowers in orange or green, so long as it made him happy, we were pleased. Perhaps the skulls are living. Perhaps they are dead. We, like the skulls celebrated today, are the ones who need color, to continue to fulfill our roles on earth, from one descendant to another, as we confront life, confront our living. Keep coloring the dead, keep coloring life, today and beyond.