-John Schindel, Busy Penguins
“Maybe if you just do somebody different for a bit, you’d feel less sad.”
-Lee Lai, Stone Fruit
I’ve been hanging out with my nieces, three and six, and last week we read Busy Penguins. Each page shows the penguins doing something. Since then we’ve been penguins caring, and huddled up in a hug. We’ve run around the house as penguins dancing. We’ve waved our feet in the air as penguins splashing. It turns out penguins can do just about anything.
When I ran across the quote in Stone Fruit, it worried me. Or bothered me. I think it’s so important to let yourself feel what you’re feeling. (At least one of Lai’s characters seems a little troubled by the idea, too). At the same time, since reading that, I’ve been wondering. There are times where what I’m feeling becomes what I’m doing, and when what I’m doing becomes what I’m feeling. There are times when I close myself in that loop. To put it another way, I’m always feeling so much. I’m feeling stressed about finishing this (and excited by the idea I’m following). I’m feeling tired (and rested from this last week with my family). Maybe playing as someone else is one way to make space for a part of myself I’ve been forgetting, a part that wants to come out and run.
When the Stone Fruit characters move with their imaginations, playing together as feral creatures, they’re drawn like feral creatures. That’s one of my favorite parts of the book. It shows me how pretending to be someone else is a way of being another side of myself, and maybe how a self is often so grounded in a way of imagining. I have so many selves. And at least one of them, it turns out, is a penguin.