How I Discovered Wisdom in Mother Goose


"Cackle, cackle, Mother Goose, Have you any feathers loose?" Truly have I, pretty fellow, Half enough to fill a pillow. Here are quills, take one or two, And down to make a bed for you.

[caption id="attachment_1452" align="alignleft" width="800"]www.RuthMeharg.com Finished painting resting on the palette[/caption]  

I started this Mother Goose painting 4 years ago. Well, sort of. After completing my blackbird drawing I decided to do a whole series of stippled nursery rhymes, starting with Mother Goose. I sketched out all my ideas, finally choosing one similar to this composition. I even started stippling - adding the tiny dots that make up the image one at a time. The problem was, drawing that way takes forever. After a few hours, the drawing was relegated to a portfolio of pieces I'm sure I'll "get to later."

Later has finally arrived. Well, sort of. I'll probably never finish that drawing, but I'm happy to poach all of it's best parts for this painting of the nursery rhyme queen.

[caption id="attachment_1449" align="alignnone" width="800"]www.RuthMeharg.com Trimming the edges after gluing down painted tissue paper[/caption] There was one major change I made from the drawing to the painting. In the original drawing, the background was going to be white. In the painting it became a night sky. While I was rolling ideas for this painting around in my head, I came upon a beautiful passage in Meir Shalev's bewitching novel, A Pigeon and a Boy.* In it he stated that geese are one of the only large, migrating birds that fly at night. It was a beautiful idea that I decided not research just in case it wasn't true. I knew that Mother Goose had to have that night sky behind her. [caption id="attachment_1450" align="alignnone" width="800"]www.RuthMeharg.com Adding color and detail[/caption] While I painted the stars and the sky, the uplifted wings, and the bright orange beak, I realized something about Mother Goose. Every time I'd heard the nursery rhyme growing up, I focused on the line, "And down to make a bed for you" while completely glossing over the line right before it. "Here are quills, take one or two" Perhaps it's because as a little girl I didn't really know the significance of quills. Now that I'm older, when I look back on this rhyme, I see Mother Goose in a whole new light. [caption id="attachment_1451" align="alignnone" width="800"]2015-2-19 DSC_1602a sm Final details[/caption] Mother Goose wasn't just about making beds. She wasn't just about nice stories and soothing rhythms to be murmured before sleep. Yes, she gave the boy down for a bed, but she also gave him quills. Quills are for writing. Quills are for learning and education and inspiration. Maybe I'm taking the metaphor too far, but I like to think that what Mother Goose is trying to tell us here is that nursery rhymes and children's stories are more than just cute entertainment. Nursery rhymes and children's stories make us wise. [caption id="attachment_1453" align="alignnone" width="549"]www.RuthMeharg.com Completed Mother Goose[/caption]       Notes: *A Pigeon and a Boy is a strange, but beautiful novel. It's not easy to summarize it or explain what it's about. It's not a love story, but it's about love. It's about pain and war, beauty and peace, tourists and buildings, growing up and dying. And pigeons. If you'd like to wander through a landscape of words and immerse yourself in the unfolding of a story, I'd highly recommend it.

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