The boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion. –Donna Haraway
The long road sweeps ahead of me. I am standing in front of my future, looking at its sparkling blackness. Knowing that the seeds of all that is to be is behind me. Think of the seeds my mother planted, and my father. The seeds of creativity, of curiosity, of sophistication, of kindness and intelligence. Of ethical considerations.
I remember the first time my mother told me that you never eat in front of someone who is not themselves eating. It is a simple thing but I remember her tone, how she sounded and looked when she said it. So many of these things, I feel them being imparted in her gentle way, gentle but always very penetrating, very shaping. She is a good person, and she has shaped us into good people. We are entrenched in her ethics. Where did they come from? Where do they flow towards? I am turning now, and the future is behind me, and I look at my past. It is strewn with flowers and strong hardy plants, and the in-between of grasses and bushes, with berries and bugs. And looking further than the meadow of my past there is the forest of my ancestors. The trees, the dark coolness of death, the living wisdom of their care and compassion. I feel them all so strongly with me here. I don’t know what is happening here, exactly, but I know it is important. As I look back and ask what brought me here I realize it is love. It is love and investment and also the pain and the violence and the outsiderness, all of it brought me to this place.
I turn again, and step a few paces forward. Now I am in the unknown. Now I am in the future beyond what touches the known. I am in the abyss. Here I am swimming in stars. I am a dream character, transforming and reforming. I find a sweet spot and tread there, arms and legs moving through the denseness. I feel my gratitude. I feel my pride. This is the place where I’ve completed this journey. Where I have examined the nature of time and its implications for world changing.
I turn again, and the past wiggles up, a puppy, new and bounding and big pawed and sloppy. This past is translucent, it hasn’t happened yet, exactly, but from the vantage point I’ve chosen in the future, it has. In this past I am organized, I am dedicated, my show is a wonder, I am so proud of it, PYE and I are able to articulate and channelize our work, and I am about to step away, after twenty years, to start a new adventure.
We’ve been here in Saas-Fe two weeks. It feels almost normal, the total immersion. Even my dreams are all here at this school, in these mountains, except on the day Bright Ears hosted a stage at Pride Toronto and I dreamed about that, of course. Felt good to know I’m still in the deep water with my friends, because honestly these mountains are so high, it feels as if the rest of the world doesn’t exist. I’ve stayed pretty close to social media, posting about the journey here, yet it doesn’t feel like I’m on this planet. The mountains are all around us, and the tops are glacial. The valley has been hot, though. Tobias, who’s the grandfather of the family who owns the hotel(s) we are staying at, told us that this is new, this is climate change, that it used to be it was only skirt weather for five days a year up here, but we have been seven days in summer sun blasting down. Today, though, the day started with deep fog. Now there is only another hour left until class. I could use more time. I need to start being a little disciplined with sleep. It’s easy to stop at the bar or to watch netflix or get into reading but the sleep is so important. Our classes are intense. They are arts based, and use the Expressive Arts methodology, but they are also intellectual (though this part is minimized, which frustrates me. The research methods teacher told me if I wanted to learn about research methodologies I needed to read about them. Which cracked me up. But then, I also skipped the research methods class at SFU. AND the methods I want to use are Barad’s agential realism (which I’ve been talking about for months) and Sha Xin Wei’s experimental philosophy (which maybe I mentioned last week?) so they wouldn’t have covered them anyway.
So much is happening here that it is hard to imagine what I can tell you. But to keep it in the realm of the personal, I could tell you that I feel extremely beautiful here. It’s a new feeling. I think it maybe related to the Kava root. I just don’t have the anxiety and the social fear I usually have. I didn’t know what it was like to live without it until now. It’s incredible. I feel so smooth, emotionally. There was a bit of conflict in the class last night (so little compared to how these things can happen, but there is a fear of the negative and of conflict that is in the classes we have taken. I wonder if it is in the methodology itself or if it is just the teachers we have.)
Our current teacher (the classes are sequential, one at a time, except the CORE group and Community Arts which run throughout) is a New Yorker who lives in Edmonton, his name is Marcus. He is charismatic. It’s kind of annoying, to be honest. A lot of what I’m learning as I watch these people is how facilitation can look from the participant point of view. I don’t know why it is so stark here but these people have drunk the Expressive Arts kool-aid (they call it ExA) and it is a little off putting sometimes. I realize of course this is how I sound about my own work. My ego is struggling, too. I feel so unseen here. Weird paradox, huh? I feel both glamorous and invisible. Realizing how much of my self-esteem is tied up in the PYE job. Definitely need to look into this.
