Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My own experience with Making Space for Something to Happen

Note: Last week Havi wrote about making space for things to happen and that piece has heavily inspired this post.

I took an all day workshop led by Julie Zickefoose. For those not familiar with her, Julie is a scientist turned artist and author. She is still a scientist but, instead of a four-walled lab with cages and test tubes, Julie practices close observation of the natural world around her and then shares her discoveries through her writings – including a book and a blog – and her art work.

The workshop was titled Writing and Drawing Nature, but Julie’s actual focus was about making time and space to notice what’s going on behind what’s going on around us. While ostensibly she was talking about nature the day became a lesson in paying attention to what’s going on behind what’s going on everyday situations.

For me it was about getting to go in the first place. Of course when I heard about it I wanted to go but on another level I sensed it was calling me to come. For instance, I learned about this event before it was even open for registration. Hint #1 that I was supposed to be there. While it was reasonably priced it was still outside my budget until I unexpectedly sold something. Hint #2 that I was supposed to be there.

Still, even with all those pieces of knowing-ness, I had the occasional pricks of doubt and the emotional naysayers. By the end of the workshop I would learn that all those doubts and naysayings were illusions. For example:

- Everybody else will be an accomplished artist or author. While several galleried painters and published writers did attend most were secret scribblers who wrote or drew for themselves or to decompress from their stress-filled careers.

- Everybody else will have a process and a studio. A few had these but most hardly had a spare drawer for their supplies let alone a dedicated room for their craft.

- Everybody else has been doing this a long time and by comparison I’m a green novice. Again, a few were accomplished and therefore refined in their resulting works but many were struggling to get the words or images out of their head and onto paper, canvass or screen.

- Everybody else knows what to do and say; I’ll end up saying or doing something wrong or the wrong way. During introductions it was evident that many were secure and practiced public speakers but just as many had trouble completing coherent statements. While I didn’t do the introduction thing as well as I would have preferred considering the group I represent, it didn’t stop people from coming up and talking to me about our group and work.

- Everybody else is coming with their friends and I’ll end up by myself in the last chair at the end of a table; this is also known as wallflower-phobia. Some groups did come together and a few never ventured beyond their circle. But, for the most part, people mingled. People especially started mingling during lunch which followed the introductions where people talked about not only why they came and what kind of art or writing they were doing but also their connections in the community.

It turned out that the woman who had been sitting to my right all morning was a pastor’s wife whose paintings I had seen but never met her. Several people came over to specifically ask about the wetlands and possible tours. But the conversations ran on into the nature walks and long past the official end of the day. The event turned out to be such a place of support and connection that a follow-up event is being planned in a few months for a booster shot of sorts.

In the end it was a day where things happened that only happened because I made a space for them to happen (to sort of quote Havi). I got to see and hear and talk to an artist-author I admire about how she develops her process and where she finds her ideas. I got outside my comfort zone literally by driving down to the end of my road and walking into a roomful of potential strangers; and as a result I found a few kindred spirits. But it was more than even these, though those things would have been enough. It was a chance to watch the person I am moving into the future to become, embrace the new practices of that coming life, and stand solidly among her peers.


Julie Zickefoose said...

Lovely summation, Deb! When I saw the group of 28 I got very excited about hearing everyone's story. I didn't want to blather on all day long; I wanted to hear what people were doing and why they had come. It became much more of an encounter group than I'd anticipated. Serendipity plays a huge part in everything I do and I was happy to let it rule the workshop. I never even got to the second half and that's OK. I think we all went away with some good lessons and unexpected support and encouragement. Thank you for conquering your fears and joining the group. I'm honored.

Deb said...

@Julie - Thanks for your comments. But really the honor was mine; I got to bend your ear for half an hour on the trail.

Of course we'll have to have you back for part two.