Sunday, April 13, 2008

the day of the good and evil drawing

On one side of the drawing board, the right side, Gabe has made a swirling vortex of lines, circling a central eye, like a storm or a ball of yarn. Black circles connected, intermingled, tangled. And there is an eye in the center, unblinking.

On the left side Gabe has drawn an equal armed cross.

At the bottom of the magnetic drawing board are rows and rows of his earnest blob shaped people-figures. Some reach up their arms. Some stay still.

At the top of the board there are cloud shapes. At least I think they are cloud shapes.

He shows me his drawing with a quiet smile. "Hmmm," I say. "Can you tell me about this?"

He points to the vortex, makes sure I am looking at it, and says with vigor, "Evil."

And then he points to the cross and says "Good"

And then to the clouds: "Heaven"

And then to the rows of people: "People, they choose."

He points again to the choices: good, evil. "People choose. Always". And, as always, he erases his drawing.

He draws hundreds of things each day, but on his magnetic board, where the lines flow very smoothly, and where, it seems, the impermanence is part of the delight. Sometimes, with a lot of persuasion, I can get him to draw on paper or cardboard, and I save these more permanent works. An artist I know, whose work is in galleries throughout the world, sometimes comes by to beg for one of Gabe's permanent works--and I've given him some. The artist always tells me "don't think Gabe doesn't know--he's right there, right at the center where the rest of us struggle to go". Gabe enjoys spending a few moments with our artist friend, partly because the artist never tries to make him do things one way or another, but simply shares. Here's a picture I did; I like your pictures too. But Gabe resists permanence--he loves the flow, the dance, he doesn't seem to want to be held back to one moment, one drawing, one thought.

When he comes up with a philosophic drawing in the midst of dozens of cars, penises, cats, cartoon figures, dogs, trees, and whatnot (Gabe has a wide range) I am once again reminded that my so called simple child does spend a lot of time thinking about big questions, and I am grateful for the brief sharing of those thoughts.

The day of the Good and Evil drawing happened to be his 19th birthday. As is my custom I took a moment to talk about the day he came into our lives. I walked with him by the pomegranate tree and we fed the blackbirds, and I told him how flocks of blackbirds had been singing the day of his birth, how his father always recalled the song Blackbird, how indeed we had been waiting for him, for this moment to arrive.

I told him how my midwife's assistant, Kate, had scooped him up into her strong arms moments after his birth, while I tried to calm his sister. Someone had stepped on Laurel's hand as she slept and she woke to witness the birth of her brother, and she had cried. I'd gathered her, barely 4, into my arms as Kate held my calm new son. Gabe was amused to hear that Laurel had been woken, that there had been drama.

Kate sang to him, and each year I tell him "you were welcomed in with a song, a beautiful song". And he smiles, because he really loves music. And I tell him, which is true, "you were the prettiest of my babies" which also makes him smile. At birth he looked like a calm little Buddha, with his beautiful slanting eyes and his fair, fair skin and delicate features. He brought a sense of peace into the room in which his sister dried her tears and leaned against my breast, in which his older brother & father stood in wonder. And Kate sang.

The night of Gabriel's 19th birthday, after presents and cake, we took another walk together. The crescent moon was high in the sky; the air was sweet. Look, I said, look at the moon; it's a smiling moon tonight.

I told him "I'm sure the world is glad you are here". He gave me a sidelong glance, looked down, and smiled again.

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Blogger LiVEwiRe said...

Gabe is very much like each and every one of us but in so many ways, he simplifies his thoughts. He molds them into easily digestable pieces, removing much of the external 'stuff' that bogs down so many. If we could learn some of that purity, we'd all fare better. For what its worth, I'M glad he's here and I've never even met him. Many happy birthdays...

5:57 PM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger am said...

Happy Birthday, Gabe! I was visiting the Palo Alto VA Hospital on your birthday. Just learned today that that was your birthday. I didn't know that you were an artist. I think you might have enjoyed with me that the halls of that VA Hospital are filled with art. I love the smiling crescent moon, too. So glad you are here with us today.

7:18 AM, April 20, 2008  
Blogger David said...

Jarvenpa, your descriptions of Gabe's artwork and his thoughts about his creations are fascinating. I hope you can encourage him to create more permanent works. If he has piqued the interest of a successful professional artist, perhaps someday Gabe could have an exhibition of his art. Since he likes to draw and erase, perhaps you could photograph some of his works before they disappear? Is it possible for you to post some of Gabe's art here on your blog? I would be interested to see some of it. :)

10:51 AM, May 05, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gabe is a person my father, now deceased, described as God's perfect human creation. My father had been a staff physician in a large institution where at that time, many Down's syndrome individuals had been given up by their families and housed. Father marvelled at his charges and often said how little people appreciated their perfectness. Happpy belated birthday to Gabe! G

11:41 PM, May 15, 2008  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

thank you, dear ones. suburbanlife, I am glad to think your father was there for those kids; I cried when I was reading books about standard procedure and institutionalization of children like Gabriel, because if anyone responds to, gives, and receives love well it certainly is someone like my son. It was sad to think of families missing this, and of the separated children.
He has been such an interesting blessing in our lives.

2:12 PM, May 17, 2008  

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