In the Didactics of Community Art class we are learning some quite relevant things, ways to create group space. I still think our methods at PYE are better in many ways, but this is forcing me to think of autonomy in a new way, and also and possibly even more importantly to think of aesthetics in a new way. Though they talk about aesthetics as making something very low skill. Last night our low skills was very very low. It was enlightening to be sure, but there is so little required in terms of grace…I wonder if our highly process-based work at PYE is actually yielding more satisfying results both in terms of aesthetics and transformation.
It’s going to be a bit hard to go home after this, I think. It’s just so nice to dive deeply in like this. To feel like I have time to think. Oh right, I wanted to tell you about yesterday evening in Didactics. So, Marcus had us “dance” (it’s really walking, moving) in four ways: slow and direct, quick and indirect, slow and indirect, quick and direct. First, after the conflict yesterday and after a little blow up from Sharp Insight, it did very much seem to be the right thing to do. He kept emphasizing the need to find ways to include everyone in the community. Sharp Insight had a very specific communication style that takes up a lot of space, plus her spoken English isn’t as good as the other second language speakers. So there was this conflict. I brought up the need to talk about how we are together (can you imagine, they do this deep work without agreements? But last night over drinks said that there is a structure but we didn’t really see it in the Philosophy or Research classes.
I’m getting tired. I don’t know if I can make it all the way though the hour. I discovered last night that I like best to move slow. Indirectly or directly doesn’t matter that much, they have different qualities but its’ the slowness that is delicious. My eyes are closing, it’s like I’m entering the dream state. What do I do? I’ve never paused one of these essays before and it is already 2:32. I need to give myself fifteen mins to walk up the hill. I swear it is getting steeper every day. I haven’t done as much reading or writing while I’ve been here as I wanted. It feels like I’m just taking in so much.
This feels like it must be so uninteresting to read. What can I tell you? I’m just absorbing. I’m looking at the work I’ve done for so many years, this practice that we teach all over the world, and I put it next to ExA and I think, we have been doing great work, and there is room to grow. To grow is controlling less the situation. Peggy did her work in Arts Education at Leslie College many years ago, and that is where Paulo, and probably a bunch of other teachers also went. Really, I can barely keep my eyes open. I wonder if I should finish this later? I’ve never don’t that before.
Yesterday at breakfast Curtis turned me on to Levinas, who wrote back to Heidegger from a Talmudic perspective. I have (I think) realized that my dissertation isn’t on the metaphysics of time necessarily (though I will have to do some of that study) but I think on the ethics and aesthetics of time. It’s so important to group process. How we act and react with each other, how we stay present and talk into the idea of now, how we process, remember, project, transform. I think that is something that I could enjoying researching and experimenting with.
And on Friday (day before yesterday) I arranged for one of the philosophy students to do an hour long class on academic writing. It was amazing! I’m so glad I did it. He was thrilled (and grateful) and Margo Knill asked me to send her the notes. What is extra cool is that I think the faculty have been talking about it. The students in the class were all so really happy, because EGS AHS doesn’t offer any research and writing training at the masters level, and what we got in research methods from Melinda was so thin. It was rich in the stories of her and Jose’s work, but never because didactic, never really helped us understand and think through what kind of research we might want to do.
This year, before we return here, we have four tasks. Take a seminar, give a seminar, give a lecture, review a major publication. It’s going to be a pretty intense year. It’s the show that I’m most worried about. Ever since Big Ear’s feedback I’ve been hoping that something delightful is about to land on me. I will need to build the relationship structures to make this all happen. Thinking of Amethyst Tuning, for sure. Maybe Chili? Solitude? A group of people to do aesthetic responses as I begin to examine the nature of Time through my automatic drawings. I’m also going to do Oracular Poetry as my seminar. With different groups, and take good evaluations so I can write a paper about it. It’s waiting to be written, I think, and in terms of time and synchronicity and maybe simultaneity I don’t know I will be able to start thinking into ideas for my thesis. The seminar to take I’d like to take is Ruth’s in Brooklyn, I could likely stay with Bunny again, and he’d probably take it too which means I could interview him as well. Really that seems like the best idea. Maybe I will. I could also take a Continuum course here with Space Octopus, of course, which is a good one too, since she has it as specific research processes into biology, but also into cosmic matters. And traveling less is better this year because of the show.
