Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Awash in Art

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Awash in Art

Article excerpt

It isn't the explosive proliferation of mail-order catalogs, the unbridled expansion of the paperback-book industry, or even the advent of photocopying machines that accounts for the deforestation of North America. It isn't even the need to wrap tens of billions of fast-food hamburgers or the disposable diapering of millions of infants.

The blame for the loss of so many innocent trees lies squarely on our doorstep. Across it, each week, pass hundreds of oatmeal-colored sheets of construction paper, the kind kids are so fond of drawing on, the kind our kids seem to excrete. Judging from the volume of artwork that entered the house last month, half of Canada must have been put to the saw.

Anyone looking for those trees can find them rolled up in the front hall, lying open on the kitchen table and counters, the living-room floor, the sun-room couch, on the sideboard in the dining room. The kids must spend 12 hours a day, seven days a week covering those sheets and themselves with paints, crayons, and felt markers. I wouldn't mind it so much if my wife didn't insist on displaying them all; they make excellent kindling. But to her eyes, the work of our children is sacred, so the sheets accumulate. Never before have I been so conscious of the calendar. Every season generates its artistic theme: maple leaves and acorns glued to paper in celebration of fall, cotton balls and pine cones as witness to winter, green-paper grass and bits of eggshell announcing the advent of spring. Not to mention all the holidays: Ninas, Pintas, and Santa Marias bouncing on blue-crayon waves for Columbus Day, grinning orange pumpkins and black hats for Halloween, and for Thanksgiving, hand-tracings decorated as turkeys. And how they enjoy starting over, loving nothing so much as a clean slate! On a piece of paper roughly the size of our kitchen table, our first-grader will draw a flower no larger than a postage stamp, carefully sign her name in large red letters, and declare the work finished. We have only ourselves to blame, of course. Whatever the kids bring home, whether macaroni glued to cardboard or twigs pressed into clay, we praise, extol, and otherwise gush with enthusiasm. When we ran out of display space on the refrigerator, my wife began taping drawings to the kitchen walls and doors. Sensing that matters were getting out of hand, I surreptitiously gathered up the most crinkled, dog-eared sheets, the ones that had been stacked on a chair for weeks, and quietly disposed of them. That I had to do so discreetly suggests how broad is the umbrella of a mother's love. Needless to say, I lived to regret my unilateral rashness. Within hours my wife sensed a change. I was working in the study when she walked in with that bewildered look she gets when searching for something. …

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