The assignment was simple. The Cat in a Hat, comes to your house one rainy day and you have so much fun. Use your imagination to describe all the fun you have. My daughter let her’s fly. Mom and Dad went out, she began and left her alone with her brothers and a baby sitter. Suddenly, Cat in the Hat, came by the house. While one of her brothers were afraid, she was so eager to meet him. She watched as he played many tricks including juggling with weird items like a soccer ball, a fork, and a drum. She was afraid he would make a mess. He still continued to juggle, now with mom’s flowers and dad’s globe. And as he continued to have fun, mom and dad arrived. We too, she noted, joined in the fun which lasted until midnight. My daughter ended her story with scenes depicting the event. One showed her baby brother sleeping. Another showed, Cat in the Hat juggling all the sorts of items while she tried, though in vein, to ask him to stop. The final scene showed mom and dad arriving home from our meeting. Her imaginations with this assignment, as with so many others, are the necessary jolt I need, to wake up from my slumber.

I know I have written extensively elsewhere that to be in her world, in her imaginations, even in her illustrations is a gift I will forever cherish. She reminds me everyday of the possibilities inherent within ourselves if only we extend ourselves a little. On days where I feel overwhelmed, there is always a story, an image of hers lingering around our home, waiting for the right moment to cheer me up. It’s as if the universe knows that I will need a source of inspiration and she remains that steadfast assurance my imaginations needs to thrive in as well. Ours is a learning relationship I will also keep always. That our children can teach us things we adults need to learn is never at the top of conversations. Yet with her, I learn every day. I learn about the worldview of a child. Things I agree with and things I don’t. I learn about how they stretch their imagination, to places far and near, where anything, including a Cat in the Hat juggling flowers or a drum is possible. I learn about about her use of words. Some of the most interesting combination of words occur in the hands of children like my daughter, who are carefree in their thoughts and use their words for power. I also learn about how she does not limit herself to anyone’s depiction or discussion of how she ought to tell her story. Nothing blinds here to her imagination. Nothing tells her she to go high or go low, juggle items with a Cat in a Hat or pray he stops so he doesn’t make a mess in the house. Nothing stands in the way of her imagination. That’s the the keep for me today.

Keep a child’s imagination for yourself whether with Cat in a Hat or anything else. She knows herself well, conveys her story for herself well even to the delight of her teacher who shared this quote while grading the assignment: “what an imagination and way with words.” Her own contributions to my world and work will forever be sterling. She continues to give her imaginations a place to stand, to use it as a potent device to tell her story, her way and that is enough for me to join her teacher and say well done.

If you could make up your own planet, what would it entail? For my daughter, four things: a house, a monkey, a red magnet and multiple little planets with imaginary names. I asked her why they multiple little planets or monkey or the red magnet in the middle of her planet. Her response; It’s my planet and I can design them as I want. She wanted to create names that were different so she did. She wanted to drop a magnet to attract dolphins more. I wanted a house to rest in and little cute monkey to play with. It’s my planet after all. I smiled. It’s yours, so keep making your planet as you see fit, I said. Imaginary ones too.

Imagine the wind, crying, with a wise owl staring maybe at a gentle deer or a tough gorilla. A running fawn, playing next to a fluttering butterfly with a silly frog, acting well, silly. Imagine all of this combined together as a story. How our brain combines elements, whether a crying wind full of wise owls, to form a creative activity, is called imagination. My 8 year old daughter is full of it. In a recent assignment for school, she was asked to imagine Native American names for her family member. Every name she gave, brought her love and understanding of Native American culture to the forefront. It’s almost like she understood for example, why mom would be described a gentle deer, or grandmama, a wise old owl. Imagining these names in words and art form, became a meaningful and necessary task for her, one that I intend to help her keep. Imagination, even with something as simple as thinking about names that vividly represent her family members, combines more skills than other task. It is through her imagination, that her creative self is brought closer to life.

Imagination helps my daughter understand why a person can be gentle or wise or even tough. Imagination helps her draw and at the same time talk about her drawing. Imagination helps her make something that looks like reality. To the extent that I want to ensure she has the right skills necessary for a great future, imagination will always be one of the main forces through which she will attain this goal. My daughters fierce imagination, is what I choose to keep today. She is literally on fire, the way she combines elements in her head to tell stories. A natural storyteller, it’s almost as if stories have always been with her, always buzzing in her head, waiting for the right moment, the right prompt to liberate her brain.

