During California's stay at home order, Jennifer Woo found a Navajo sand painting in her room that she'd never seen before. (Photo by Jennifer Woo)
Orange County School of the Arts

Column: Finding hidden treasures in quarantine

I found a hidden treasure while I was cleaning up my room — I’ve been doing that a lot lately out of boredom. I have this one corner in my room that’s been cluttered with miscellaneous stuff for years. To be honest I don’t think I’ve ever seen the flooring under all of that stuff. For years, that corner has been piling up with old poster boards, 14 x 16 photo frames, old whiteboards, and anything else that didn’t have a place in the house. 

I decided that yesterday would be the day that I take on the task of clearing that corner. About 30 minutes into the cleaning frenzy, I found a beat up cardboard box that said “authentic Navajo sand painting” written on it in Sharpie. It had clearly been opened because the box was held shut only by peeling masking tape. 

I asked my dad what it was and he told me that years ago, when his parents visited the Navajo nation, they had bought that for him but he had never put it up on display.

I opened it up and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It was so elaborate — composed of thousands of grains of sand placed in just the right spot to create a picture.

I admired it for a few minutes and praised its intricacy and detail, then decided that I had to display it in my room. I couldn’t put such a beautiful piece of art, back in its masking tape covered box. I had just cleared off a shelf in my room, and I realized it would be a great place to put it. 

When I put it up, it looked like it was always meant to be there. I couldn’t stop looking at it.

This Navajo sand painting by S. Thomas is called “Sun face.” (Photo by Jennifer Woo)

I couldn’t believe that that sand painting sat in a dusty corner of my room for at least 17 years, and I never even knew it was there. Under California Governor Gavin Newsom’s stay at home order, it took me weeks of being inside to get me to clean out that corner and find that painting.

Later that night, I realized that opening that cardboard box wasn’t just about me finding a painting, it was a metaphor for this entire quarantine.

While at home, so many people have been discovering hidden talents that have lain dormant their whole lives.

Since the quarantine started, I’ve seen so many Instagram stories of my friends cooking elaborate dishes, singing covers of their favorite songs, painting masterpieces, learning new instruments, and the list goes on and on.

I always try to find silver linings, but with everything going on in the world right now, they can be hard to find. I realized that now is the time to take some time for ourselves, go back to the basics and do the things that simply make us happy.

It is so easy to get caught up in the fast-paced mindset of our normal lives. Rushing to get to school or work, stressing over tests and deadlines, staying up all night cramming for AP tests, etc.

For the first time in a long time, we are asked to slow down and step away from the high stress environments of school and work and stay home. I really believe that everyone has undiscovered talents, and now is an amazing opportunity to find them. 

While I want nothing more than for everything to go back to normal, I do not want to miss out on the unique opportunities for personal discovery and growth that this time brings.

Our creativity and innovation are being put to the test more than ever. People are sewing their own masks, transitioning to digital learning and digital business, cooking with limited ingredients, etc. It has amazed me every day seeing our adaptability and resilience at this time.

I am so glad that I found that painting or I could’ve gone another 17 years without ever seeing it. I hope that we all discover some hidden treasure inside of us during this time, whether it be a talent, or a passion, or an idea because the world needs to see it more than ever.