Friday, October 03, 2008

eagle, 1971.

so yesterday we went on a field trip to the outdoor sculpture park across the pond. i had arranged this trip awhile ago, and wouldn't you know it it was the first rain after weeks of beautiful weather?

the thing about the outdoor sculpture park is that it's so beautiful. you're there, you can see it from the street, but it's not until you get in there that you realize you haven't seen a thing. its hidden pockets of art, beautiful landscaping, thoughtful placement of pieces. it's really beautiful.

even in the rain. and the artwork is so inviting. looking at it from a distance is one thing. but actually getting up close with it right there and towering over you is incredible.

and you. can't. touch. a. thing.

even though it's outside and in the elements 24/7 you can't touch it. ever.

sooo, with a bunch of kids i was a little wary, but they did really really well. we walked through the towering serra, and paused in front of the intriguing pepper, and marveled at the "interesting" di suvero.

then we got to the calder that you see above you.

now, this kind of abstract art is not my thing. from afar it's interesting, i suppose. i could really take it or leave it.

but as we got closer and closer i got more interested in it. as it became more near than far, it took on a different look. less "abstract" more inviting. and when we got right to it the docent gathered all the kids underneath and was asking them their impressions and ideas about the sculpture.

do you see that it's an eagle?

yeah, me either. but that's abstract for you. like stacked fusion cuisine. or creepy pretentious cocktails in fussy glasses. not my thing.

anyway, so the parents are hanging back and kids are all excited to say what they think it looks like. then the docent starts to explain about the piece. that it's steel. that it's painted steel with a patented color. that this "red" (i think it looked orangeish up close, but what do i know?) can't be found anywhere else.

she went on about alexander calder, and this work in particular, and she mentioned that he sculpted this piece the year i was born. we are the same age, i thought. she went on and talked about how this piece represented calder's idea about the combination of pragmatism and poetry. she could be describing me, i thought.

and as i looked closer, and felt what it was really like being that close up to so much paint and steel, it reminded me of the golden gate bridge. the color similar, well, similar enough, and the idea that paint and steel, such ordinary and "pragmatic" things can be combined into something beautiful. "poetic" if you will.

and i remembered that day i walked across the golden gate bridge so long ago, and the feeling of awe and interest, of enormity, how i was scared and thrilled at the same time. how the drizzly windy day when i walked across that bridge was not unlike this day. how two separate experiences, a lifetime apart, had such a strong connection. and had made that connection known right inside of me. right here. right now.

and i was thinking about these things as i stood under this great sculpture.

and then i saw one rain drop running down the side. i watched it travel down this painted steel of the patented color and it seemed soft. not the raindrop, the steel. the whole sculpture felt big and strong and enormous, yet it felt like if you touched it it would be soft and yeilding.

pragmatic and poetic.

and before i knew it i reached out and touched that raindrop and began to trace it down the side.

"UH, NO! NO! remember, we can't touch the sculptures!"

and with a collective whip all eyes were on me. all the kids. all the moms. the docent. the docent with the pained smile.

and like coming out of a fog, i looked up and noticed i had my finger on the sculpture and pulled it down really fast.

i didn't look at the duke or wingman to see if they were completely mortified, i just mumbled an apology and the moment was over.

and that's it. i touched the calder. the 14 kids from 4 years old to 13 years old didn't touch the sculptures. but i did.

of course i did. sigh.

and i wasn't falsely accused like last time. and i have no excuse. no touching, and i touched.

and you know what?

it did feel soft and yielding. just like i thought it would.


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