I was like an angel in the architecture, hovering above this scene and snapping photos as the Lincoln Log cabin in Zack’s Fort Branch show was methodically and enthusiastically disassembled, discussed, and remade by Zack and the two boys. It is now a shelter which contains a tupperware container of “trail mix” (peanuts, raisins and chocolate chips), a Nalgene bottle of water, a wool blanket (Solly’s idea– so that it would be soft) and a Foxfire book. The first two were practical elements– sustenance during the building process– modern survival whether trapped in a gallery or at a state park campsite. The book is a classic and potent collection of earth-survival knowledge gathered from the Appalachian mountains in the 1960s.
As I hung back, trying to be unseen by any onlookers outside the windows, and trying my darndest not to be the Mom, interjecting my approval or “helpful ideas,” I had time to really contemplate the process that Zack has crafted with these play-work scenarios. I listened to him struggle to give the boys agency and authorship, so that they could actually be the architects of this new construction. But he also had to lend his wisdom and knowledge of structure and function and design. It’s very important to us that these projects be fun and non-taxing on the kids, and so he also had to be a cheerleader… explaining the possibilities, shifting approach several times. The photo above shows a brainstorming session, where they were invited to draw pictures (a favorite past-time) and make plans (also a big part of their natural play). By the end, there were definitely times when Sol (3 going on 4) was lolling on his back and singing nonsense, but Ez (5) was largely captivated for the two hour session. In a further expression of our family’s reality, my Mom meanwhile circled Capitol Hill with our youngest in a stroller, stopping at coffee shops for snacks and Cal Anderson park for playground distraction.
I was proud. And also really tired from the strain of the endurance of perching in a barn owl spot and silently documenting a process with which I was intellectually and emotionally entangled. Because it really was and is a microcosm of our experiences as parents. What does freedom look like, and where does guidance start and stop? And an endless host of related questions… about work and play and learning and individuality and teamwork and collaboration, etcetera…
If you want to stop by and see the finished product, the show is up until September 18th (extended past original dates) at Vermillion.