joy & moxie

restful creativity

An Urban Neverland

I started walking to work a few months ago. The most important difference between driving to work and walking is the details. In the car, you’re worried about traffic, about that pedestrian that you almost didn’t see, whether or not you can make this next light. On foot, everything slows down. I am actually moving to a natural pace, and I notice things. Little things. God is in the details from the ordinary to the ridiculous to the whimsical.

Take, for instance, this offering:

This is graffiti on the side of a bank branch. Some ingenious ruffian decided it would be funny not just to merely paint (presumably with a stencil) on a bank building but to imitate the art of ancient cave dwellers. We can look at this a number of legitimate ways. One way is to chuckle whilst shaking one’s head and saying, “Dang kids.” Or we can use harsher words with more legal connotations, such as “Vandalism!” Or we can conclude that perhaps this innocent drawing actually marks the boundaries of a gang’s territory… that perhaps the little figures with spears are a threat.

Yet, there is another angle. I prefer to think it shows an artist with a particular sense of humor.

I imagine myself as a sort of anthropologist studying the evidence of some as yet uncontacted human tribe, lurking in the urban jungles of our city, hiding in the alleyways with spears or poison darts. They rule the nighttime, running through the shadows in their bare feet as they hunt raccoons, possums and other night creatures. We don’t see them during the day because they sleep on rooftops, or in dumpsters and sewers, or they’re just that good at camouflage.

It brings me back to backyard games and expeditions into the alley behind our house – a pairing of worlds that other wise would not mix. This little painting conveys a message, perhaps the only message they will ever send: we have spears and we’re not afraid to use them!

A third spear-man is seen on the back of a handicapped parking sign, looking rather more ragged than his comrades.

Having grown up pretending to be one of Peter Pan’s Lost Boys (even though I was a girl), I can’t help but imagine the artists as dirty, ten year old ragamuffins, dressed in animal skins and armed with sling-shots and bows. They very easily become a band of mighty heroes, going head to head with pirates and other sinister characters. They inhabit an urban Neverland, invisible to those of us who are rushing down the sidewalk, checking our cell phones and the time.

Whether drawn by criminals or rascals, this sort of whimsy keeps me walking.

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