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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dabbling in Paint

The weather has continued to be odd. I was awakened early this morning by thunder and rain sounds, and Bow was a little upset before breakfast. To cheer us up, I decided to bring in some painting supplies as a morning activity.

Bow looked on with interest, as I prepared the art supplies.

After he had eaten, Bow spelled: אני רוצה לציר "I want to draw." But what he really wanted to do was get his hands on the art supplies and test them out in many unorthodox ways. He got paint on his nose, paint in his mouth and paint on his hand, as well as some paint on the canvas.

Bow knows what the supplies are for. It's just that he won't limit himself to painting. He wants to smell, taste and experience the supplies in many other ways. However, each time I chided him for putting the brush in his mouth, he went back to painting on the canvas.

He was also just plain fascinated by the many different kinds of brushes I supplied...

... and by the old can of olives that they came in.

In the end, this is the painting Bow produced. Is it representational? I think not.

Next time I think I will limit him to one color and one paint brush. Maybe without so many choices Bow will concentrate on the task at hand. But it was a good way to keep ourselves entertained, when going outside was not an option.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sleepy Morning

It's been so dark and overcast this morning that after breakfast, and after spending some time in the wet, soggy outer pen, Bow opted to go back in and asked for his rug.

In no time at all, he was asleep, with his head on the rug, and his fingers and toes locked.

The nap went on for nearly an hour, until Leo started barking in the backyard about an important new discovery he had made. He kept barking insistently, to draw attention to himself and his discovery, until it woke Bow up, and  I decided that I should go out and see what it was.

Leo had discovered a way out of the backyard, but instead of using this escape route, he was just alerting us to the problem.

Hearing Leo announcing this, Bow joined in with his own vocalization.

But in no time at all, Leo had gone back to doing other things in the backyard.

 And Bow, in the inner pens, went back to sleep.

And now it's raining. Just another sleepy morning.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Distant Thunder

The weather can't seem to decide what to do. One moment all is calm and the sun is shining, and the next, distant thunder threatens us with a storm, which may or may not ever materialize. Bow, always quite sensitive to nature's mixed signals, is not sure what to do, either.

Today is Sword's birthday, but we celebrated it on the 17th, as that was a Wednesday. Today, and for the next ten days or more, Lawrence will be on vacation with his family out of state. So today was an ordinary day for us, except that we had banana cake for breakfast.

I went for a walk after lunch with Brownie, and I noticed that the wind had blown some of the ripening pears off the trees before their time.

I gathered as many of the fallen pears as I could, in the hopes they will still ripen at home.

Luckily, there are still many more pears left on the tree.

In the late afternoon, Bow and I went out. While in the outer pens, we heard some distant thunder. It would start, then stop, with no clear resolution. Bow was confused as to what he should do about it. Should he ignore it, protest against it, ask to go back inside, or just take it lying down?

Eventually we did go back in. There is still thunder out there, but now it is closer. No rain yet, though.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Playing with Leo While Waiting for Sword

Today is the day Sword is expected back. When I brought the calendar in this morning to show Bow, he asked me again why she has not returned. This was the first time he asked me since the calendar routine has been instituted. I told him we have to wait for this evening. He seemed to accept this and asked to go outside.

Bow enjoys his swing, but he also likes playing with Leo. Leo is an unusual dog, because he identifies with others and tries to imitate them. When Brownie, our chocolate lab, starts to howl. which is a natural behavior for him, Leo joins in. Howling does not come naturally to Leo, but he imitates Brownie, out of a social desire to show solidarity. In the same way, Leo sometimes tries to vocalize like a chimpanzee. In the video below, listen to the sound. It wasn't Bow who made that vocalization. It was Leo.

After the friendly game of chase, Bow decided to swing some more, and while he was swinging, he started vocalizing, and since he was already vocalizing, he thought he might as well display, too. But notice that as soon as he was done displaying, Bow sat down meekly and waited for me to open the door so he could go back inside.

There is such a thing as a completely non-violent display of dominance. Bow is not trying to hurt anyone when he does this. He just wants us to appreciate him and his prowess.

Bow did not stay indoors long, though. He wanted to go back out so he could play chase with Leo again..

Playing chase is good exercise for both Leo and Bow. Unlike Teyman, who used to feel provoked and angry when Bow tried to initiate play with her, Leo understands. He gets it. He knows it is just a game, and he considers Bow to be his good friend. I think Bow feels the same way.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Interpreting Inkblots or Looking at Art?

When Bow finished his sketch, I told him "thank you" but I made no comment about whether it was good or bad or what it was about. To be honest, it looked like a bunch of scribbles to me, and I did not want to hurt his feelings. Sometimes when a child hands you a picture, it is best not to comment too much, because you are not sure what it is supposed to be, and if they had one thing in mind, and you see something else, they might get discouraged.

After I posted the video of Bow sketching and blogged about it yesterday, Bow wanted to go out to play, and I took some candid shots of him just having a nice time out of doors.

But later, in the evening, I looked again at the sketch Bow had made, and I thought I saw a representational image. I mean, it started to look like something to me, after I stared at it for a while.

I started to see, as clear as day, what I thought of as an ape in profile facing toward the right. To give you some idea where I see this, I will mark up the picture with my interpretation.

The question is: Is this an objective interpretation of something that is really in the drawing, or is it something that my mind is adding to the lines that are there, because my mind wants this to resolve into a representational sketch? Asking Bow did not help, because he refuses to say what his drawing represents or even to say that it represents anything.

