The News Tribune logo

Monday, March 24, 2008

An Infinite Game of Creation

When I was a little girl, I spent a lot of time alone. The rest of my siblings were sent to various boarding schools in England and Scotland while I stayed with my parents in Southeast Asia, too young to be sent away. With a vivid imagination, it never seemed lonely or boring between the holidays that brought my brother and sisters home.

One of my favourite pastimes was to build miniature gardens in containers, such as biscuit tins. I can't tell you how many times my mother opened her find I had nicked the mirror out, in order to have a pond for my tiny, imaginary world! I had a beautifully curved Japanese bridge to put over the pond and then it was just a matter of choosing the right small stones, shells and other found treasures. Tiny branches, taken from bushes around the garden would become trees at the edge of the pond.

When my own children came along, I shared this game with them for an activity. It could be played together or with separate projects, depending on the size of the container. With a large rectangular pan the game became known as, "Infinity," for the endless different worlds we could make. After pouring in a base of sand, each would take turns adding a stone or other miniature something to make the landscape grow. Small pie-pans made great containers for individual worlds. Sometimes a particular creation would be kept for a while; sometimes a world ended as soon as it was made, creating room for another.

So I share this, in the neighbourhood, as a great game of imagination without competition for your kids. All you need is an old pie-pan or biscuit-tin, some sand and treasures, mostly provided by Mama Nature. It is an infinite game of creation, making great connections in a child's growing brain and imagination.


EmeraldPrincessOnline said...

This is a most wonderful idea! Sharing it is further sowing of the seeds of your fertile imagination. It is especially delightful that you trace this talent back to your early childhood. What you described reminds me of the film The Secret Garden... I see you there.

Kim Thompson said...

This is a wonderful project, perfect for any season really, but summer and fall would be especially fun. My daughter would be all over this! Excellent activity that costs little. Parents, rejoice and kiddos enjoy!

Great post, friend.


Stephanie Frieze said...

Wonderful, Lorraine! I will pass this on to the daughter-in-laws and next trip to the beach bring home some sand. Great post.

Lorraine Hart said...

I had a little giggle, Jaynie, and feel that I have to set the record straight. I was also known for games such as teasing scorpions and taking part in dares to run through the middle of a clump of banana trees, where all manner of poisonous creatures lived.

The other thing I wanted to mention was that, I've used this activity when counseling troubled teens and adults, so I didn't mean to suggest it was only for kids. In NY I had my husband build one into the corner of a planting box (covering it with a lid of plexi-glass to keep cats out) in the backyard.

Glad you liked pics if you do one...'K?

EmeraldPrincessOnline said...

During the years when we owned the flower shop, in Steilacoom, "Love Me Now Floral Design," we often drove down to Ocean Shores on the weekends for a mini-vacation...literally only a few hours...but with Charles on dialysis, we were tightly tethered to Tacoma, so we couldn't go far, but we packed a lot in to those few hours when we could get down to the ocean.

We'd collect small pieces of driftwood, shells, rocks, bits of this 'n that, take them home, let them dry out thoroughly, and then incorporate them into dish gardens that we created at the flower shop.

But I like your ideas even better! It's as if you have created tabletop zen gardens...

I could use a little zen right now myself.

P.S. Did you seriously have banana trees in the UK?

M. Sugimura said...

A former Japanese-American female pastor (who lived on the same block in a WW II internment camp with my father) was studying something like this in connection with preparing to start offering counseling services with the Asian-American immigrant community.

The beauty of it allowed persons whose either command of the English language would normally impact their willingness to ask for help outside their family and traditions or persons who had difficulty verbalizing their own feelings to explore their issues while employing small toy figures and other items in a tabletop sandbox.

As I'm not a counseling professional, my choice of terminology may be in error, but I recall it was described as something along the lines of "sand-box therapy."

The topic came up because I was intentionally involved in creating miniatures and an assortment of doll-house accessories during that period in my life which I found exceeding beneficial.

I was totally captivated by the idea because it was a wonderful example of using creativity to open some doorways that might not otherwise be accessible, which is a concept I've been learning my whole life playing with arts materials.

Lorraine Hart said...

There is something so powerful in creating artwork, whatever it is, that certainly allows different doors of the mind to open and cope.

Working with "Sandbox Therapy" doesn't require any artistic skill, so no one is intimidated before they begin. A person stops looking at right or wrong decisions (there aren't any) and something is allowed to release within this relaxation of play. I believe it also has a lot to do with the textures...sand, stones, shells, wood. You can feel when the right time comes to begin talking about the difficulties...often the person is triggered and begins on their own.

Mizu, I know you stand strongly with me on this...the world of the Arts IS an incredible world of brain connections and therapy...that's why it's so important not to let this necessary part of life's early learning be shoved behind the three R's. Art gathers those three R's...and pulls them into a beautiful 3D world.

As a writer, I've discovered how helpful it is to sometimes put the words away when they've become a jumble of alphabet soup and draw or create in some other way. This is a case of a change being even better than a rest. Blocks clear and I can go back to writing.

For someone who is trying to revisit a trauma, talk about it and pull it from the place of controlling everyday actions, part of the mind must feel safe and connected to something else, something creative...even if it's a form of diatribe. No one could look at your collages, Mizu, and be unable to see the amazing process you have gone through, instinctively guided yourself through, to welcome your spirit home. Art expresses our being and lets us say, "I'm here!"

Jaynie...perhaps someone has figured out how to grow banana trees in England, but the banana trees I spoke about were in Southeast Asia, where I spent a lot of my first decade. I am a rootless spore, native to my planet...a Heinz 57 mutt, if you will.