Evelyn is a high school graduate. I closed the book on her transcript over a year ago. Recently she taught me how to connect the dots:
Ever since my mom introduced me to pysanky egg making many years ago, I have been hooked. When Easter rolls around I have my friends over to create these brilliantly dyed eggs. Every year I get better and better and learn more helpful techniques. This year I was so obsessed with making eggs I would stay up ‘till midnight painstakingly scratching on eggs with a wooden kiska.
Ukrainian egg making teaches patience. It’s a quiet, slow, endeavor but all the hard work and patience pays off. My favorite part of the process is when, after hours of work, I finally get to melt off the black wax with a candle and reveal the masterpiece!
A few years ago we suffered a pysanky egg tragedy: Years worth of eggs had been left on the kitchen table while we were out to dinner one night. We returned to a floor covered in smashed eggshells. Our dog Jack had smelled the eggs and jumped onto a chair to get to the top of the table. He crushed them all.
My mom cried. She’s never gotten over the loss. I, on the other hand, just wanted to punt Jack down the staircase.
Slowly we have begun to build up our pysanky egg collection…
I remember being on a Patricia Polacco roll one spring. After reading Rechenka’s Eggs to our group I heard Sara say, “We can do that.”
The next thing I know we are blowing the insides out of eggs and teaching our primary aged children the art of batik. I find it interesting that the Ukrainian word “pysanky” comes from the verb “pysaty” which means to write. So picture teaching a group of 12 or so under ten-year-olds to write with wax on eggshells! Did I mention that there is fire involved in this activity? Yes, that’s right, fire.
Here’s the deal: children are capable. Was this activity chaotic? You bet. But not once did it cross our minds that this group of children was too young to engage in a sophisticated craft. We rarely purchased construction paper! Looking back those young children proved that focus is not the issue. Children possess an incredible store of focus power, but we deny them opportunity to demonstrate their prowess when we hand them coloring books.
The art of pysanky teaches patience, true. When pure white shells, a tiny surface of potential, are painstakingly decorated individuality emerges. As a teacher who’s a poet, I see a metaphor emerging.