The Hundred-Year-Old Maple Tree
“Can you hear me now?”
I creep a little further out along the tree branch.
“Lucy, are you there?”
I hear a little mumbling. I switch hands so that the cell phone is pressed against my right ear, six inches closer to my best friend.
“Lucy, you’ve just got to be there!”
My parents said the cell phone could only be used for emergencies. But this IS an emergency! My miserableness has swelled to monstrous proportions like the Barney balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Besides, since I’m hiding in a tree, my parents won’t even know I called Lucy until months from now when they get the phone bill. Then I won’t care how they punish me because I’ll be back home in New York City, far, far away from Nowheresville, Vermont.
I shouldn’t have yelled. I quickly look around to see if anyone heard me. But no one’s paying any attention to me—as usual. Mom is on the other side of the farmhouse, painting the barn. I don’t mean really painting it (even though it sure could use a new coat of red). No, she’s making a painting of it. “Trying to capture the essence of its heroism as it stands against the march of time.” I’m not kidding you. Mom actually said that. Dad is at the far side of the field, sketching the tumble- down pile of rocks at the edge of the Woods. Anywhere else in the world, people would immediately get rid of that useless safety hazard. But up here, everybody worships that rock pile because it’s an authentic Vermont stone wall.
My sister, Ginia, is inside the farmhouse. Her name is really VIRginia, but ever since she turned sixteen, she has a fit if you call her that. She’s really good at drawing. She can draw just about anything—even galloping horses. But she’s probably doing another self-portrait so her squinty little eyes can be big and beautiful. She gets to spend hours mooning into a mirror and playing with her hair because my parents think that’s ART.
I’m supposed to be doing ART too. Every morning, the time between nine o’clock and noon is dedicated to “creative pursuits.” That’s my parents’ idea of a fun summer. Can you believe it? Three whole hours—every day? I told them that I couldn’t do anything for three whole hours—not even things I liked. Dad just smiled and repeated one of his annoying sayings, “Practice makes perfect.”
But he was lying. Practice won’t help my painting or drawing or anything else.
The trouble is, I don’t have any important talents. That became really obvious last fall when I started middle school. The first thing that happened was all the sixth graders had to demonstrate how great they were at singing and dancing and painting and showing off. Then the talent teachers chose kids for their workshops. I was hoping I could be in the chorus with Lucy. But I didn’t get picked for that. I didn’t even get picked for drawing. In fact, I guess you could say I didn’t get picked for anything. I got put in photography with all the other kids they didn’t know what to do with. I mean, anyone can point a camera at something and push a button. Unfortunately they didn’t have a workshop for doodling and hanging out with your best friend. Because those are the only things I’m any good at.
Maybe you think that doodling is drawing. They both use paper and pencil, right? I kind of thought that too. So on the first morning of ART time, I sketched myself standing next to the farmhouse. I can’t draw people, but you could recognize me by my frizzy hair. Then I made a swarm of mosquitoes attacking me. Only I didn’t actually draw them because they’re too tiny and complicated; I just covered the page in dots. Unfortunately Mom walked past while I was stabbing the paper with my pen. I tried to keep her from seeing what I was doing, but she looked anyway. She opened her mouth like she wanted to say something. Then she shut it again. Then she sighed. So I crumpled up the paper and threw it away.
And that’s the difference. Drawing ends up in museums. Doodling ends up in the trash.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Nature Girl by Jane Kelley. Copyright © 2010 by Jane Kelley. Excerpted by permission of Yearling, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.