They answered, “Why be scared of a hat?”
My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. Then I drew the inside of the boa constrictor, so the grown-ups could understand. They always need explanations.
From: The Little Prince
Written and drawn by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry translated from the French by Katherine Woods
Harcourt, Brace & World, 1943
Ideas are everywhere. Ideas for stories and poems. Inventions are ideas, ideas to propel us into space or make life easier or more interesting. Sometimes a make-believe idea can come true. Sometimes it stays a daydream. I heard Johnny Cash’s daughter Roseanne tell her idea about ideas. They are everywhere looking for us. We catch them when we are ready to see and understand them.
Ever hear something that didn’t make sense, then it did? That happened to me when I was little. My mom and I could hardly walk through a crowded aisle at the grocery store. “What a bottleneck!” she said. I slapped my forehead in recognition and belly-laughed till tears came and I could hardly walk. Mom asked what was so funny? When I could talk, I told her, “I get it! A big crowd is cramming through a small space, just like ketchup! A bottle-neck!”
One time when I stayed for a weekend with my daughter and son-in-law, my oldest grandson woke early. He crawled into my sleeping bag and we started talking about math. Me and math at 6:00 a.m. But okay. He wanted to know about fractions. Why is ½ bigger than ¼? The numbers belie the facts. I told him to imagine a pizza. He said he had that picture. Now cut it in half. How many pieces do you have? He answered: two, half and half. Cut your pizza in half again. Now how many pieces do you have? He answered: four. Forehead slapper. I could see his smile in the filtered early morning sunlight.
“Did my picture get into your brain?” I asked him. He nodded, still smiling. He’s only a couple of years away from being a teenager now, and fractions are second nature to him, not because of me, I think. My grandson has a math brain.
That’s a little bit where ideas come from. They are out there. We have to look for them and be ready to catch them. And sometimes we can share them in just the right way to let them live for someone else.
Stories are like that, I think. My brain works better in words than pictures, but I’m trying to change that. Pictures are easier to share, when we find the right words to do it!
April is National Poetry Month. Many poems are word-pictures. They can look like regular writing, but the pictures they give us or the memory they evoke or the music in them gives them away.
This one by Emily Dickenson about a sunset, looks like a poem on the page, but the picture--colors and movement of the water--explode from her brain to mine, and now yours, too!
Where Ships of Purple — gently toss --
On Seas of Daffodil --
Fantastic Sailors — mingle --
And then — the Wharf is still! --stay curious!