Tuesday, March 20, 2012
What I Learned in Italy
Italy is, without a doubt,the most beautiful place on earth. For the first time in my life, I have never wanted a trip to end. Had we not left our youngest son with his grandparents, I think I would have refused to leave and relocated permanently. I could write pages and pages about all we saw and experienced, but those words must be left for a later day. Today I need to record the most important experience I had in Italy, mostly so I never forget it and the lesson I learned. This experience will probably seem anticlimactic, especially as I've just described it as "the most important", but stick it out with me. It occurred about midway through our time in Florence. We had visited Cathedrals and galleries and gardens for days, and at each location Noah was able to identify the Roman figures and tell us the mythology behind them. He's been a Greek and Roman mythology buff since reading the Percy Jackson novels, and we were amazed at how much knowledge he had retained. It seemed that we had found the perfect mix of his two great loves: art and history. Yet all he could say as we left each location was, "can we go find a notebook now?". That seemingly minor request turned into the bane of our existence. You see, there were no Walmarts in Florence. There wasn't even a supermarket. There were thousands of little stores that catered to a specific commerce, but no "paper store". There were stores that sold leather goods that had bound journals for about $15, but that seemed way too exorbitant of a price for what was likely to become a doodling pad. So Noah was grouchy and quickly pointed out to us that we were holding back his talents whenever he saw artists sitting in the piazza sketching the landscapes or copying the great works of art that were around every corner. One afternoon while walking back to our apartment, James happened upon what I can only describe as a Chinese "Dollar Store". He grabbed Noah and they went inside to check it out. After digging through racks and racks of random items, they landed upon the jackpot: a regular old notebook and fountain pens. Five Euros later they were leaving the store with the most innocuous treasure of all time. Noah ran home, sat down on the couch and did not emerge from the notebook for hours. He drew everything he'd seen. When he'd exhausted his memory his imagination took over and the pages were filled with recreations of roman battles, gladiators, and mortals fighting Gods. He was content and happy from that time on, as long as he could come home every day and draw. I've wondered over and over at this compulsion my son has to draw, to create. We had traveled half a world away; he was surrounded by the greatest Renaissance art and thousands of years of history were right at his finger tips. We took him there to SEE, to create memories for when his sight is gone. Yet he wanted to interpret and store everything he experienced through his HANDS. His love of art has been one of the hardest things I've had to come to terms with. It seemed like such a cruel irony that the thing he loves and is most talented at has the weight of his sight hanging over it like a hangman's noose. I just don't understand why Heavenly Father would give him such a talent when he won't be able to use it some day. Art is like breathing to him: he can't live without it. I've never had a compulsion like that towards anything before. As much as I love music, especially the piano, I am not a fraction as passionate about it as Noah is about his art. I'm not a creator; I'm content to play and enjoy the work of others. But Noah's mind is moving constantly, designing and imagining every waking moment. I cannot comprehend the limitiness of his imagination, so I guess that is why I will never understand the compulsion he has to create. But I finally understand that art is a NEED for him, and I'm going to support him and have faith that Heavenly Father will open doors for him and make all things possible. After all, I imagine it was a similar compulsion that drew Beethoven to cut off the legs of his piano so that he might be able to hear the vibrations of the sounds as he lay on the floor. He was deaf and still composed. My son is an artist. My son will be blind. After this trip, I'm convinced for the first time that he'll find a way to be both.