Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Wherefore art thou, Wild Things?

You know…sometimes you are unaware of the things that have inspired your life…artistically or otherwise.   When I was a child I had a favorite book, "Where the Wild Things Are",  by Maurice Sendak.  Today Maurice Sendak passed away and I was a bit surprised how sad it made me.   Like millions (I assume, if not more) I read and reread and reread and reread this book.  In my mind, I was the main character, Max... though perhaps I never chased a dog with a fork, but I recall trying to leave my reality by costumes, secret forts, and, of course, art. 
I tried to escape as often as I could.   The truth is, however,  that I didn't have a bad childhood;  my parents were (are) kind, encouraging and supportive,  But as a child I always felt as if I didn't quite belong.   I felt as if somehow, someone made a really big mistake and dropped me off on the wrong the planet.    I wondered how I could find that place where I could be understood and where my dreams could manifest themselves.  Eventually, I realized that my pad of paper was my escape.  It was how I "sailed off through night and day" to a place where I could rule and call my own.  Unfortunately, as rewarding as that is on a certain level,  the truth is that one's mind is a terribly lonely place…as Max discovers, one cannot completely live in the land of dreams.   The challenge is to find a way to sail back and forth between the realms with ease, and more importantly, to manifest those dreams in the "real world". 
To this very day I still visit my personal, secret place.   It is where my art comes from.  I must go there to retrieve strange and wonderful and sometimes frightening inspirations.  The struggle was (and is) to not abandon this place entirely.  The land of maturity, money and pragmatics continually beckons.    Once I became an adult I never wanted to live in the land of "grown ups"…I resisted it,  I still resist it… to my detriment sometimes… to my benefit more often.   Most of you are familiar with this biblical quotation:
       "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."
To this I say "phooey".   Instead I offer three personal commandments: 
  1. I shall never abandon that special land across the sea where I can drink from a bubbling spring that makes me…me. 
  2. I shall remain a child, of sorts…and be more of  a child than I was, when I was a child.
  3. And…most importantly, I shall encourage others to never abandon their creativity, and to share their unique visions and explorations with the Universe.  

Nothing, in my mind is more important.
I will never have the opportunity to meet Maurice Sendak, but if I had, I would have liked to tell him why he was so important to me.  Of course, it is only after his death that I realize the profound influence he had on my life.  So thank you, Maurice Sendak, for sharing with me your map to Where the Wild Things Are…I visit as often as I can.

Here are a few links you  might find interesting


Jennifer Mehlman said...

It was my favorite book too and one of the first I learned to read. I had the pleasure of seeing an exhibit of Maurice Sendak's art work at the Pierpont Morgan Library, decades ago. It showed some of his set designs for Mozart's operas (he was an avid Mozart fan), and a lot of his original artwork. It was wonderful to see the process of his creativity.

Unknown said...

this essay touches my heart so much...I agree...let Max live in our hearts forever! Carry on! you bring so much happiness and inspiration to so many in your workshops and art. I feel lucky to have been part of your world a time or two! I working on being 10 in my heart much much more...kp

kathy said...

Michael, you are a very dear and thoughtful person. Thank you for a) thinking, and b) sharing your thoughts with us. Also, I appreciate the footnotes.

glimmering prize said...

Oh Michael, I think you hit the nail on the head. Seems we have a similar love of this amazing man who was able to touch so many lives. 83 is is a long and full life full of dreams and fantastic inspiration. But he will still be missed.

As I child, I loved the Wild Things, Really Rosie, Pierre, and all the rest. I read both of my sons In the Night Kitchen, to the point that I can recite it line by line.
I cried when I saw the movie adaption of Where the Wild Things Are. My sons said Maurice Sendak must have known me, where else would he come up with "Carol."
Thanks for you post and sharing your thoughts.

Darlene K Campbell said...

This is a beautiful creative essay Michael. I appreciate your thoughts on this sad day. I cried off and on all morning and was a slug at work all day. He was someone I wanted to meet and chat with. Thanks for sharing the links and your story.

Uta said...

What a wonderful post Michael. Just the words I needed to read today :)

Painting Queen said...

May the child in all of us continue to find the magic in play! Thank you for posting your thoughts and inspirations.

Sue said...


Thespoena McLaughlin said...

Absolutely. Where the Wild Things Are was a big part of my childhood as well. I LOVED that book and have shared it many times with my own kids. A true masterpiece for the creative mind. Great post!

Debs said...

I sometimes want to ask some people "Were you never a child?"
You gotta keep the child within and retain the adventures.
The legend lives on in those.

Peaceful/Paisible/Sarah/Pixabeille/Mousie said...

We love Maurice Sendak in France as well, and we were very sad when he passed away...
Michael your work is ever so great ! makes me dream