I arrived home from Brussels on Delta the night before thousands of flights were cancelled due to a "computer crash". This is after many trains and planes in Europe, with Belgian soldiers now a part of the geography of danger. I am reminded of the phrase but by the grace of God go I....
In Belgium, my students spoke Dutch. The sounds are so different than any of the Romantic languages I have some familiarity with. How carefully we all listen when the words, the language, are new. What wonderful poems they wrote! I did not manage to take any photos myself, so these are only a few to give you a glimpse of our time together.
Each time I teach I feel the recklessness of the creative adventure, as if I have never done it before. I ask the students to abandon, for a time, what they know– the clever tricks of their craft. For this to work, I must do the same! For a time we are careening in the unknown. I am stopped again and again by the powerful work that comes out– on pages, in poems and expressions of discovery and remembrance.
All I know is where to begin. Joy is right next to fear. Where do you stop yourself, not give yourself permission to go? The line you dare to cross contains the joy of who you are, of what you are here to do... And the fear of failure, of abandoning what others want you to do.
The willingness to do something you don't know, perhaps don't like, means there is always chaos somewhere in the middle of the week of our class. But eventually we are all tied together in a new place, and students are making images and poetry they did not know were inside them.
We began with a line, and finding your mark:
I handed out my "Fragment Alphabet", from which many worked with their own words, and from the William Stafford poem, The Way It Is, which begins, There's a thread you follow...:
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
I discovered that Leo is a singer (the Dutch sounds were emanating from the bar at night). Leo is quiet and thoughtful in class. Mary and Leo wrote a beautiful poem together recollecting their time as children– Mary being one of nine siblings, and Leo recalling his trip to the Lascaux caves, when he discovered how a stone can be alive. Without much effort, the lines they had created separately, came together in a poem. There was an animated process of going from Dutch to English, the students helping each other find the right words.
This adventure I have returned from has left me filled with new ideas, solutions, buoyancy and enthusiasm. Yesterday I painted all morning. What do you do to shake the dust off, enter a new world? I'd love to hear from you.