Bright Ears gave me good advice about the show when he was in Montreal. He said I have to be aware of what will hold the audience’s attention for an hour. Maybe I do need to be on the stage, but I don’t know how that can be. I need to talk to Farah I think. And Julio. There is so much to do. The drawings need to be ready. I need to learn the animation. Make the piano improvisations for Rup. It’s so much bigger than anything I’ve done before. But it is also very much the direction I want to move, so I just need to dig in. The other thing that I’m concerned with right now is the state of my body. I feel it aging. I don’t know if it is the altitude, the food, the steep hill to class, but I just feel like I need to be doing more exercise and eating differently. You know, it might even be the kava. Since I’m not feeling that constant fear and anxiety I think I’m also actually feeling my body more. I feel that I’m in here.
I’m horrified at how mundane this essay is. Day before yesterday we went on a field trip. We walked up near the mountains. The sun was so hot, and I had my bag but no water bottle. I broke mine dropping it on the floor and haven’t replaced it. But there is lots of access to mountain water here so it’s no problem. God, I feel like I need to nap. We went down to some fire pits really at the foot of the mountains. And then to the river, I sat on a rock and put my feet in. It was icy and rushing. It felt like it was speaking to me. I thought I heard it say, move. Then I climbed back up and sat in some wildflowers and drew. Sometimes that classes are very intense and sometimes they are just like this. I’m loving the exploration into creativity. Even though these are teachings about community arts and even art therapy they are so good for me, for my flexibility and openness, and a kind of tuning of all my sensibilities. I want more! I love making. I want to write and draw and make things all my life, and I know I will. I’m also so excited to start on this PhD process. I hope I can stay organized, not get too bogged down. But with Nathan’s notes it should be good. I think I will also have a monthly session with him, depending on what he will charge, to stay on track with research and writing. I think that makes a lot of sense. I will have I think Stephen Levine as my supervisor, but having a thesis consultant would also be really good. If I can write something really new and really interesting then it might allow me to get a scholarship and study with Xin Wei or Karen Barad in my third or fourth year. I think, and have thought all along, that a good solid study and understanding of the nature of time will help us a lot in our work. In interarts, it’s the common modality, and it is used so much for what Softly calls democratization, but I think of as group rhythm. The sharing of space is really the sharing of time.
There are some truly brilliant people here. People to stay in touch with. Mollie said she would help me read Xin Wei’s book, as well. And they are going to send me all the During notes and bibliography. What if I can do this? What if I really write something that is useful and interesting? I mean, I know that no one reads the PhD, but from there I will write and make. I can’t wait to dig in, to dive in.
Still twelve minutes left. I want a nap before class. I’ve been avoiding Godi, and not responding to his messages. He hasn’t done anything wrong, and I feel quite badly about it. I know this feeling so well from the other side. I think this is another feature of this place. It works like a big mirror. I see now why it isn’t good to chase, to be too present. It’s hard not to when you love. I know this. But he makes me uncomfortable with his love. And I don’t feel like I want to kiss or cuddle at all. It was nice that first night, but the second time it was boring and my mind was elsewhere, and I left early. I think I’ve realized something that is almost hard to admit, but I shall say it here because I want it on a record, and these essays of course, are primarily for me, my process and my record. Alllll these years I have longed for my partner. But suddenly (I wonder if it is the kava root or this valley, or what) but suddenly I find I don’t care. I suddenly don’t want any one that close in my life. I love my friends, and that is more than enough. I don’t want that person, who I have to compromise with. It would have to be someone I love as deeply as I love my friends, and I don’t think that’s possible. Writing and drawings are better for me. It’s a huge turning point. I have wasted more energy than I would ever admit wanting and hoping and dreaming and wishing for that person. But suddenly it has shifted. I’m just me, under this big sky, under these wondrous mountains. I’m me and my beloved friends and family, and this incredible planet, and my creativity. That’s it. There is nothing more to wish for.
Except for the channel, the portal of my creativity to open and stay open. To be able to perform and create with the spirit just coursing through me. That is the desire. That is my dream. I want to make, write, play, sing, dance. All of it. I’m thirty-eight years old. But it isn’t too late. Because I have been working on this all my life. I have tools. I have time. I have my gorgeous little apartment. All that I need. All that I want.
What will it be like to live without a burning hot desire, without the addiction to wanting? What will it be like instead to work with what is, to meet it and encounter it, and be shaped by it and shape it?