The Introverted Thinker in New York

The Introverted Thinker is eight. Her mother takes her out of school for a week to go to New York City.

They leave her sister and her father behind.

Her mother complains about the school paperwork. “Never let school get in the way of your children’s education,” she says. “That’s what my father says.”

The IT is not sure what all this means. But she is excited.

They go on an airplane. She gets to sit by the window. She can see the ground and it is squares like a quilt with hills. It is so beautiful! She is amazed, magic!

In New York City they go to the house of an old friend of her mother’s. The old friend is old and wears dresses to the ground and a lot of jewelry. The house is dark and there are many things in it. The IT is told that the things are antiques and she must not touch anything. She walks around carefully in the dark places, looking at all of the strange things while her mother talks to the old friend. They talk about the past and people that she does not know.

Her mother takes her to museums on some days. Some are art museums. The IT is already used to art museums because her mother is an artist. The museum is like an art gallery only much bigger and the ceilings are very high. A lot of the art is very big too.

One museum is different. Natural History, says her mother. There are dinosaur bones. The IT can’t touch them either but they are wonderful. Huge animals from the past that are not here any more! She loves it.

They fly home. First she has to thank the old friend with the house like a museum, only darker. Then they go to the plane. This time there are some clouds so the IT can’t see as much, but she still gets to see the quilt of the land.

She decides that she likes museums and she likes natural history. Especially dinosaurs.

If

This is one of the ten poems that my mother made etchings for, the year I was just done with college. 1983-4. I wanted to write, but had no idea what to do with the poems that I was writing. My mother Helen Burling Ottaway had done a series of etchings with a family friend’s poems, so I asked if she would do the same with me. She said, “Yes, on one condition.” “What is that?” “They have to rhyme.” She did not like the free verse. Almost all of the poems were about animals, except for one about my sister. Another friend printed the poems on a lead type press and then my mother worked on editions numbered 1-50 of each, inking the plate separately for each one. This one is number 5/50. You can see the imprint of the plate on the paper in the photograph.

If I could be anything
I’ll tell you what I’d like to be
One of those small green frogs
That sails from tree to tree

These frogs can jump, they have no laps
They are not birds with wings
the have parachutes between their toes
And I am sure that they can sing

They spread their toes and jump so high
To float like snowflakes in the air
Frogs fall like rain from clear blue skies
It must be nice up there

Why they jump I do not know
Maybe escaping hungry eyes
Perhaps to catch a tender bug
Or they just like to fly

If I could be anything
I’ll tell you what I’d like to be
One of those small green frogs
That sails from tree to tree.