January 14, 2008
The Quiet World of Ice Girl
After we made our way through the gallery, we took a stroll around the art-filled grounds of the Trammel Crow Center and came across an outdoor sculpture called "Men Against Man" (1968), by a Norwegian-American doctor and sculptor named Kaare Nygaard. (In a weird coincidence, Nygaard was the surgeon who treated Australian composer and nutbag Percy Grainger, whose music I like.) The sculpture depicts six uniformed and faceless figures (soldiers? policemen?) carrying a struggling prisoner by his arms and legs.
Schuyler was taken by it immediately.
She bent close to the prisoner's face (or what would have been his face if he'd had one), touching it gently. She held his hand. She walked around the sculpture several times, touching his feet and hands, but she was very careful to never touch any of the captors.
Finally, she stopped near the prisoner's head and stayed there. She touched his face again, tenderly and with great care, and put her forehead against his while whispering softly in Martian. As I tried to take photos as quietly as I could, she kissed his head and smiled sadly to herself. Finally, she simply rested her face next to his, giving him the same wordless comfort that she's always given to me when she knows I'm sad. When it was time to leave, she looked at him one last time, purposefully not recognizing his tormentors, and gave a little wave to him as we walked away.
Schuyler is an eight year-old girl, and much of the time she's not all that different from any other. She laughs, she plays, she watches Kim Possible on television, and she makes up imaginary scenarios for us all to participate in. (In her most recent story, she is a superhero named Ice Girl, and Julie and I are her co-horts, Ice Mama and Ice Daddy. I told her we could assemble an Ice Girl costume for her and she could come to my first book signing as Ice Girl. So, you know, watch for that.) Most of the time, Schuyler is just like any other kid.
But then, like yesterday, something else will appear behind her eyes, something a little dark and a little sad, but also wise beyond her years. When it does, Schuyler doesn't try to express it to us, but instead she moves through her world like a shaman. I watched her yesterday as she poured out her compassion and her sad love for the idea of someone suffering oppression, a concept that I doubt she could even express if pressed.
Schuyler is like any other kid you might meet, and Schuyler is like no one else in the world. In her mysteries (and she has so many), she is a puzzle and a source of immense pride. Schuyler is my most inscrutable enigma, and also my most perfect muse.