Friday, March 16, 2012

Art as voice

In the rear-view mirror my youngest son’s face was only an outline. But I could make out the shape of his cool new glasses, and see that he was looking out the window as we drove through a Tennessee thunderstorm last night. I wondered what he was thinking about.

I have been reading and thinking about disability a good bit in the last several months, and I ask your indulgence as this entry may veer off the road of art, theology, and culture. Or maybe not.

About two and half years ago, my son, then fifteen years old, was transitioning off of the serotonin reuptake inhibitor that helped him sit in his schoolroom and control his impulses (which others, including me, found disruptive), in preparation for a change of prescription.

It was as if he came briefly out of a fog. The evidence of this was a week during which he began to draw colorful images. They were clearly inspired by a trip to the grocery store and a close encounter with an aquarium of live lobsters and crabs.

Amazing. Detailed. Dynamic. Colorful. No staying inside the lines, because there were no lines. These were original and creative.

Then, as the new medicines had their effect, that creative expression disappeared again.

We have struggled to help him find his voice, and release his expression. His thoughts. His needs. His questions. His opinions. His way of seeing the world.

What he finds happy or sad, beautiful or terrible, just or unjust, tasty or awful. What he imagines and dreams.

Then, yesterday, neither coached nor encouraged to do so, he picked up his colored markers and drew.

An artistic impulse. A creative initiative.

This little drawing is a reminder that he is there.

Perhaps waiting for us to help him out of his box, filled with fog.

Riding in the car, maybe he was thinking about bugs and other crawling creatures. Or about drawing something. Or maybe he was finding the power of the thunderstorm amazing. Or wondering if the wind was cold.

Or maybe he was imagining what it would like to dance with a beautiful girl in the rain.


  1. Wonderfully expressed Jim and such a full lively artistic expression from Michael

  2. Love that Michael! What a joy to see little glimpses of the artist, the young man that he is.

  3. It's good to hear your heart, Jim. Thanks for
    sharing Michael with us!

  4. Your parenting of this universal child is enlightened.


The illusion wanes, and in time we return
to our noisy cities where the blue
appears only in fragments
high up among the towering shapes.
Then rain leaching the earth.
Tedious, winter burdens the roofs,
and light is a miser, the soul bitter.
Yet, one day through an open gate,
among the green luxuriance of a yard,
the yellow lemons fire
and the heart melts,
and golden songs pour
into the breast
from the raised cornets of the sun.

from "The Lemon Trees"
by Eugenio Montale
(Translated by Lee Gerlach)