Fall cleaning and (finally, again) rifling through piles of paper so I can some day love my office…I found evidence that my new project is actually quite old. Turns out I’ve been writing it for years.
It’s hard to articulate how comforting this is. Like finding out you are who you always thought & hoped you were. Soon I’ll have the luxury of going to a week-long workshop where I can dive into that mess.
I’ve almost finished with my dollhouse re-vamp as part of spiffing my office. The dollhouse had become like a beach at low tide, catching every small bit the waves cast there. Many of the items in the dollhouse are from my childhood, many handmade by my friends and me. (I’ve blogged about my dollhouse here.)
Yesterday I took everything out, cleaned the shelves, and am sorting through it all, deciding what to keep. Not all of it, but the most important bits.
Today I realized that Maude, the mama bear, doesn’t have an art studio (which she had when I was a kid–a separate cardboard box with canvases, etc.)! And there’s a perfect spot for it. So now I get to make some stuff.
There’s something so calming about taking time with this.
And while I should be decluttering other (larger) things for an imminent yard sale, too bad; this day has been perfect.
A week ago, I returned from the Omega Institute where I attended Lynda Barry‘s 5-day workshop called WRITING THE UNTHINKABLE. (I know that I will be writing about the experience for a long time, so I’m not even trying to encapsulate it all here. I do know that the time I spent in that workshop will affect my work and life in ways I can’t yet imagine, and probably for the rest of my life.)
Barry’s work had us considering what is an image but here “considering” is the wrong word: instead of an intellectual brain-ing activity, we considered via specific remembered images…with the moving hand and what she calls the back of the mind, and our friendly Professor Andretti (her workshop code name) guiding, prompting, timing us. We worked like dogs! (It’s a cliche, but also an image, and a puzzling one: aside from working dogs, do dogs work?) On the drive home, almost every song I heard had a mystery in it.
Images are everywhere, and I’m almost 50 years old, and I feel like I am just now noticing this!
Doing this work was the kind of experience that opens the senses. I’m noticing so much, so much more fully, in a more embodied way. I have not yet opened my composition book where the work from the workshop is contained. I’m following Professor Andretti’s advice and waiting, so the images have time to coalesce. It’s a magic process, and I don’t want to disturb it.
But I did open a small box of stuff that’s been sitting in my office for almost a year. The box is full of items from my (long-gone) childhood dollhouse. I still have most of the contents and inhabitants (Steiff and Schuco mohair bears, mostly, and some other species). A couple years ago, I moved the things out of boxes onto a bookshelf in my office, and having it out in the open makes me so happy. But today’s box was undiscovered until my mother found it at her house last year. (When she gave it to me, I opened it and looked through quickly, but didn’t have time to really peruse it, so I put it away. Now I am wondering if I put it off not only because of busyness and inertia, but maybe also something like the composition book from the workshop: maybe in that box there was still something magic happening that needed to be undisturbed.)
Tonight when I looked through the tiny items with my daughter, among the treasures (some pictured below) I found a tiny sample bottle of Estee Lauder Youth Dew. (Lynda Barry writes and talks about how sometimes an image, a song, will transport us back to a forgotten corner of our lives. If you are a child of the 1960s and 70s and you don’t believe me, try smelling some Youth Dew!)
This is one of those times I’m glad I’m a packrat.
Back in the 1970s when I attended the Antioch School, the building itself seemed to be alive and breathing. (Here’s a piece about the school and the building by alum Tucker Viemiester.) In the Red Room (now Art & Science) we dipped candles, sewed clothing, fired glass, made pottery, and fixed our own lunch. My love of making things with fiber and words thrived. One year, teacher Bev Price made each student a stuffed toy monster, each creation somehow fitting the child’s personality. The Antioch School is a community nourished by the teachers. The teachers respected and celebrated our humanity. Being a child who was taken seriously by adults has resonated through my life. I try to give this back by really listening to children.
Last autumn, my daughter began in Nursery. Through the kaleidoscope of time and memory, I see the school anew, see what rare magic happens there. I see what education should be. In the midst of what looks like chaos, the teachers’ work seems nearly invisible, but with patient intention, they create a school where children are trusted to follow intuition, indulge natural curiosity, and take real risks. The teachers provide safety and offer gentle, effective leadership, asking children questions rather than giving them answers. They know children can–and should–find their own solutions. It is a place that allows children to grow into creators, innovators, problem-solvers, and sometimes, teachers–a place that allows children to grow into themselves.
I look forward to connecting with alumni at the Alumni Reunion in July. (For more information about the reunion, go here.)