I took two of my kids camping recently. Our campsite backed up to a lake where we spent most of the hot hours floating in the water and digging our toes and fingers into the sandy bottoms.
In a moment of silence my daughter and I noticed a squeaking sound and listened really hard to try and determine where it was coming from. Eventually we zeroed in on a particular orange buoy that was connected by a chain to a series of other orange buoys. The buoys marked off the swimming area boundary.
She and I decided to swim out to it. It was beyond the point of being able to touch bottom, so we knew we would be treading water to get there. Upon arrival we got really quiet and listened again to make sure we were at the right spot. Sure enough, the orange buoy started its moaning and groaning, like a tired soul or a haunting spirit.
I reached out and wrapped one arm around the plastic buoy, with the other arm I pulled on the chain at the squeaky part, giving it a few moments to not have to wail. I felt the slimy moss that had accumulated on the underbelly of the buoy and said, "It's okay, big guy. You're okay. We hear you." My daughter and I laughed.
"You're talking to it like it's a person."
"I think he's had a hard time of it," I said, smiling.
"Maybe his mom and dad are on the right and the left of him and he can't ever get to them because of the chains separating them."
"All I know is that in this case, it is true. The squeaky wheel does get the oil."
As we swam back to shore with the sound of the chain calling out to us I kept pondering what I could do with that orange pop of colour. How could it be worked into my art? I felt charged with the honor of noticing and hearing. An inanimate object had called out to me, and I had responded. Now I felt the creative gears turning inside me, wanting to express this evidence of life. Wanting to show that all things are living, all things are whispering their secret messages to us and here is one instance of proof.
When I read Robert Henri's quote above I thought of Bill Cunningham who is on the July Cover of the Secret Message Society Zine. Thought of how bored he was with the technicalities of fashion. Thought of how his whole life was spent looking for the evidence of life out on the streets - show me a fashion that is adapting, pulsing, risking, moving, popping because it stands out from all the sameness! He knew when he saw it, and he did something with it.
There is a fly climbing down the side of my laptop screen as I type this. I peer closer. His body looks like shiny bronze armor. His wings look textured. He wasn't there two seconds ago and by the time I finish writing this sentence he will have flown away. Yes. He's gone now, and my daughter has appeared in my room, asking me a questions about our day. Life moves. The artist who has come alive, moves with it.