Friday, July 6, 2012

On navel gazing (and failing at art)

My daughter was born with a belly button (for a while the button part was almost an inch long and had a clamp on the end of it. Really noticeable, in other words). But she didn't pay any attention to it for the first eight months of her life.

It's one of the best parts of watching my daughter grow up. Not just her endearing reaction to belly buttons, but more generally the look of innocent wonder that turns her face into three widening circles of awe. It's like watching a religious experience, this moment where my little girl recognizes something about her environment, where a million fragile sensory moments harden into a single pattern in her brain that she'll later use as a benchmark for judging the world. I watched the look cross over her one day as she lifted her hand in front of her face, and then wiggled her fingers. I saw it happen when she pooped on the potty for the first time. It was there when she got her first full-face lick from an exuberant canine.

I wonder how many of those moments my daughter has that I don't see. At the rate she's learning things, it's got to be more than I could ever count. How many times a day? A hundred? A thousand? Probably at least that many the first time she saw, heard, felt, and tasted the ocean. While I worried about sand getting in my nooks and crannies, she was discovering the universe.

We talk about things being "awesome." I do, anyway. It's one of my words. A YouTube video is "awesome." Or an episode of a TV show. A joke. A gadget. But I'm not really using the word in a sense that's true to its meaning. Not the way that Addison so often experiences the world. Is it because my brain pathways are too rigid, too cluttered to allow new moments of wonder? Sure, I have the moments once in a while -- when Addison was born,  during the ceremony where I married Lindsay, when I watched Aranofsky's The Fountain, when I read Never Let Me Go. But I want more of them. I want to see things the way she does, where my everyday is filled with these moments.

I'm watching you, Addison. Be my guide.

On another note, below are my first attempts at comic drawing, all with the intent of capturing that moment where she recognized belly buttons (in this case, her own). It was an effort that made me give up on cartooning for about half a year. There are lots more pages; these are just a sample. Lindsay couldn't believe how long I spent trying to make this work, and she just snorted when I said maybe I'd try to be a professional cartoonist. But a guy can dream.