Growing up I had one of those inspirational posters hanging on my bedroom wall. No, I’m not referring to the one with the woman in the aquamarine bikini. The image was of a runner going down a road that bisected a wheat field. The road was pin straight and its limit, I’m sure, approached infinity. The notion inscribed in the corner read:
“The race is not always to the swiftest, but to those that keep on running.”
After I started college, I thought it a good idea to buy a box of crayons and colored pencils and try to teach myself how to draw. Prior to that, my interest in art ended when I was sent to the Principal’s office for eating clay. You see, she was awfully cute and it seemed reasonable enough. Eat clay, make her smile. Simple, right? I digress. One of the first lessons of my adult foray into the visual arts was, “Respect negative space.” The image is as much defined by what is untouched as it is by the stroke, slash or scribble.
I read a short post today by someone who is quickly becoming one of my favorite reads. She wrote about irritation. As I read her declaration, I saw myself in her writing. I’ve been on the unsympathetic side of analogous situations. How many fights could have been avoided if I had just shut my trap and listened? It’s a natural impulse that I’m learning to suppress; the need to fix everything I perceive to be wrong. Sometimes, I’m mistaken and it’s not broken. Sometimes I wouldn’t be able to fix it anyway. Other times, it’s just not my place and I’d be more help just sitting there looking pretty. Respect negative space.
Yes, I’m the tool sitting at the beach as the sun goes down tapping away at this helpless keyboard. In between typing, deleting and re-typing, I look up to see the blonde in the grey shorts and white hoodie folding her book. She places it beside her, reclines and closes her eyes. The children to the left have commandeered the lifeguard stand. No worries, they have the watch. There is, however, slight disagreement as to who got there first and who commenced the pushing. The sun is 10 degrees off Connecticut. A bank of clouds has constructed an irregular, temporary but solid horizon. Helio tucks behind a particularly dark cloud. The shadows are long and the colors have just turned magnificent. Unfortunately, the gnats and mosquitoes love the kaleidoscope as well. Not the light show you say? Oh must be my sweet blood. I fold the laptop, shake my blanket of sand (careful not to disturb blonde woman) and trace my way back to my studies. I’ve done a lot in the past few days. Hmm, days, weeks more like months. I spent these precious past few minutes doing as little as possible. It’s the difference between need and desire, utility and appeal. Negative space, if you will.