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…a great deal of real art is made under the radar. We barely know we are working. We just suit up and show up and grab what moments we can, and it is only in cozy retrospect that we can see the level of skill we were able to muster. It is humbling, the degree to which we are like automatons. Our art moves through us despite us.

–Julia Cameron, Finding Water

The most important thing creators do is work. The most important thing they don’t do is quit.

–Kevin Ashton, How to Fly a Horse

Today’s retrospective analysis of the last 10 years of My Little Spacebook revealed an overarching theme running through many posts.  Since the beginning, that theme is showing creative work – my own work and other people’s work that I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with or to witness.

In the last decade there has been a lot of work shared and a lot of shared work!

There’s been knitted work, decoupage work…,

dec2012 022

…messy work in progress,

Mess

…incredibly weird work,

hypertufa planter head

Herman the Hypertufa Planter

outside work…

midsummer 2013 001

messy inside work…,

june 6 012

mosaic work….,

August 2012 064

…and exhaustion from the work.

Picture1

 

In honor of My Little Spacebook’s 10th anniversary, for the next thirty-days I plan to be around here a bit more digging in to old posts, sifting through the dirt, studying the worms, planting seeds, and waiting to see what, if anything, sprouts.

Today’s dig turned over a quote I shared last fall in October Magic: Dream. Create. Inspire. Share:

“It’s very hard to have ideas. It’s very hard to put yourself out there, it’s very hard to be vulnerable, but those people who do that are the dreamers, the thinkers, and the creators. They are the magic people of the world.” 

–Amy Poehler, Smart Girls: Ask Amy

These words continue to inspire me to be more mindful about what I am creating on a daily basis and to be more open to putting myself out there. On that note, today I’m sharing a bit of whimsy I added to my life this year.  It combines the idea of giving yourself gold stars (from Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance) with the idea of  tracking progress on your goals daily (from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project).   Add a bullet journal and some washi tape to the mix and Voila!

magic and mayhem

I might have gotten a little carried away with the washi tape.

Dot journal - bubble gum

My pages are presently star-studded, memory-filled, and happy-making.

 

Over the course of the last several weeks, in order to remain a functional human being, I’ve had to put myself on a strict media diet and step away from the computer, the Internet, and what Abha Dawesar refers to as thedigital now.”  The analog here-and-now, with its bicycles, trees, rivers, paper, pens, and printed words on actual pages in books with heft and texture and scent, has been grounding.  There I spent time self-soothing with the words of Mr. Rogers:

“The media shows the tiniest percentage of what people do. There are millions and millions of people doing wonderful things all over the world and they’re generally not the ones being touted in the news.”

Like many others this year, I’ve found myself in new and uncomfortable roles with my regular routines disrupted as a result of the pandemic. Though not dubbed “essential” in any official capacity, staying home has not been an option. I have been out and about throughout the quarantine on a near daily. In the last three months I’ve made more trips to various hospitals and clinics than I have in the previous four decades of my life combined – and that includes the time I spent interning in one. I’ve seen for myself that there are many people doing wonderful things right here in my own city.

“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has – or ever will have – something inside that is unique to all time.  It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.”

–Fred Rogers

Coming off my blog hiatus I discovered that My Little Spacebook turned 10 years old this week. One decade and 542 posts later and I’m no closer to understanding anything that’s happened.   As such, this seems an opportune time to drill down and do some retrospective and reflective work to figure out what exactly I’m doing here; with this blog, I mean.

I will say, the media diet has made more space for silence and wonder, for creation, and for appreciation of beauty.  I think Mr. Rogers would be proud.

“Our society is much more interested in information than wonder, in noise rather than silence…And I feel that we need a lot more wonder and a lot more silence in our lives.”

–Fred Rogers

Iris

And the answer to the cake question is a resounding, “Yes.”

 

water ducks sky

the 

          sky

                was

can    dy   lu

minous

            edible

spry

            pinks shy

lemons

greens     coo    l  choc

olate

s.

      un    der,

      a    lo

co

mo

     tive     s pout

                             ing  

                                     vi

                                     o

                                    lets

–e.e. cummings, Songs, I

sunset

Travel Pillows.  Please discuss.

(If you need more prompting, I’m wanting to know about your experiences with the horseshoe squishy type of travel pillow that you see in airports. You stick them around your neck for something…presumably to sleep.  Have you used one?  Is that what they’re for? Are they at all helpful or a waste of money?  Is there a particular you swear by? Discuss.)

