It happens over and over– me being smitten by the work of my students in class. I tell them what William Stafford said to his students: It's not my job to praise or blame, but in the end to be envious of your work.
This year I am doing a series of classes with the theme of poetic landscape. We begin with line:
For the present moment let us content ourselves with the most primitive of elements, the line. At the dawn of civilization, when writing and drawing were the same thing, it was the basic element.
I think of the cave paintings, over 40,000 years old, and how the line becomes gesture, and tells a story.
From line we move to color and text:
Here are some of the books and cases from class:
I could fill pages with images from class. Each student did work that was singular. For those of you I don't have photos from, please send them.
Teaching causes me to reflect on the balance between solitude– which is essential to creative life, and community– the stimulation, ideas and friendship that emerge when we all work together. In my classes I make an effort to create both solitude and community.
There needs to be uninterrupted time. I think of the wine maker in Willamette Valley who was asked the secret to his divine Pinot Noir:
Just leave the grapes alone and let them express themselves.
Periods of silence connect us in a way words cannot, and allow students to tap into that other voice that is drowned out in the outward parade of events. We all desperately need some time to be stewards of our inner world, intuition and imagination.
Community, a sense of belonging, is just as essential.
The Koyukon Indians have a word, nulato: the place we are tied together.
You all know what I am talking about– the tie that is created in doing deep meaningful work together. Among strangers, friends, lovers, mothers and daughters– all of which we had in class– in the end, we are all connected.
This resonates with two of the most profound human needs. The first being a sense of belonging and community. The second, having something to give back to this world– to leave a mark, make a trace, extend an offering.
Have you tried beginning your work with a line? This is the heart of drawing and calligraphy practice. And how do you balance solitude and community? I'd love to hear from you.