One of my favorite websites is Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings. And an image that frequently pops up on the site is this:
The artist is Maurice Sendak and it appears in the book “Open House for Butterflies,” one of many he collaborated on with author Ruth Krauss. Every time I see it, my heart is glad because it’s dead solid good advice.
I’m lucky to have a little stream to be quiet near and listen. Though the stream is technically a creek: Wawayanda Creek, to be exact. And this is what it looks like:
It meanders through an outdoor sculpture park called Pacem In Terris in Warwick, NY. It features the work of Frederick Franck, who along with his wife, Claske, opened it up as a park/museum in 1965. He lived there until his death in 2006.
I’ve been volunteering at Pacem for about 12 years, spending about one Saturday a month during the spring/summer/fall doing what we call “watch,” though that makes it sound a lot more serious than it actually is. I open the place up, stay there all day to make sure that visitors behave themselves, and then close it down at the end of the day. Sometimes I sell books, prints, or postcards that are available for purchase. Sometimes I recommend nearby restaurants.
It’s not all about that, though. In the course of an average day there, I have time to meander, to write in my journal, and to take photos (not of the artwork so much as everyday things that are also there). And I have time to sit by the Wawayanda and listen.
It’s a distinct white noise, made more deliberate than a stream thanks to the small waterfall that intersects the creek about halfway along the property. The air around it is tinged with a metallic smell that I love to inhale. Sometimes, after a rough week, it’s like breathing after being under water a tad too long.
It’s very easy to take Ruth’s and Maurice’s advice seriously there.