Once upon a time I was at the Nelson Atkins museum. There was a presentation that day, on Native American dancing. The tribe came out brightly dressed, whooping and hollering, their steps rhythmic and full and circular. I was taken. Impressed. I was filled with a sense of the culture. And then I saw him (him!). A boy who could only have been 12 or 13. He had red hair, a soft, pale complexion, and, with his hands clasped, looked so full of wonder and awe at the dancing parade, I could have hugged him.
I don’t recommend this – hugging children you don’t know. But it was love at first sight, friends. There was something about how still he stood, how thoroughly he was absorbing the show. He was all at once hopeful and inspired (to be colorful, so cool), as well as intimidated. He was looking at the dancers like he wanted to hold them, so different they were from anything he was used to. His mother tried to interrupt. She asked if he wanted to leave or stay. His head only slightly moved.
It’s possible I’m completely misreading this. But I took the image of him home with me. I named him James. And then I had a revelation. The truth is, I had completely related to him. The small child I keep so carefully preserved in me had found a new friend. I understood the expression he made, how much he wanted to experience something so different from himself, how that interest probably made him feel awkward on more than one occasion. I know a shy adventurer when I see one. And, in honor of all these wonderful things I love in a person, I thought I’d document some new adventures for him.
A first in what I hope to be a series:
The tall grass prairie in Kansas happens to be one of my great adventures. Wanted to share it with him. He is sewed into the painting. A painting in a painting – oh James!
In other news, much love to you, this sweet, sweet day,