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It is the morning after New Year’s Eve, a few years ago….
In New Zealand this means summer, sun, beaches and of course – a summer school holiday…
It is still early. Everybody is sleeping but me. I walk quietly around the house with a mug of coffee in my hand, tired after a late night with family and friends, but enjoying the silence and the few childless moments… My mind soars somewhere in the space and I am barely in touch with my body. And then my eyes stop on the paintings…
Two weeks before that, when the holiday started, I received from my son’s school all the artworks he had done through the year (my son is autistic and goes to a special school). The usual child’s paintings – you know – a big colourful mess that doesn’t mean anything, just one colour on top of another colour, circles, lines and some fingerprints. “Artworks” that are too sweet to throw away, but too many to keep, so you wonder what to do with them.
My eyes stop on the paintings and I suddenly see them. Maybe because my mind is absent and I look with my heart, maybe because my eyes are not focused, maybe because it is New Year and I am expecting something new… but I see them for the first time – not as one piece, but as hundreds of small paintings, hidden in the big mess. Once I see them I can’t believe I have been so blind before!
Once I see them I can’t believe I have been so blind before!
I spend the next few days on the computer – I scan and enlarge each one of the small pictures separately. After I am done with the school paintings, I decide to do some painting at home with my son and I try to control the process as much as possible.
It is a real fun! We go out in the garden dressed in old shirts, we take a bucket of water and plenty of white paper. We squeeze different colours of paint and my son starts smearing the paint with his hands. Very soon I realise there is no way to control anything – he is so fast and excited! The most I can do is to take the painting when I think it’s enough and to replace it quickly with a blank piece of paper in front of him.
We paint for hours, soon we both look like big walking paintings. The wind blows and takes away some of the pictures left to dry. Others fall in the river and the water carries them away. We don’t chase them – they are our messages to the world.
A perfect metaphor for an autistic child. At first sight – chaotic, confusing, not easy to understand, but once you change your focus and soften your eyes, once you look with attention – you start noticing the small beautiful pieces, hidden in the mess.
Tanya Bogdanova lives in Auckland, New Zealand. She is a mother of an autistic boy and works part-time as a teacher aid in a special school.
Tanya is also a jeweller and an object maker. She is fascinated by colours, nature, stories, fairy-tales, legends and traditions. She also believes that in every situation, place or person there is a treasure hidden, just waiting to be discovered.