departure and flight

| October 19, 2012

Oct 18
The path we tread
Does not lie
Between here
And there
But between
Here and
Not here
(With thanks to Clive – see “a workshop handbook”)

On the Heathrow bus from Reading I looked across at the gravestones shrouded in autumnal mists and then up at the clouds. Up there, hanging and still and aptly mellow were two big clouds looking back down at me and I thought of my grandparents.

At the airport, everything is smooth and the parallel journey of the workshopper has begun. I enter the huge shopping mall, brand after brand, turn on my netbook and I can’t connect. Three-quarters of the people around me are connected. I can’t stop fiddling with my iphone – such a bloody addictive little device.

The nervous energy of getting this website up and running, saying goodbyes to loved ones and prepping as well as I could for the six different groups that I am going to work with over the first ten days has left me headachy and zonked. Just before I left I was reminded by a friend and fellow workshop artist of a story a friend of hers had told her. Her friend arrived home whacked out after running a day’s workshop. Her partner said he didn’t understand why she was always so tired after a single day’s work. She asked him if he remembered starting the job he was doing now; to which he said that he did. She then asked him if he was especially tired at the end of his first day and he said that he was tired, very tired. Then she explained that every day in her work was like the first day at work in a new job and that was why she was so tired.

I am about to start seven jobs in just a short span of weeks on another continent with communities I know little about and that requires a special kind of performance – is it enactment or self presentation or just self preservation?. I could call it the facilitator’s role or the role of the story guide but whatever name I give the performance, each time it will have different demands and every time it will contain the irresolvable paradox of being ‘me’ and being me as workshop leader. The unknowns stretch out like the Atlantic below – a vast ocean of imponderables: who, what, where, why and how?

This flight and journey like the performance is paradoxical. It is and isn’t part of the workshop. As facilitator I travel with expectations that correspond but do not yet coincide with expectation of the participants. My journey is towards friends, a continent and across an ocean but it also a journey towards devising, delivering and re-covering from each event and encounter that I am going to be involved in on the workshop floor. A workshop in flow is a journey in motion, time and place melt into each other to create a bubble of timelessness. I am on a plane sitting still and the plane is moving at near 500 mph crossing almost 4000 miles of latitudes, clock time moves backwards. It reminds me of what happens when you tell a group of children to stop making their puppets and go out to play. This instruction is so often greeted by “already” or “do we have to”. Time stands still, goes quickly, and disappears – moves sideways. It’s a tricky , distinctly un- Roman business.

Now I am above those clouds that just a few hours ago I was looking up at- travelling from one land to another across an ocean. As it says in the I- Ching , “it serves one to cross the Great Water.” Let’s hope it serves one and all.

Today I will have risen at 6a.m. and shall be in bed by 9pm. I will have been awake for 22 hours. That’s time zones for you! I got out of a bed in Reading and I get into one in Regina.

The journey between waking up in the morning and the first cup of tea is precarious and immensely sad. It requires courage. The journey from the first cup of tea to the first encounter with the dog is full of hope and pleasure. The journey from the dog to the desk is difficult, serious and erratic. The journey from the desk to the first daydream is pleasant, winding and mysterious. The journey from the daydream back to the desk is bleak, uncomfortable and dispiriting, yet heroic all the same.
And so the various journeys continue – hundreds of them, until the great circumnavigation reaches its finale – the glorious, triumphant journey from the feet leaving the floor to the head arriving on the pillow.
(with thanks to Roz)

Category: Canadian Blog

About the Author ()

Director of School of Workshop

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  1. el capitano says:

    October 19th

    I am staying in a wonderful Band B in Regina. The food is great and the art work around the house is fantastic. I am very moved by the paintings around the house by the brother of the proprietor. They are so expressive and alive and technically adept – incredible. The story that goes with them is amazing too. Arriving in a new place and foreign territory strips down conceptual barriers, opens the senses and allows is fresh vision.

    On the plane I read Richard Sennett’s book, Together’. Its about the ritual, pleasures and politics of cooperation and one of less than a handful of books I know that reference workshop in the index. It talks about the workshop as an old tradition and how it has been changed from the Master, Journeyman, Apprentice format to a more laboratory-type situation during the reformation. He talks about how workshops were then inventing things but less concerned about their function such as the Sextant. The workshop left the Navigators to work out how they wanted to use this new invention whilst they moved onto the next thing.

    In small ways and big ways, we move on and adapt, swim or sink – and to swim we need motivation. At base level that motivation is simple -life. I am struck how quickly I have arrived and wonder if the distanced travelled will catch me up. The fact of being here seems so simple and yet it was anything but simple getting here. These paradoxes resolve themselves in location. I remember children taking their puppets off to make up stories and ending up with these long rambling episodic epics with no destination. The story was invariably gounded by one question: Where did this happen? Place is the ground – touch it.

    Quotes from Sennett about the traditional workshops:

    “Differences resolved by doing demanding things together, rather than simply being together…”

    “the making which shapes their shared purpose in time; the project furnishes their mutual respect.”

    “…the workshop emphasised shared critical thinking in these ritual of judging the worth of things.”

  2. el capitano says:

    Woke up at 4 a.m. – this clock / time thing is a bit berserk. There is a discernible change though in my relationship to the workshop coming up on Sunday – The Deck of Intervention.

    I am working with a team of facilitators, researchers and community workers who are leading a health project with First Nation people on a reserve with the aim of generating leaders among the youth. The social dynamics and political issues around the project are a complex knot that is onerous to unravel. Moments within moments, moments under moments and lots and lots of stories.

    For two days I will work with facilitating group and the we all will work with a group of young people from the reserve. As the proximity of the work increases, my focus narrows from trying to grasp the big picture clear to honing in on the tasks that need doing to prep everything so that it is ready. The beginning is so vital. Catch group at the beginning and then you can only lose them, lose them at the beginning and they get wise quick to future courting and hooking. One of the aspects of puppets is they are a brilliant hook, especially for a short intense moment at the beginning of a workshop – they pull everyone in , bring everyone together. Tomorrow there are no puppets – there are cards and a table to put them on as we prospect into the heart of the project and attempt to discover new pathways and passages to move it forward.

  3. el capitano says:

    The night has been slept – tick
    The card has been cut to size – tick
    My room is covered by cloths, cardboard, magazines, boxes, tools and the such like that need putting into order and prepping.

    I have a butterfly or two. What was it that Yeats said about wisdom?

    ‘THOUGH logic choppers rule the town,
    And every man and maid and boy
    Has marked a distant object down,
    An aimless joy is a pure joy,’
    Or so did Tom O’Roughley say
    That saw the surges running by,
    ‘And wisdom is a butterfly
    And not a gloomy bird of prey.

    ‘If little planned is little sinned
    But little need the grave distress.
    What’s dying but a second wind?
    How but in zigzag wantonness
    Could trumpeter Michael be so brave?’
    Or something of that sort he said,
    ‘And if my dearest friend were dead 15
    I’d dance a measure on his grave.’

    I hope my butterflies are wise ones.

  4. el capitano says:

    The temperature drops in Regina and snow clouds loom. I read John Moat’s piece in The Gist about imagination and how one lement thatr allows the imagination is an *unguarded generosity” and think that reflects those that gathered around the table in yesterday’s workshop.

    Off on day two in a moment. Today will show whether the foundatu=ions laid yesterday were substantial enough but the signs are promising. The Deck of Intervention was an interesting process and when you try things for the first time, they have a certain magic – a purity of intent, an openness to potential. More to try today with the deck of 36 cards made yesterday.