Reclaiming our child eyes


how your child eyes
saw the sun
you drew those beams
with rainbow crayons

posted to the Facebook group Small Stones-Writing our Way Home,

by Carole Herzog Johnston, reposted with permission


"Designer" paper from Ampad, an adult artist's juxtaposition of a child's sun and a Smiley face

“Designer” paper from Ampad,     an adult artist’s juxtaposition of     a child’s sun and a Smiley face

Remember drawing sunrays?  Every picture we drew with our crayons had a round yellow circle with those black lines radiating from it.  Those suns shone down on square houses with triangle roofs (complete with a chimney and a wisp of smoke), each with a door in the middle bracketed by 2 square windows, trees like lollipops, and people composed of circles and twigs.  (Yes, we drew triangular peaked roofs with chimneys even in west Texas where our own ranchstyle homes had flat gravel roofs, and asymmetrical front aspects, and I didn’t know anyone with a fireplace!)

Were we taught to draw the sun (and houses, trees, people, etc) in these simplified, standardized ways?  Is so, by whom—mothers, teachers, siblings, schoolmates… actively or by example, or did we copy it from our reading primers and storybooks?

In the case of those sunbeams, I wonder if we did actually see them when we disobeyed our mothers’ warnings and looked at the sun?  I don’t remember, but Carole does.  She commented on her Small Stone, “A friend of my mother once asked the child me, why do kids always draw those lines emanating from the sun, as if she never saw them. I just felt sorry for her.”

I wrote back, “I wonder if developing eyes actually see the sun’s rays in a clear sky, while older eyes must wait until sunbeams are created by clouds or tall trees or housedust…. I have assumed the crayon lines were a convention, like kids’ houses w/ peaked roof, door in middle, 2 windows. But now I wonder!”

And she replied, “I think you can see them if you squint at the sun. This morning I saw them clearly as I watched the sun rising in the crook between two trees. I guess the light was refracted in some special way.”

Well, I’m sure I squinted a lot as a kid who played outdoors all summer, in the days before sun- screen/ glasses/ hats and all the addictive indoor electronic amusements. Proof–all those little wrinkles beside my eyes that formed early in the “aging” process!

I’m also wondering when did we switch from seeing crayon lines to Divine sunrays?  Sometime in my Sunday school education, I accepted the stereotype of holiness made visible in the rays of light coming through a break in the clouds, or the canopy of tall conifers (those “cathedral column” redwoods of California!).  To me now, those are gorgeous views, rare enough to be special, and transfixing even without a belief in a Divine Artist.

What I do remember from those lazy childhood summer days, lying on the itchy Bermudagrass lawn skygazing with my best friend Sarah Kelly, are the shapes we could so easily see in the clouds, and how strange it was that the cute puffy poodle would morph into a greedy crocodile into a _____….  Now as a too-grownup, it’s hard for me to find the patience to watch clouds long enough to catch those evanescent images. Somehow I just don’t see things in clouds very often. To my artist’s eye, clouds are color and texture, and I love their ever-changing form.  To my gardener’s eye, trained in science, clouds are weather.   Perhaps I need to rediscover my child’s eye, and see more playful magic in the sky!

Heart in the Sky--captured by Tanya Levy

Heart in the Sky–captured by Tanya Levy, and reposted with her permission

the stretched heart-visible to the naked eye–Small Stone and photo by Tanya Levy.  w/ permission

Another member of Small Stones, Tanya Levy, frequently sees hearts in clouds.  Someone posted in that forum that Tanya is a newlywed, and so I think the hearts she sees have romantic meaning.

Although I post a lot of “<3” hearts when I more than “like” someone’s Facebook post, romance seems to be long gone from my soul after 18 solitary years.  I see beauty, and magic and miracles, in the minutia of Nature and the large paintings of sky and landscape.  I am mostly happy or at least content, and occasionally get excited, but I see sacredness or flower-bee sex-and-nurture, but not romance, in the hearts of flowers I love to photograph.

Fiery Dragon of Sunset

Fiery Dragon of Twilight

Swimming clouds

Swimming clouds

And I see color and texture in the cloudscapes and unsets.   Although once in a while, a pod of cumulus whales or flock of cirrus swallows float into my view.  And recently, I’ve started seeing the Dragons of Twilight!

But not hearts.  Except for those rabbit or javelina- chewed prickly pear pads….

What do you see in clouds?  Do you remember seeing sunbeams like crayon lines?  What do sunrays coming through tall conifers mean to you as an adult?

Do you see with child eyes, romantic eyes, religious eyes, scientific eyes, tired eyes?

Can you change modes of perception by choice?  That’s a skill I want to cultivate for myself!


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8 thoughts on “Reclaiming our child eyes

  1. Pingback: Reclaiming our child eyes | jEtana's blog

    • Where, Debbie? When did you leave, and where are you now?

      I grew up in Big Spring (all my public school years).

      There was a rebel inside that “good girl,” wanting anything other than the conservative attitudes of my upbringing, and so I left “for good” in 1972.
      But all these years later, I enjoy that slow talking Texas friendliness, and sometimes I hear myself drawling, and it feels good.

      • I was born and raised in Amarillo. Met hubby at college and when we graduated in 1987, he looked for a job in TX for 5 months with no bites. His dad flew him to Atlanta (all of his family are here) and hubby had a job in 3 weeks so off we went! Pulling out of my Daddy’s farm’s driveway, I just *knew* I’d be back within 5 years.

        Yet in a couple months, it will be 26 years that we’ve been here. Leaving my family was one of the hardest things I’d ever done but it’s also the very best thing I’ve ever done. It’s what saved me . . .

        Smiling because I hear you. I didn’t realize how much the wisdom of the Texas prairie had gotten into my heart and soul until I had been away from her for several years. She speaks to me.

        When we do go back for a visit (usually about once a year), I wonder how I can ever leave her again. But usually before our visit is over, I know that I can’t stay and where my home is now.

        Still. When I hear a Texan drawl, I just sigh and think “ahhh, home.” 🙂

  2. I really enjoyed the journey with you in regards to the rays we saw as children and the way we see them now, JEtana. Food for thought. Because you’re right, all children draw the sun that way. Interesting. Like you I am an avid cloud gazer and while I don’t often see or look for hearts, I see all sorts of other creatures, including dragon. Magic skies!!

  3. I really loved thinking about how I drew as a child and always drew the rays of the sun. When I am stressed, besides looking for hearts and patterns in the sky, I like to draw again. Lately I have fallen in love with curves and twirls :).

    • Me, too, Tanya! Lots of curlique doodles in the margins of my class notes and journal entries recently. I love synchronicity like this 🙂

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