Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Little Prickle



A while back Cebah made a hollyhock doll for a little girl who was visiting. She uses an unopened bud for the head, stuck with a little twig onto the calyx of the opened flower, which makes the body and gorgeous dress. Da Vinci advised artists, with the same lack of self-aware humor that makes his work so tedious to look at, that if they would throw an ink-soaked sponge against a wall they might discover in the splat ideas for fantastic landscapes. Cebah, a more complete artist, just sees them.

She picked up this little stick on a walk across the hayfield and brought it back to join some of the treasures she keeps in the window by the kitchen table. It is "perfect", according to her, because it looks exactly like a person.



This ability, to see resemblances, and show them to others, is something she instilled in me at an early age. "Look at that knot in that tree there, can you see the face?" And unlike some heavy-handed imaginers, she never spoiled the magic by loading on a lot of tenously connected pseudo meanings - the faces didn't signify anything else, they were interesting in their own right.




From flowerbuds made into heads to flowers that have personalities is a short hop. There's a big thistle, called a "bull thistle" that grows on the farm. It's considered a weed when it invades a pasture; but in a fencerow, a thing of beauty, beloved by goldfinches. This thistle became a dandyland character - "Little Prickle" - a star in the first Secret Commonwealth opera. Things with stickers are fascinating. They appeal to a child's love of weapons and armor. Little people want protection. I know that I thought cactus were the greatest when I was 5. No one messed with them.















































My friend (and hero!) Jonathon danced the role of Little Prickle, contributing his martial arts skills to the choreography.




Here are the lyrics to Little Prickle's song:

I rode the thistle down
in the darkness, sowing seed - let it grow!
up to the sky!
food for a butterfly!

Milky light flows down into my bower of briars,
the wind
blows through my cradle of thorns...
I fell on a stone,
and so I made my home among -

thistles, thorns, and briars - called the witch's weeds.

Little Prickle is my name -
There is a game that I like to play...
on ankles and shins
I stick my little pins, and draw
welts
across
the
burning skin!
I rub the stinging nettles in!
And when the dainties feel the pain -
how they scratch and complain about...

thistles, thorns, and briars - called the witch's weeds.

All the gnawing, trampling herd
bawl for a world soft enough
to chew in peace.
And what they can't eat, they call weeds,
and a waste of space.
There is no place for an unprotected soul ~ so
I grow my little claws,
and live inside these hard sharp walls of

thistles, thorns, and briars - called the witch's weeds.

(From Part I of The Secret Commonwealth; The Changeling & the Bear)

13 comments:

Cathy said...

So many other worlds, for those who can see them. What a gift your mama gave you, Dan.

I have one of Cebah's hollyhock dolls, dried now, in my photo case. It makes me smile, and reminds me of Dandyland.

Dan Dutton said...

Yes. The more that I observe how her eye for beauty works, and think about how my dad's worked, the more I see the origins of my own. I've always felt lucky, very lucky, to have learned from them. For what I do, there could be no better examples to emulate.

I was thinking about how the hollyhock dolls are a bit like the "transformers" that my great nephew likes to play with. (little plastic planes or trucks that "turn into" robots with all sorts of weapons, etc) with the big difference being that the player handles the transformation of available reality into a person-shape themselves. In the purchased toy you manipulate a pre-existing reality, in the home-made one, you participate in the beginning of being.

Happier said...
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Happier said...
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William said...

Why have fashion designers never created a dress like that hollyhock doll?

Nice!

Happier said...
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shepherdgirl said...

We, you, I, were lucky to have our imaginations and land to roam as children - creating forts [you have to do a story of the children that took you to their fort], creating things from within with natural objects, shapes, feelings as building blocks. Even our block sets were plain brown 'real' wood, none of this plastic crap with 'pre-designed maps' for the child or adult. There is a tv ad out right now that makes me crazy - a family goes on a car trip/vacation, the children sit in the back with their blackberries and head sets and imovies i phones, etc, and after about 1/2 the vacation the voice over mother voice says, "And then they discovered that here was a whole lot out there that they could put down there blackberries" ..." OK, I'll stop there. But I love Cebah's folk doll. And of course you know I love thistle. Sadly, I had to mow many down in the pasture recently - the donks eat the tips, but leave the stalk.
I love your sentence in your comment "In the purchased toy you manipulate a pre-existing reality, in the home-made one, you participate in the beginning of being." True.

Happier said...
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Cathy said...
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Happier said...
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Dan Dutton said...
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Cathy said...
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Dan Dutton said...
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