Oh, the Places Your Art Will Go

A couple of weeks ago, I endured a particularly grueling trip to the grocery store with my two youngest children. It started with the purchase of King Julian yogurt tubes instead of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle yogurt tubes and escalated to a shouting match over who would press the button to close the rear door of the minivan. An attempt was made at choking. An arm was bitten hard enough to leave a bruise. There was much wailing and whining as I slammed shut the vehicle to head for home. All I could think to do was crank up the car stereo. I didn’t care what song was on, only that it would drown out the pandemonium in my car. It happened to be Dustin Lynch’s “That’s Where It’s At.”

The song’s okay. I don’t have much feeling for it one way or another. But I started to pity Dustin Lynch. Someone slaved over that song. Every chord, each lyric, was the product of someone’s creativity. There were writers, performers, producers, and others. The grand sum of countless hours of creativity and work was, for me, finding its fulfillment in suffocating the noise of my children in meltdown mode.

ephemeral art

Photo by Tamarcus Brown,unsplash

We’ve all used “art” that way, haven’t we? Music or television programming to supplant too much noise or too much silence. Magazines for the kids to cut out pictures. Newspapers to line a rodent’s cage. A movie to distract during illness or pain. A book to keep the window propped open or boost the toddler at the dinner table.

For a writer, it’s a sober reminder not to take myself or my work so seriously. The novel I spend hundreds of hours dreaming, writing, editing, formatting, and promoting could end up all sorts of places. Even unseemly places. (I say this as a child who read dozens of Archie comic books in the quiet and privacy or our family bathroom.)

The words, images, and music created by others permeates our lives. A movie playing may be the backdrop to crime, sin, celebration, or illness. Papers on which words were created with loving attention sop up messes, clutter shelves, jam purses, and line library sale tables. Music is the background of meals, runs, shopping excursions, road trips, breaking up and making up.

It’s not the material form of the art that endures. It’s rarely even the intangible mood, meaning, or emotion it creates. Art is ephemeral. But sometimes . . . sometimes it sticks.

  • Air Supply’s Greatest Hits was the soundtrack for the bus ride of my eighth grade field trip to Washington, DC.
  • U2’s Zooropa is the record that played inside my boyfriend’s Oldsmobile Calais late, late on Friday and Saturday nights when we were dating.
  • Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising is the music that played as my husband and I traveled throughout the green mountains of Vermont on vacation.
  • Irish Dreams by Alisa Jones came from the speakers of our little Saturn sedan as we drove up and down a misty Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
  • When I quit working full-time and resumed reading for pleasure for the first time in years, I picked up The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic by Gay Salisbury to fill the historical fiction requirement of my library’s reading BINGO.
  • I read John Adams by David McCullough while sitting at my dad’s hospital bedside the day before he died.
  • Forget Not Love: The Passion of Maximilian Kolbe by André Broussard was read as I lay in a tent in Shenandoah National Park with my napping toddler during the first trimester of my fourth pregnancy.
  • Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight was my companion during first trimester of my sixth pregnancy.
  • War Horse is the movie my husband streamed while I was in early labor with my youngest child.

Whether it “sticks,” or is lost to the mountain of memories piling higher behind me each day, these books, these songs, these movies – these moments – are the moments of my life. The shape a moment or a memory or, sometimes, my way of thinking.

I don’t know where the things I’ve created have gone, where the words I’ve strung together have reached – on paper or in cyberspace. It’s probably better that I don’t. It’s enough to hope they touch a heart, a mind, or a soul for a second or two. And if not, maybe they served as fire starter or a door stop. Either is fine by me.

What books, music, or movies have stuck with you or do you identify with a specific time and place?