This final part is an outlier as the photo was captured in the lobby of the United Nations Secretariat Building, the young girl seen here is not the narrator, and the year in which the artwork was created has little bearing on the ensuing conversation.
Rufino Tamayo asks “What do you see?”
Can I speak first of what I hear?
“Why yes, of course.”
There’s a low breeze. I can’t feel it, but I can hear the leaves tumbling. I can hear my father stoking a fire. And I can hear my mother singing me to sleep. I can hear the hum of insects and the occasional truck or car passing on the other side of a shallow wooded ravine stretching between our tent and the highway. I can hear the low buzz of the Coleman lamp, nearly indistinguishable from the infinite murmurs of the Illinois twilight.
If you were to drive from that tent of ours to your home in Mexico City, perhaps in the gold Mazda pickup that my father used to own, you’d cover two thousand miles end to end. The journey would last thirty hours, unless of course you took two more hours for a slight westward swing through the streaming fields of Kansas. And while we’re at it, why not wind our way down to New Orleans?
“Why New Orleans?”
Have you ever been?
“I saw it from the sky, many times.”
Well, the people in your mural remind me of the people of New Orleans. They form the best circles and sing the best songs. You must visit in October when the air there is simply the best in the known universe –– womb weather, as a friend of mine once said. Speaking of October, I remember another fire back home in Illinois.
I can smell the smoke and hear the nervous chatter of a group of teenagers, each hoping for a kiss, possibly their first. I remember the ride to her house after the game, chest bursting. We were children really, just old enough to know what we should want. Things didn’t go quite as I’d hoped that night but it’s a wonderful memory nonetheless. The chase is always better than the prize, is it not?
I have a point here somewhere. I’m just not sure where I left it. Let’s see, oh yes. What I mean to say is that I see the simplest acts of human kindness and connection as our way forward. These acts are the only sure bridge across past, present, future. When asked what we think, we each answer in our own limited shapes and ways, driven by our doubts and desires at that moment only. When asked what we feel, on the other hand, we echo one another from a deeper place. Don’t believe me? Try it.
What do you think of the park? Ask an urban planner. Ask a naturalist. Ask a mother. Ask a child. They’ll each answer with their own unrepeatable rationale. What do you feel in the park? Ask them each again. Now their answers will fold over one another like a stack of blankets. These are the spaces in which the acts occur. I witness them in my time. You witness them in yours.
We will witness them in our time, too. “That’s what I see,” says we.