Last weekend I was playing outside with my 5 year old niece at an art opening, and she decided to make a wish box out of petals and flower seeds. She poured out a little cardboard carton containing plastic beads, and held it in such a way that transformed the little carton into a ceremonial vessel, for want of a better word.
We walked around the gardens picking dandelions, daises, grasses, and emptying their seeds, and placing their petals in the carton. I watched her, and was a fortunate "follower" in this ritual-of-sorts, and felt how incredibly in tune with nature she is. She was completely at home picking flowers and creating wishes from them, in a way that so greatly reminds me of much of the research that anthropologists and archeologists have written in regards to peaceful, egalitarian societies (primarily in matrifocal cultures predating the Indo-European invasion) whose intertwined relationship with art and nature facilitated harmonious social ties within the community.
For these matrifocal societies there was no separation from nature, or indeed their art. They were always engaged in a dynamic and reverent relationship with nature, and their "art" was not something they engaged in at a designated time of day - it was part of living and permeated the entire culture. Arranging flowers was "art," preparing a meal was "art," hunting was "art," making the home was "art," and looking after children was "art." Even the seemingly mundane of tasks for our ancestors was considered "art," and as a way to contribute to, and facilitate, harmony within their society.
I'm not sure what my niece's wishes were, but those little petals were so deeply significant to her, becoming it seemed even more "alive" with purpose than they were before. Whether she knew it or not, and I was not about to label her experience with an adult's theorization, she saw the intrinsic beauty in each petal, each seed, and the colors, patterns and shapes they made together. She had a deep appreciation for the understated elegance and simplicity that her wish box was. When she couldn't reach a flower, I pulled it for her, and it became a collaborative experience with the child leading the most magical, and natural of artistic activities.
The wish-petals were then placed on the dog, along with ice-cubes from the art opening we were both attending, and we were both amazed at how beautiful our dog's fur and the contents of the wish box were together. In matrifocal societies art was created by an individual or group, but then always extended outward to the community, and for us, at the time, it was our dog. The remaining wish ingredients then all ended up in my hair!
It seemed that we had created our own art opening in a way, and something which I am grateful to her for, and learned much from! How little us adults know, and how much we have to learn from our children. We both took photos together, for me a way in which I can positively reinforce this experience for her, and she becoming fascinated at just how beautiful looking closely at it all was.
She was not creating "art", she was just doing what she was does naturally, without adult interference. There was no artifice and it was entirely ephemeral, except for the emotional benefits of this experience. This art seems to be entirely natural for us to be engaging with, offering something that can help reconnect us to our own innate artistry and inherent human nature.
So a great thank you to my niece, and to her mother, who encourages such artistry!