Soft fibers warm my harried fingers as I evict this load from the dryer. The scent of fresh laundry fills the room, and I shove the heap of clothes into the basket at my feet, hauling it to the living room where I begin to fold.
It’s never-ending, this cycle of dirty to clean again.
Her shirt is on the top of the pile, and I eagerly reach for it first. Scanning the front I notice the markers washed out and the ketchup is gone. The tearstains are visible only if I squint. Victory! Completely respectable for everyday play. As I fold my little Ruby patters up the steps and toddles around the corner. “Hi Mama. What are you doing?” she asks with a curious brightness.
I glance up to find her hands covered in blue, the kitty cat on her shirt showing evidence of the same crime. “Can I help?” She reaches for the clean clothes as I scramble up to grab her before the residual ink ends up on my laundry–or worse. “What’s all over your hands? We need to wash them. And how did you get this on your shirt, too? Ugh…I just washed this.”
She stares at me like only a child can, that innocent truth piercing my adult facade of togetherness. “Oh it’s no big deal. I just coloring. I can wash it off.” I shrug and take her to the sink.
Later, laundry finally folded, I find myself scouring the internet for a recipe. The clock is ticking; it’s already 4:23pm and I have no idea what to do with one chicken breast, a half a box of pasta, and a few questionable looking vegetables. “Why didn’t you go to the store today? They’ll be hungry soon,” I tell myself. “Find something. Anything! You can’t take more any more whining about food today.” But Google disappoints, and in defeat I turn my strained neck toward the window.
Out there, framed by the dormant trees, soft hues come alive in the sky. Reflected by the raw waters below a glittering glow covers every corner of the view. Beauty floods the window, and jealousy floods my heart.
Jealousy. An envious grudge against the Artist for His marvelous masterpiece hanging on the world’s largest canvas so elegantly displayed in front of my eyes. Every night it is something different. Something so wildly amazing, calling me to explore while the shackles of dinnertime bind me to a stove. Because in that moment all I wanted to do was abandon dinner and the scattered toys overturned in front of me. I wanted to kick the laundry basket down the steps and leave it for someone else to pick up. I wanted to reach for my camera and create. Fill my canvas with something beautiful. Something interesting and quiet and inspiring. But the light was fading too fast and by the time I got organized to step out into the cold winter sunset, it would be gone. The masterpiece erased by the darkness of night. I sighed, moving toward the kitchen. Another canvas left unexplored. Another creative pursuit in chains.
An hour later, tired from the work of the day, I poured dinner into tall glasses. A mixed berry smoothie was all I could muster. They approached the table, surprised but excited to see something so scandalous for dinner. She climbed up into the chair next to mine. “What’s that on your sleeve?” I asked.
Glancing down, she began to proudly point out the various marks and stains. Yogurt from breakfast, marker from school time, some dried Play Dough from that afternoon, peanut butter from lunch, a wet sleeve from washing dishes, a few peeling owl stickers from a sheet she’d discovered before dinner. Her shirt had been transformed to her canvas. Her day a wearable reminder of the things she created and invested herself into. Tomorrow it would be different. Something new, a story that excited her in a different way.
And looking around my table, I see evidence of my own canvas. There is plenty of mess. Plenty of disorder and mistake and things I’d run out of time for. But on their faces are smoothie-covered smiles. The air around us comes alive with laughter. The only dish in the sink is a blender; a gift. It means extra time to play before bed.
Before children my camera was an extension of my arm. I could pick it up anytime and get lost in the world of abstract visions that called to me. But now my arms extend to a different canvas. They hold books, hands, dishes, and hearts. Each morning I am presented with a fresh, blank slate and each evening I sit back and evaluate the image. What did I create today? Did I use all the space? Did I sweep all the edges? Did I harness the Light in the best possible way?
The sunsets and flowers and color will always be there. They will wait for me, and someday my photography will not be held back by the handful of children buzzing around me.
But for now, they are my art. They are my canvas. They are the masterpiece the Artist is asking me to create.