"Buoyed up by things I cannot see..."
I've been thinking a lot lately about the notion of seeing. In life, in art, and in teaching, seeing is a critical skill, yet so often, I realize that the unseen, the invisible, and the intangibles in my everyday meanderings are far more compelling. The things that are felt rather than seen possess great power to guide action. And in that way, the intangible becomes, in big and small ways, visible.
When I notice and then collect a tangible object, I find that I am able, through that action, to carry with me a complex array of sensations. That physical thing grounds me to a single moment in time, and seeing it again brings back a vivid memory, not of the moment, but of the myriad sensations of that moment: the movement of the air, the quality of light, the sentiment of my heart, the noise in my mind, my physical weight of being. I can remember the things I felt more than I can recall the things I saw: the way the light felt, the smell of the air in that moment, the feeling of the objects in my hand. The pieces of what I remember change, and the characteristics of the object change, but the object itself--its physical existence and essence--remains the same. It is a portal back to that moment.
It's interesting how resonant objects, seemingly so mundate or unremarkable at first glance "vibrate" and compel me to pick them up. When I am with Jonah, his noticing eye often selects something too. The combination of our objects create a doorway into a shared memory.
I returned today, to my studio, with a single orange leaf and a small yellow one, already curling around the edges.
Sensations of wind, mental noise, struggles to be and stay present.
The color captured my attention. A distinct shade of orange. A day later, the color had deepened, and the leaf had curled up. But by then I had already captured the colors in gouache...
I think the resulting sensation looks a bit sad--yet it is true to how I felt in that moment.
While making this, I thought about resonances and dissonances in teaching lately. Teaching is such a paradox of things for me: enjoyable, rewarding, terrifying, nervous-making, unpredictable, adventurous, momentous, mundane, wonderful, powerful, surprising.
Teaching makes me feel vulnerable in a way I feel nowhere else. It requires honesty to teach with honesty. Authenticity, by nature, is not easy to achieve. Looking within requires carefuly scrutiny, including the areas where it is hard to look. I find that each semester, my students challenge me to stretch. I hope that sensation of stretching goes both ways. My students should feel (I hope) stretched in new directions as a result of engaging fully and honestly.
So often, I feel the daunting weight of so many choices I make daily, as a teacher preparing for and implementing a vision for a course, a class period, a dialog, a moment. Each moment, big or small, matters, as the collective experience of these moments have great power in determining what is learned, what is experienced, and what connections are made. What is framed, how it is articulated, and the connections made (or not made) all manifest in some way, resulting from an incredibly complex array of factors: the dynamics of the students overall, the shifting dynamics of any given day, my own internal sensations and perspective, the integrity of the content, my conviction in conveying it, and my (and the students') ability to pay attention, listen, and invest.
It feels like a dance. Each semester, even with the course being the same course, the students are what make the experience qualitatively different. The content shifts itself because of the worlds within my students. That is always a powerful experience for me, and one that I strive to acknowledge in meaningful ways.
Today, I thought much about the particular individuals in this class. I thought of what each brings to the class dynamic, and what--as a result--has grown from our association with one another. Quiet souls, all of us. Never have I had a class so calm and introspectively thoughtful. The thought processes I've been observing are methodical yet multi-layered. What I am seeing arise in reflections and writings has been such a delight to read.