by Carrie Kirk
Sometimes you find art in the strangest places. Our family did and it was - as the cliché goes - in our own backyard. In our case, however, it was in the front yard. It was nothing fancy. In fact, it was pretty organic in nature. But, as with most anything creative, it was symbolic and ever-changing and wholly ours. And it became something to share with our neighborhood.
I have mentioned before that my children and I live on a wonderful street in the Meridian-Kessler area. It's called Johnson's Woods, named after Oliver Johnson who farmed an expanse of land around his home. Slowly the plots were sold off, resulting in an area dotted with houses of families and their assorted histories. We live in the middle of the Park Avenue block, in a "sideway house" as my son George likes to call it, with our front door facing our immediate neighbor to the south: the pristine historical home for which the neighborhood is named. My late husband and I saw characteristics in our house that spoke to the two of us. It was filled with light. The screened-in porch served as a reading sanctuary. It had fireplaces that beckoned to be filled with wood so that they would burn throughout a wintery Sunday. And the yard was like a park. Ideal for two brothers and eventually two dogs (also brothers). It became ours in 2006.
Along the front of the house is a white picket fence, rebuilt this year after time had taken its toll on the last one. (Cha-ching - who knew a fence could cost the same as a first-class trip to Europe?) Along the outside of the fence are care-free pink roses that have had some good years and, under my tutelage, some very bad years. And there, set in the ground surrounded by said roses and the three brick steps down to the sidewalk, is our family's canvas, our ever-changing piece of art: the rock.
The previous owners of the home had used the average-sized landscape rock as an address marker with the home's street number painted in a spring green with fuchsia and white. It remained that way for quite a while until "THE" election. For the first time I was an active supporter of a candidate; canvassing, calling, and writing checks. With a bumper sticker on the back of my car, I found myself eyeing everyone's trunks and bumpers, wrongly sizing them up all due to a 4x4 inch sticker. In short, I was exploding with the fervor of getting my guy elected. Ergo, the rock.
With my kids playing around me on the sidewalk, I scraped, sandpapered and primed the rock. Then the masterpiece came to fruition: OBAMA ROCKS. It was out there for all the world (well, at least the world within a two block radius) to see. Political, yes, but also a bit humorous during a biting election. As I would work in the yard, I would watch folks walking their dogs stop and take a look. Sometimes if they caught sight of us, they would shout, "Nice rock." And sometime they just continued on their way as if to say, "No comment."
The election came and went and with it the rock has become a sort of canvas for our family. On our first June without Charley, my boys painted, swirled and speckled a Happy Birthday greeting to him, because the rock was something for all, including Dad, to see. Most would have walked by that rock and seen no shape or form of said "art," but it was an expression above all expression. When we entered our first spring as a family of three rather than four, I painted the words of the Beatles "Here Comes the Sun" because the ice was slowly melting and it - we - would be all right.
It's not all serious though. Around the holidays, the rock declared "Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rocks...." For the arrival of April, we painted a riddle using pictures and symbols so families could decipher it together. It translated into "April showers bring May flowers." Many of the neighborhood children thought it was Monk(ey)ril rain brings May daffodils. (I never said I was good at art.) The three of us have fun thinking up ideas for our rock. Sometimes the kids paint with me but most times it's just me and the rock. It might be cheap canvas but it's big fun and all ours...to share.