 

Dedicated to El-D…

(I love you, you know.)

Tulsa October 026

The Lotus

On the day when the lotus bloomed, alas, my mind was straying,
and I knew it not. My basket was empty and the flower remained unheeded.

Only now and again a sadness fell upon me, and I started up from my
dream and felt a sweet trace of a strange fragrance in the south wind.

That vague sweetness made my heart ache with longing and it seemed to
me that it was the eager breath of the summer seeking for its completion.

I knew not then that it was so near, that it was mine, and that this
perfect sweetness had blossomed in the depth of my own heart.

—Rabindranath Tagore

The more I teach and read about teaching, the less I seem to know about the topic. Three books I read in 2012 about teaching taught me quite a lot…and left me with many, many more questions…

In Teaching with Your Mouth Shut, Finkle invites us to recall our most significant learning experiences. Only one of the

Teaching with Your Mouth Shut

Teaching with Your Mouth Shut

three I recalled happened in a classroom, which supported his point – most of our learning happens outside the classroom. Finkle contends “good teaching is the creation of those circumstances that lead to significant learning in others.” This focus takes the sage off the stage and brings learners front and center.  In his model of teaching, learning occurs by first engaging students with problems to solve and then through the process of mutual inquiry and discussion.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I applied his advice about teaching in the classroom by reducing lecture time and providing students with case studies to contemplate, research, and discuss. After two semesters of experimenting with this in three different classes, I came to the conclusion that the majority of my students do not particularly appreciate this form of learning. Some do (mostly honors students), but most expect the structure and predictability of classroom lectures along with the opportunity lectures afford to tune out and covertly text under the desk.

Ultimately, I was left with more questions than answers from Finkel’s advice about teaching: How do I meet the needs of such a wide array of learners? Should we give students what they want or what we think they need? Can I strike an effective balance between the two? Is the Socratic method of teaching still relevant in this era of edutainment? Why do students write such horrible things in their course evaluations? Is it because I am a horrible teacher? How good are students at evaluating what they have learned? When should I practice “tough love” and when should I show compassion? And when is that tough love and compassion the exact same thing? What in the world are we even measuring with course evaluations — my teaching ability? Student perceptions? Teacher popularity?

…and just as I was having this existential crisis in my teacher’s heart, two more books came along to guide me through it:

Push by Sapphire

Push by Sapphire

 Push is the debute novel by Sapphire, on which the movie Precious is based. I have yet to see the movie, but I experienced the story via audiobook. The audio version was a good one —  I enjoyed listening to the music and rhythm of the dialect.  The story itself was one of the most disturbing I have come across. In the words of Precious, the main character,

“I don’t know what “realism” mean but I do know what REALITY is and it’s a mutherfucker, lemme tell you.”

And boy, did she. Precious’ reality was a bleak place of incest/rape, abuse, ignorance, and disability. It is definitely not a tale for the faint of heart. There was all sorts of darkness in her story that I did not want to face. There was also a small, but persistent ray of light: the power of compassion and education to propel us through the abyss. It was a much needed reminder.

The Courage to Teach

The Courage to Teach

And finally, Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach found me and forced me to break out the journal and take notes. Palmer’s writing is masterful. He illuminates a wide range of subjects – social constructivism, empiricism, epistemology, genetics, spirituality – with simple and beautiful language. He confirms that:

“Good education teaches students to become both producers of knowledge and discerning consumers of what other people claim to know.”

He writes of the importance of conflict in teaching and of holding open spaces where we can grapple with paradoxical tensions.  In this space of turmoil – in this tension of opposites there is:

“a power that wants to pull [the] heart open to something larger than itself.”

And “suffering is neither to be avoided nor merely to be survived, but must be actively embraced for the way it expands our own hearts.” He writes of pulling both teachers and students from center stage and putting “great things” at the center, then teaching and learning those great things from a place of humility.

“We experience humility not because we have fought and lost but because humility is the only lens through which great things can be seen – and once we have seen them, humility is the only posture possible.”

I cannot say enough about how good this book was.  I will definitely be reading all of his works in the coming year.

So as this year winds down and a new one begins, I resolve to embrace my teacher’s heart crisis and learn what I can from this “great thing.”

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