Sunday, July 12, 2020

Spiraling Out The Sadness


There is no question that we are living through very tough times right now.  COVID-19 has overturned our world.  The challenges of uncertainty, isolation, illness, and loss have touched every age group, everywhere. 

What can we do to cope?

In my latest book THINGS SEEN FROM ABOVE, the main character of Joey Byrd creates giant spirals in the playground dirt as a way to deal with his sadness and isolation—an idea inspired by my own nephew. 

“You think of something sad and you start walking,” Joey Byrd says.  “Then you think of more sad things and you walk…and you just keep walking…until the sad things finally go away.” (p. 114).

It isn’t such a crazy idea.  For centuries, spirals and labyrinths have helped to calm the mind.  My nephew called it “spiraling out the sadness.”  While working on the book last year, I met other kids and adults who used similar strategies to cope, including the amazing sand artist Marc Treanor.  Check out his work below. 

Sand labyrinth by Marc Treanor

The power of art is a theme you’ll find in a lot of my work. In THE SEVENTH MOST IMPORTANT THING, the artist character of James Hampton creates a visionary box made from things that he scavenges on the war-torn island of Guam. He calls it “Death and War turned into something beautiful.” (p.170) In ALL OF THE ABOVE, the teenage characters use art (and math!) to survive.

Like the characters in my books, I’ve used art and writing to help me cope with my emotions since I was a kid.  During COVID-19, I’ve followed Joey Byrd’s advice to “walk until the sadness goes away.” 

So far, I’ve logged more than 300 miles.

There’s no question that we have a lot of sadness to “spiral out” these days.  It is important to let it out. Draw it. Sing it. Write it. Chalk it. Spiral it. Paint it. Dance it. Walk it.  Make labyrinths out of clay, stones, sand, and chalk – even yarn. Learn more here.  Fill a playground-- or a beach—or a piece of paper—with your feelings. 

Know that you are not alone. 

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