Maurice Sendak could not draw horses.
This proved to be a significant problem, for an editor had seen the hint of a spark in him, and had secured for him a contract to complete an illustrated book called “Where the Wild Horses Are.”
Sendak recalled his formidable editor’s “acid tones. She said, ‘Maurice, what can you draw?’ Okay. Cause she was investing in a full color picture book. That was an enormous thing back then.”
Sitting shiva for a family member and encountering an array of much older, distant and alarmingly disheveled relatives whose appearance and behavior was a wild curiosity to him and his sister inspired Sendak to write another book entirely.
It is understandable that Sendak would find chains of prosaic misfortune unmoving as literature for children.
Sendak’s youth harbored indelibly dark places. He recalled listening to radio reports about the Limburgh baby, whom he thought of as gold-dusted royalty: how could Sendak, a poor city boy, survive if that golden boy could not?
And he recalled flinging a ball high against a wall in an alley way between apartment buildings and having his playmate go chasing the ball out into traffic. . . .and then seeing his friend’s lifeless body as if he were flying through the air.
So many children fly in your books, observed Bill Moyers.
Sendak promptly favorably compared Moyers to his therapist.
In his meditation on grace, Frederick Buechner wrote, “beautiful and terrible things will happen.” This is certainly true of grief, as it is of life before and through it.
As Sendak perhaps knew even as a young child, while he obsessed about the fate of a seemingly blessed baby he did not know; no protection can be taken against the dark currents.
Life cannot be lived so as to guard against the intrusion of evil any more than one could stand sentry against the kind of cancer that took my husband from us.
Terrible things will happen.
But inescapably, beautiful things will happen, too. Sometimes the beautiful even will be revealed by the terrible.
While experiencing the terror of learning my husband would die, our friends and I strove to find and reconnect with people we knew he would want to see again, and they to see him.
Amidst the horror of watching a loved one die, as our friend Bob observed, one could see the beauty of love of family and friends in its purest and truest form.
That Jim and the rest of our family could seize upon the sparks of new friendships as we knew he was dying also was the beautiful prevailing over the terrible.
The beauty of true friendship is boundless.
(c) 2012 Stephanie M. Glennon
9 thoughts on “The Hint of a Spark”
The quote Jim chose for under his portrait in our junior high school yearbook profoundly stated: “When you get lemons, make lemonade.” At the time, I alternatively thought it was cool, then corny, then cool….but I was a pre-teen and that is the mindset. It turns out that it was a very accurate quote for a flexible, positive guy.
So, my take on this most wonderful post is, if you can’t draw horses, draw monsters. Makes for a much better book anyway.
I’m so happy to be here. To open my heart constantly to what I have and what can go away. And how there is beauty in everything.
Thank you so much for visiting, Gae! And to Alice for the introduction.