Friday, June 30, 2006

Drawing a Dangomushi

Drawing a dangomushi.

From time to time, my two-year-old daughter draws with crayons. When she does so, she draws with the verve and reckless confidence which Picasso so admired in young children.

A draftsman's rectitude is alien to her nature; the crayons go screaming across the paper like fragments of exploded rainbow, a nonstop outpouring of creativity.

To join in the fun, I drew a dangomushi, featured above. I colored it yellow. In nature, the slater, as we call it in New Zealand, is not yellow. But I took artistic license and drew it that way.

Other things I can draw are cats and snails. I am particularly good at snails.

Once, at junior high school, I ventured to draw a mouse on the chalkboard. I then asked the students what it was. In unison, they responded "Tokage". Meaning "lizard". I protested that it was not a lizard but was, very obviously, a lizard. However, they refused to believe me.

This caused my confidence to take a heavy hit, and, as a consequence, I have never again permitted anyone on planet earth to see one of my mouse drawings.

I was more successful with my cats, and I found out a way to get a cheap laugh at junior high school level. You draw a very simple cat, just a circle on top of a larger circle, add whiskers, make sure the students know it is a cat, then add the tail. And exaggerate the tail so it sprawls to impossible length.

There's something about this aberrant long tail which hits the funnybone of the average junior high school kid.

And maybe my drawing talents will come in useful in the future when I'm working with small children, which is a possibility, since the organization for which I am now teaching accepts students as young as age two.

Those who are aged only two or three, however, are at all times accompanied by a parent.

From my own daughter I'm learning more and more about the world as it is experienced at age two, and I am adding to my Japanese vocabulary terms that I had not previously learnt, such as "dangomushi".

We have these creatures in our concrete garage, where, presumably, they eat the concrete itself, as there is nothing else there to eat.

Another word I learnt the other day from my daughter was "sakuranbo", which she started screaming out after dinner.

I realized immediately what this must mean. I already knew "sakura", the cherry tree, and, on the two evenings previously, we had eaten actual cherries, therefore "sakuranbo" must be those cherries.

My wife patiently explained, five times, that there were no cherries to be had, for the simple reason that we had gone and eaten them. All of them.

Until just a couple of days ago, my daughter had never eaten a cherry before in her life, but she immediately identified this as one of life's Good Things.

Another Good Thing she encountered for the first time in her life was the fan, which stands on the floor and rotates from side to side, putting out a refreshing breeze which is most welcome in the summer. The blade is in its own cage and my daughter is not yet at the stage of being able to open the cage, so it's not a source of danger.

One thing that is dangerous is the front door, which is extremely heavy and has the potential to mash a small child severely, if the door succumbs to gravity and swings home.

I wrote a poem recently about almost crunching my daughter. It's called THAT MORSEL, MY DAUGHTER.


The daughter is a morsel
In the jaws of the slamming door,
The door which my wife catches
Just in time.
The door which I, distracted,
Do not see,
Yawping toward catastrophe.
The daughter is the living light
Of the incarnated sun.
One flipped switch distant
From the cacophony of bluebottles.
I must think
More of the daughter
And less of the next train,
The ironing waiting to be steam ironed.


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