What’s the point of living in a nice neighborhood if you don’t get to know it by taking walks, sketching it and exploring it? I really want to know.
And by “nice” I mean pretty, aesthetically nice. It seems that no matter where I am, I find charm in the places where people live – crowded slums, farming communities, urban apartments and even post-disaster tent communities.
But as far as conventional beauty goes, the neighborhood where I live in is just pretty – with big roads, trees that shade the sidewalk, mediterranean houses, a gazebo, a soccer field and a playground. The thing is that it just doesn’t have the usual charm that all the other neighborhoods I’ve been to have. No children playing in the streets, nor elderly folk sitting in the shade, nor housewives chatting over their fences.
It was a lovely weekend morning, with the sun bright in the sky and a gentle breeze. And yet on my sketchcrawl, I met nary a soul. So I sketched the houses I could view from the gazebo, street signs, plants, a lamp post and a fire hydrant.
Cars passed by. But nary a soul.
Until I was sketching a scene close to the gates of one of the more posh places in the neighborhood and a security guard came snooping around. I don’t mind answering questions but he annoyed me by asking if I was drawing “for an assignment at school” and why don’t I “move to the shade where I don’t get in the sunlight”. Because first of all, I don’t need an “assignment for school” to draw. Second, if I move I would lose my vantage point. Who is afraid of a little sunlight anyway? Is it so much a threat that I’m outside, taking in and enjoying the place where I live, places close to home?
While it annoyed me, I didn’t let it bother me afterwards. I kept sketching and painting and looking. It occurred to me that not many of my neighbors enjoy the neighborhood in the same way. Drawing stuff forces you to get to know them – every curve, every angle, every detail. Even the most mundane things turn to magic. And random crazy thoughts turn philosophical.
Why did I seem so unusual to the security guard though? What do people do on weekends? Why was nobody else out and about in a nice neighborhood on a nice Saturday morning? Did they stay in their houses and watch TV or maybe go out to town for drinks, maybe? To me, that would be devoid of the wonder of getting to know the world around me. Simple as that.
There is a street in my neighborhood called Everlasting Street. It’s named after some sort of flower. But I find it amusing because even everlasting street does not last forever. Neither does the plant. And neither will all of us, for that matter.
And that’s pretty much why I choose art. Life is temporary. And while great artists are considered “immortal”, when you look at the grand scale of the universe even art is temporary too. Just like Everlasting Street won’t last forever.
Being a temporary thing in a world that is permanent, there is nothing better I can do than to get to know it while I can. That is all.
We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence – Alan Wilson Watts