An Escaping Octopus

Here’s to whimsy. Here’s to unexpected and unnecessary creativity. Here’s to art that no one asked for and poems written on the cement in chalk.

It was an octopus that got me thinking about creativity yesterday, as it peered up at me from a wooden crate, two tentacles reaching out from between the splintered slats.

…honestly, it was a painting, a bit of public art on a metal breaker box in an alley behind an ice cream shop near the Oceanside Marina.

photo 5 (3)What struck me when I spotted the clever painting was that this was an example of an artist bringing to life something that had before only existed in her mind’s eye. Others had seen the metal box, used it, ignored it, but it took someone thinking differently and having the daring and ability to make what she could imagine into a reality.

Mary Wollstonecraft, an 18th century thinker whose daughter, Mary Shelley, did her own bit of imaginative creation when she penned Frankenstein (as a teenager), wrote: “The generality of people cannot see or feel poetically.” I’ve always loved Wollstonecraft, but as a middle school principal, I don’t know that what she’s saying is exactly true …certainly not for the twelve and thirteen year olds I know.

Given the opportunity and encouragement, the middle schoolers I see every day think creatively and have the capacity to bring to life dreams no less whimsical than Victor Frankenstein’s creature.

It’s important that schools nurture this poetic thinking and unbridled creativity, particularly as angsty adolescence approaches with the threat of clouding everything in its path in emotional shadows.

Nurturing whimsy now, celebrating the creative spirit, and allowing flights of fancy may not stave off the broken hearts or tortured emotions of lunchtime at high school, but it might just provide the kids with enough optimism to stay alive inside until prom is over and mortarboards are in the air. Then, when life beyond school opens up before them, that sense of spontaneous creation, that whimsy and hope just might escape again, like an octopus from a painted crate.

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