Saturday, March 16, 2013

What I Learned Climbing Trees and Playing Jump Rope

"Hey, Coconut Mon" acrylic on canvas
When I was a child, I loved to climb trees. I could look down on passersby, but they couldn’t see me. It gave me a great sense of power. I felt larger than life. Today, this concept is given a grown-up term called the “big picture.” This overview or perception is essential in planning and setting goals.

Many of the things I needed to know in life, I learned as a child; take jump rope. I gained more than building coordination. I learned how to merge. Do you notice how many people simply don’t know how to do this with discretion?

There are the bullies who drive into traffic like a bat out of you-know- what, always expecting that an opening will be waiting automatically. Sometimes they make it, causing people like you and me to stomp on our brakes or swerve into dangerous congestion. Or they slam on their own brakes and wait. By the time an opening appears, their car is at a standstill.

Then there are the turtles, the terrified ones who creep up onto the ramp, afraid of whizzing cars and trucks. They don’t have enough speed to merge in, and so they wait with a trail of cars behind them. These are the people who, when they were kids, either never played jump rope, or were never good at it.

They were the ones who stood and watched the rope go around and around, and when the time was right, they stood there as immobile as slugs. If they finally found courage to jump in, they were so out of sync that they tripped on the rope – game over.

"Cattle grazing with egrets" 11 x 14 oil on archival canvas
It’s all about rhythm. There are signs that alert a jumper when the time is right: the tapping of the rope on pavement, the height of the rope when it’s time to jump in. It’s all about gut feel and the rhythms of life; moving when the time is right and taking turns.

I call it tact. Some people naturally have it. They must have been jump rope pros! They seem to know when to talk and when to keep their mouths shut.  They sense when another person is tense or angry. They are in tune with other people’s feelings and the rhythms and patterns of human speech and emotion. Unlike their opposing counterparts who blurt out insulting remarks without thinking. Tacky!

"Window on Pine Island" 16 x 20 oil on wrapped canvas
These tactless souls are the ones who swerve in and out of traffic without regard for anyone else’s safety. They are the shoppers who push past others waiting in line, crashing into them like bumper cars. They are impatient. They think having to wait is for wimps. Anger propels them. They don’t have time for games unless they can win. “What’s in it for me?” is the question that prefaces every action. They are bulldozers in human form.

You find out a lot about people by waiting in lines and driving down the highway. You find out who knows when to merge and who doesn’t. And you discover discourteous people who refuse to move left, even when they can, to allow someone else to enter the highway. I swear these people never jumped rope.

"Fish Market" acrylic on 18 x 24 canvas
If I had my way, jump rope would be a part of every Drivers Ed. Class; maybe even part of college preparatory education or on-the-job training.  Who knows, there might be fewer accidents on the road and more teamwork on the job. But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?