Waking to Observation
In The Swimming Studies, artist Leanne Shapton shares watercolor sketches over the course of one day at Sunset Park Pool in Brooklyn. Underneath each sketch is a caption of about thirty words, along with the time of day. What I find fascinating is that while Shapton’s writing and the sketches are purely observational, they also evoke something in the reader.
“We’re waiting for the cops,” Shapton writes under one sketch.
“With no diving board, the most popular move is running hard to the edge and jumping,” she writes in another entry.
The last sentence beneath her 6:45 p.m. sketch: “A child sleeping beneath a pink towel wakes up.”
We don’t know why the police are on their way or why the people at the pool are waiting for them, but we know enough about the words “cops” and “waiting” to suspect tension and conflict.
Coming up with an activity to do with friends when you don’t have the typical resources suggests creativity and confidence and a willingness to play.
And while I believe there really was a sleeping child that woke up, I think it was a deliberate choice by Shapton to end the piece there. In this way she passes the story along to the child. It is the young who will observe the world — who are called to observe the world — after us.
We need to show the young the world, to wake them up so they can observe, and then present it back to us in all their unique perspective.
Try It: Observation
This week write a poem, or make a cartoon sketch, or write a series of micro essays observing something: a garden, your dining room table, a cafe. Make sure your observations evoke.
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I have been a fan of Callie Feyen’s writing for quite some time but I finished this book in almost one sitting. If you have ever been in 8th grade, fallen in love, had a best friend, or loved reading, you will love this book. As the mother of an 8th grader, my other genuine hope is that my son will one day have a teacher as gifted as Callie.
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