So I opened the question up to my Facebook friends. I wanted to know what they saw. The answers varied wildly:

  • A little girl with full hair
  • A girl in profile with a dog's face next to her
  • A crowd of people on the side of the road
  • A mother holding a baby over her right shoulder
  • Snow, and one black wolf waiting on the other side of the hill waiting for two others to join him
  • A self portrait of Bow
  • A self portrait, and he is smiling

So it seems that the picture is an inkblot open to any and all interpretations. Which makes me wonder about all sketches. How do we ever figure out when something is really intended to represent something specific? Yes, you could ask the artist. But what if the artist won't answer or has been long dead? How do we recognize cave paintings of bison or the first tentative attempt at drawing a face by a small child?

Some people are not into representational art, so for them this is not a problem. But I don't belong to that school of thought.  I also don't believe that what the artist says determines what it's a picture of. If everybody who looks at something sees a camel, but the artist insists it's a picture of his mother-in-law, I would say it's a picture of a camel that the artist meant to represent the mother-in-law. I feel the same way about books. If the author says it's a book about X, but every reader gets Y out of it, then it's probably about Y.

So what do you think? Was Bow just scribbling? And what do you see in the inkblot?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Bow's Penmanship

Today, when I asked Bow to mark with an x the passage of yet another day since Sword left on her trip, Bow did not make an X. He tried to write something instead.

Here is what he wrote, close up.

It looks a little like Bow's name in Hebrew:  קשת. The shin (ש)  in the middle is incomplete, but you can see a sort of quf (ק) at the beginning and a taf (ת) at the end. "Did you write Bow?" I asked him. He did not answer at first, but later, when I asked what he had written on the calendar, he answered that it was his name. "Why?" I asked. "Why not?" he spelled. (למה לא).

Afterwards, when I thought he was going to ask to go outside, he gazed longingly at the calendar and spelled he wanted to write some more. I didn't want him scribbling on the calendar, so I went and got a blank piece of paper on a clipboard.

This time, the result of Bow's efforts looked less like writing and more like drawing. Here is what it looked like:

Whatever I may think of Bow's final product, there are some things about his behavior surrounding the pen and paper use that do impress me. He concentrated on the task at hand, capped the pen when he was done, and handed me the finished work. That's real progress in self control for Bow.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Marking the Calendar

It's not that Bow can't count. He used to count strawberries and apples and cherry tomatoes. He could tell me how many there were.  And it's not that he does not know what a day is or that he has no concept of time. He understands today, yesterday and tomorrow. He is the one who reminds me when it is noon, and he does it without using a watch. He certainly does know that we eat at twelve, and he does not appreciate deviations from the schedule.

The real problem is that days are such abstract things, and it's harder to count abstractions. Humans have trouble keeping track of the days, too, without the use of a calendar.

Today, I brought in a calendar. Before bringing the calendar into the pens, I had marked all the days that had passed since Sword left, leaving the 8th --today --  for Bow to mark. Bow was happy to have the calendar to look at, but at first he was mostly interested in the pictures of the horses, and he flipped through the calendar to see all the different horse pictures.

But then I explained to him the significance of the squares, that each of them stood for a day, and I showed him how I had marked the days since Sword left, and I let him mark the 8th.

Of course, he'd much rather have scribbled all over the calendar, but he did listen to my explanation and cooperated with me in marking the right square. His self-restraint in not grabbing the pen from me before I was ready to give it is a mark of his growing maturity. And he willingly let me take the calendar back out once we were done.

Just the fact that the calendar survived intact is a big step forward for Bow and me. And now when he asks when Sword is coming back, I will show him the calendar. Only lately he hasn't been asking.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

He Misses His Sister

My daughter left on a ten day trip with her best friend and her best friend's family on the fifth of July. They left very early, so we said our goodbyes on the fourth, and she spent the night at her friend's house. Throughout all the preparations on the fourth, Bow was a little anxious.

"Let me go to Florida," he spelled once.         תני לי ללכת לפלורידה

"No. You can't go," I said. "I'm not going, either."

After a while, he spelled: "Let me talk to Sword." תני לי לדבר עם חרב

I called her and left them to talk privately, so I don't know what was said.

After that, he watched as they picked her up at the front door and she set off with her purse and her back pack for the trip.

The next day, Bow was fine with Sword's absence until close to dinner time. He looked anxiously toward the front door, and then he took my hand and spelled: "Why has Sword not come back?" ? למה חרב לא חזרה

"She left on a trip for ten days," I said.

"Yes." he agreed. But he still stared at the front door.

"She won't be back for ten days, Bow," I said. "Do you understand?"

"Yes." כן

I wasn't sure he understood. "How many days till she comes back, Bow?" I asked, testing.

He spelled a "1" followed by a "0."

He knows the decimal system. He knows the word "ten" and how to spell it in numbers.

"Good," I said.

But then he asked again: "But why hasn't she come back?"

I didn't know how to answer that, except to repeat the thing about the ten days. But he kept gazing at the door. Today, he seems more reconciled to Sword's absence. He likes to spend time with the dogs outside. I don't think he's really keeping track of the days. I think that's my job.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Talking to the Crows

This morning, it was still very cool. For the beginning of July, it was unseasonably pleasant. This is turning out to be a much milder summer than the previous one. Bow and I were hanging out in the pens when we heard a lot of noise coming from the woods nearby. It sounded like crows. Lots and lots of crows.

I decided to take the opportunity to see what all the fuss was about among the crows.

The crows' cawing had subsided a bit by the time I got near the woods behind our house, but they soon took it up again. However, I still could not see them, nor could I tell what they were cawing about. However, shortly after, Bow began vocalizing in reply to the crows.

I decided I had better head back and rejoin Bow, but when I was on my way into the pens, the dogs started howling. It was a kind of reply to Bow's vocalization which had been a reply to the crows.

By the time I got back to the outer pen, the dogs had stopped their howling. Bow relaxed when he saw me back, so he began to swing.

 The crows outside still cawed, but it did not matter, anymore. Bow and I were making faces at each other, and all was right with the world.