Thankful for the Arts

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I don’t really keep thankfulness lists, at Thanksgiving or any other time, but last weekend I realized something I’m thankful for that’s off the beaten path. I’m thankful that I’ve gotten to appreciate and participate in the arts all my life.

Like many little girls, I started ballet at the age of three. I loved it and continued taking classes until my family moved to Memphis after fourth grade. That was the end of my real training, so I never got to go en pointe, but I’d often do barre exercises by myself. In college I took ballet for my phys ed requirement. I’ve taken adult ballet a few times (one of the classes was taught by a former Bolshoi dancer who revolutionized the fundamentals for me). When I was in college, my friends and I went swing dancing every week at one of the campus ministry houses. I took a few ballroom lessons when I was engaged. Most recently, I was part of a line-dancing group for five years. By the standards of the dance world, I’m over the hill at 35, but I feel more at home in my body and more interested in dance now than ever. It kills me not to have room in my schedule right now for a class (maybe modern or even hip-hop?), because I miss it to a physical degree.

My grandmother is an artist. When I was a kid, we often went to art museums and talked about the pieces, or did projects she’d come up with. She encouraged me to think outside the box and color people’s faces purple if I wanted to. I’ve never been a great visual artist (though my high school notebooks were full of cartoonish fashion designs), but I’ve always loved messing around with color and different mediums for my own enjoyment. I’m happy to have that creative outlet.

In my school system growing up, band started in sixth grade. My mom made a rule that my siblings and I had to learn an instrument for a year. If we didn’t like it, we could quit when the year was up. I ended up with the flute, because my cousin gave us hers, and 24 years later I’m still playing it. Music and band culture are part of me down to my bones. My marching band years in high school were some of the best and most formative of my life (as everyone hears about if they meet me more than once). Again, I’ve never been a spectacular musician, but hopefully my heart makes up the difference. After I joined a community band last year, I tried to explain to my dad why it felt so positive and important to me, and he said “You don’t have to have a reason.” The best I can do is, no matter where I am or what’s going on in my life, I can sit down in a band rehearsal and I’m home. Playing with a group centers me in a way almost nothing else does. It’s my second language. I will always be thankful to my mom for this gift. (PS: I want to learn the oboe, but switching instruments at my age is pretty daunting. Not to mention buying an oboe.)

And of course, there’s writing. I seriously cannot remember a time when reading and writing weren’t constants in my life. I think my mom has “stories” I wrote in preschool (probably about The Flintstones, one of my early obsessions). When I can’t write out my thoughts and feelings (if only privately), I feel crippled and incomplete, like Harriet the Spy without her notebook. Words are my air and my lifeblood.

I know creativity is common to most people and I’m not a special snowflake or anything. But the arts connect me to God, other people, the universe, and even myself on a daily basis. My life is so much richer because of them, and I’m so thankful that I’m part of them and they’re part of me.

About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister’s iced tea.

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One Response to Thankful for the Arts

  1. Carol says:

    I know your life is always busy, but if you carve out time to learn the oboe, I say go for it! If I can take up piano and clarinet (the latter with only one year of training, and that year was sixth grade), you can take up the oboe! One of the things I love about you is your creativity, and I think it is one of the things that makes you special.

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