Keep your curiosity alive

Bette Burgess
Bette Burgess

Last month, I visited friends in Danville, VA, who were babysitting their 4-year-old grandson.

My hostess wanted to photograph me reading my recently published children’s book to him. Since he already knew the story by heart, he whispered to me, “Pretend like you are reading the book to me.”

He was so bright, inquisitive and creative in his play that I was happy when he included me as his playmate.

Two blankets that he carried around had been washed so many times that all designs were gone. Those small blankets became hats for us, sand at the beach, cover from a storm and a dozen other things.

Outside, we searched for praying mantis, trekking ants and black cats that were panthers. We hid from marauding dinosaurs and giant grasshoppers. Our food on this adventure was oatmeal cookies and lemonade made by his grandmother.

I marveled at the way his creative and lively intelligence gave us both a full days worth of fun. “Let’s pretend” is alive and well for these children who are kept away from heavy use of electronic gadgets and too much mind-bending television.

Curiosity about the world from the types of clouds in the sky, the hues of blue before a storm, the flora and fauna of our town, county, state and other continents stimulates our sense of wonder and interest in our world.

That curiosity and wonder start when we are infants. We watch the expressions on our parent’s faces, the antics of the family dog and cat. We try to put lint, the cat’s tail, buttons and the dog’s food in our mouth. We try to process our curiosity through our taste buds, our sight, smell, touch and hearing. Dog Food. Yum.

These curiosity vibrations work for us in imaginative ways. They zap our brain when we least  expect it and blossom later in a totally new way. It’s behind-the-scenes work.

The next time you go out and someone else is driving, look out the window not at your cell phone. Don’t expect to see the same houses, the same horse pasture; look deeper and further afield. Did you see that rabbit, those long horn cattle with brown and white patterns on their coats? Did you see the tall stalks of Joe Pye Weed? Did you know the plant was named for a Native American named Joe Pye?

The next time, focus on the types and patterns of fences, the types and colors of roofs, see what’s planted in the fields and gardens.

Writers, dentists, jewelry and needlework artists can all use their curiosity to expand their visions. So can cooks, chefs, homemakers, landscape artists and architects. We are all artists in our own way.

We must exercise our curiosity about the new discoveries in space or our neighbor’s new quirky tile backsplash. This just might trigger a new design for our work.

Your friend’s daughter’s new purple sparkly nail polish just might stimulate your curiosity to explore a new paint scheme for the backdrop you are painting in your dining room.

We need to re-enter that child-like state where we see art everywhere and can make a make-believe house out of a pile of yard sticks and string.

As adults, what we need to strive for is creative longevity. We want our talents to go on as long as we do.

Creativity is all about ideas formed into tangible things. It helps to have a large dose of passion and energy to spark those ideas. How we use those ideas helps make us who we are.

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