Welcome to summer!! Like most places across Canada things have warmed up here on the West Coast over the past few days. What a joy to feel the heat thick against my skin. I am a Montreal girl, and I miss it when the weather out here is cool and unhumid.
Still the milder temperatures do make for more comfortable gardening, although with the cool temps a lot of the fruit and veggies have suffered. There is plenty of harvest to be grateful for this season, whether from our garden or others on the island: scrumptious asparagus, beets, carrots, turnips, potatoes, as well as delectable greens including spinach, kale, sorel, red leaf, and strawberries.
And then there’s all the flowers: daisies, delphiniums, peonies, several varieties of roses and lavender, edible nasturtiums, marigolds and calendula as well as so many more whose names I don’t know. No matter, it is a thrill to walk amongst them, to bunch them together in assorted vases around the house.
It has been a while since I’ve written. A very interesting time for me. I have come way down from my post-phd excitement. At first it was horrifying, the feeling of being lost, not having something as all consuming to focus on. I realized it was a large part of my identity and I liked that. Especially what it said about me. I am becoming a PhD. It felt like a good thing to become.
However I was having the darndest time understanding what it actually meant to put those three letters at the end of my name. Sure I made a new set of cheques that say Dr. Ahava Shira. Like a rite of passage, it meant I was where I had been working so hard to get to for over four years, or as my partner suggests, 7 years, what with the two it took to fulfill my M.Ed and the year-off in between.
So for a little while, about a month, maybe two, I worriedly scanned the few websites that keep up to date with the lastest academic jobs. My mind scattered, fraught with concerns about how I was going to make a living here on the island.
I never set out to become a professor, not that I would write that off entirely, but I am not interested in the publish or perish game nor the ascent toward tenure. Actually I have learned something profound in the last few months about this journey toward doctordom. Not only was it was a way to name myself, but also it gave me a place to play and explore and not worry about the future. Being a student afforded me the opportunity to practice dwelling in the present more. Indeed it’s not a surprise then that my thesis was all about presence, paying attention to the relationships in my immediate intimate experience on the farm, to its physical and emotional geography. Or is it topography?
No matter. That’s the second time I’ve used that phrase here. It reminds me of a poem I wrote in the first course I took as PhD student:
I landed on a bluff
with the sea beside me
everywhere I looked
was a forest of green
up ahead I saw a cabin
stepped inside to find
a wee room full of dresses
around the back was a table
with a gilded box all a-glitter
“Sparkle” said the word
on the paper inside
“What?” I asked.
“Sparkle,” the word on the paper
inside the box said again.
“I’m your word of the day,
your word to play with!”
Underneath the box
was a letter
certainly not delivered
well, until now
“here’s a wardrobe of stories
for you to play in,
to dress up as different princesses
from around the world.”
“But no magic slippers,” I retorted.
Clouds overhead were saying
“you go girl
become a sparkle princess
full of glamour and prettiness
let the shushing fabric spark
your princess fantasies.”
What does a princess in a dress do
besides parade, dance, twirl, curtsy?
what does a princess who sparkles eat?
Is she a character in a children’s book
or the desire within me to shine?
Maybe I’m meant to be wearing a gown
to the ground in a one-woman show
or simply contemplating the history of costume?
Perhaps this is nothing more
than a beautiful visualization
red house red door copper knob
Nobody around save the laughter of
little girls inside rows of dresses
on a carousel like at the dry cleaners
echoes of an eagle and a whale
and the clouds saying
“you go girl,
I was able to be so playful and creative and excessive as a doctoral student. I tried all kinds of neat ways of writing and researching. I created a character named Miss Understanding, to explore the multiple identities I engage with as a woman, and their conflicting agendas and paradoxical wisdom, and presented her at several local and international conferences. I also made a presentation in a narrative writing class in which I nixed the prescribed method of using a poster board to explore my relationship to writing. Instead I created another character whom I named Poster Broad. For my presentation I dressed up in a wig and magenta lipstick and read a rousing ode which I had written about my history of feminist rebellion as a performance poet.
I actually feel nervous revealing this here. I wonder if someone is going to say to me: “You can’t get a PhD and have that much fun, or do such wild and illogical research. Now give it back!”
I had the time of my life as a student. Not only did I receive guidance and encouragement toward my own edges and beyond by some wise and heartful arts-based educators at UBC, but I also read a whole bunch of books and articles I never would have, had I not “had” to. I was exposed to new ways of thinking and teaching, of writing and being with students and colleagues. I participated in the formation and substantiation of the field of Poetic Inquiry as well as created my own arts-based research practice: Loving Inquiry, in which I marry my passion for healthy relationships and social justice/ environmental education with my commitment to artful ways of knowing and learning and living in the world.
It’s amazing for me to name this all here. I had no idea that this is what I was going to write about in this blog. I thought I was going to talk about the most recent epiphanies I have had, about my work in the world, letting go of my fishing for an academic position and surrendering to the practices I have been writing about and nurturing for many years. Art as a way of knowing, being and loving. Contemplative practice as a way of engaging kindly and compassionately in relationship with myself and others.
I imagine that some of you might be wondering what the arts and compassionate relationship have in common. How does one impact the other?
This would be a good topic for my next blog post. To end this one, I want to acknowledge how wonderful it is to have readers who are subscribed to this blog. Thanks for you interest and support.
To the sun.