Kaleidoscope“Some are transformed just once / And live their whole lives after in that shape. / Others have a facility for changing themselves as they please.”-OvidIt finds its way into my hands—the small kaleidoscope—a trinket my grandfather passes along to me after finding it at the bottom of his toolbox one afternoon. “Hold it up to the light, Lauren,” he advises me, upon witnessing my attempts to unlock the kaleidoscope’s magic by aiming it towards the shadowy pavement. With hands clasped, eyes squinted, and head cocked, I finally spot the colored chips, a glittering lattice of blue, green, and yellow, stagnantly arranged and defined. “Turn it, now,” my grandfather orders, smiling. Suddenly, the clear composition unravels. It becomes a moving color war, triangles and rectangles interacting, skirting around one another to form patterns that linger only fleetingly before changing again. I gasp, intrigued. “That’s the beautiful part,” my grandfather observes. “It’s beautiful when it’s turning.”
The challenge of cleaning out my desk drawers in preparation for the move to New York results in my stumbling across an old coloring book. I leaf through the pages, startled by the number of pictures I’d left only partially colored. With quick, shaky movements, it seems as if I had simply jumped from shading one image to the next, as if there were something complete about leaving the figures incomplete. Sitting at my desk, fourteen years older, I laugh at my rendition of Big Bird, whose characteristically yellow feathers I had made blue and whose feet (I suppose I had decided) were altogether undeserving of color. And yet I get a sense that thi…
… of wholeness, but the acceptance that I’ll always be a work-in-progress that creates the satisfying illusion of completeness.
Although ignorant of his own words, my grandfather has gotten it right: It is beautiful when it’s turning. We, as human beings, are not able to ossify what we perceive to be our “identity”; it will be forever changing—a kind of surreal, confounding, and complex reflection of our human experience. We possess innumerable facets, like little tubes of color that remain separate until some creative force removes all the caps and mixes them together. It is that melange that initiates a masterpiece of identity—a masterpiece that is ever changing and never quite finished, but fulfilling in its progression. And it is precisely this understanding that makes the next stroke of the brush a little bit clearer, the portrait itself a bit more revealing.