Of course I see myself in her. They way she weaves together words with images, gives a sense of connectedness, that is quite striking for her age. It’s like she is part of an imagination club, our club, where words are given permission to thrive. And they do. Her imagination is stunning. Her gift of combining different concepts and ideas to form one unified whole makes me smile. So I say to you, keep a child’s imagination, especially if they are as gentle as a deer or wise like an owl.

For art yesterday, my son’s homeschooling teacher noted that the destination was their imagination. She said they were free to draw whatever they liked, however they liked and proceeded to play Florence Price’s Juba Dance from her Symphony 1 to help spark the children’s imagination. For my son, the first thing that came to his mind as he listened to the Symphony was space, a spinning solar space system, with all the planets in orbit. I have always known that he loved space and all the planets and stars and the galaxy. For Halloween last year, he was an astronaut. I have a video of him explaining how he wants to be an astronaut when he grows up. This assignment though was eye opening. Granted, the destination was one’s imagination, but to think that space and all it’s inhabitants occupies his mind consistently is astounding to me.

My son’s solar system.

So I asked him why space? His response, why not space? Why not a place with giant planets orbiting close to the sun? After making his planets, hand drawn and cut by him, I expected him to line them up one after the other, in similar fashion most pictures depict the planets. Not my son. He placed them one by one instead, orbiting around the sun. The picture may seem messy, but take a closer look and you will find every detail you can think of worth knowing about planets, from their names, to their position next to the sun, even the stars next to the planets were all illustrated in his piece of art. The essential feature of his art as I observed him intently, was that he was drawing from memory with many, many details, as if he has indeed gone to space before. He was drawing what he knew about space. All this truly got me thinking, what really is the purpose of education and at what age do you start letting kids explore what matters to them, what fills their mind with rapt attention? These questions became more important when we moved to the next class on Zoom. Granted it was reading, but my son and his mind were still on the planets, his attention so fixed, so attuned to it’s specifics, that the idea of reading was frowned upon the moment I mentioned it to him. Luckily he had already completed the materials requested so he got more time to focus on that which truly sparked his curiosity, his creativity.

The famed Lev Vygotsky once shared the ‘all else being equal, the more a child sees, hears, and experiences, the more he knows and assimilates, the more elements of reality he will have in his experience, and the more productive will be the operation of his imagination.’ This to me is the fearsome power of a child’s imagination, their ability to trace impressions of things different, things distant, with accurate precision, accurate specification, for minutes or even hours, purposeful and so powerful. Through my son’s lenses I am beginning to understand and appreciate the power of imagination, the creative reworking of one’s impressions whether big or small, natural or acquired. It’s all worth it, especially when combined together in a precise fashion. Keep imagination, keep creativity.

My happy son with his solar system!

Doors open when we let our minds wander. This is a precious gift worth nurturing and protecting at all costs. Imagination is a precious gift. To be able to dream about places far and wide, to focus on what is within our control, our own recollection of what matters most is a gift. Imagination is a sacred gift. To be able to hold hands, one ours, the other our mind, together we invent, together we dream, together we are appalled, together we are amused. Imagination is a sterling gift. Our own freely given to us to make use or take part in, however we see fit. Imagination is our gift. Becoming the highest version of our selves even if in our dreams, is a gift. And it starts with our imagination, or in today’s post, being scary monsters.

A scary monster

Yesterday and thanks to an empty Amazon box, my kids used their imagination to make the head of a scary monster. The monster had big red eyes, with black eyebrows, blue teeth and green ears. Every detail with this monster head design was specific. Their perception of a scary monster, informed by their imagination was enchanting. It’s wasn’t something they did, but what informed their sensibilities. In their mind, scary monsters could be playful, but still scary, could be colorful, but still scary, could be amusing but still scary, could be made out of boxes, and still scary.

This sweet, intimate connection with the mind is full of intelligence, full of grace. The grace to see scary monsters in all their vivid humanity. It is a total communal experience with the mind. There is something so marvelous about an unblinking mind that wanders, and their effect, their gaze whether through art or the written word is something really divine. We can all go there, to that side of our humanity, that requires, no demands that our minds wander, if only we keep being scary monsters.