Saturday, July 16, 2016

work is love made visible

I love anything that comes from the hands: the garden's fruit, the well-risen bread, the hand-quilted blanket, the drawings my daughter offers up after all of that painstaking detail.

I love how, in the realm of Montessori, we don't necessarily praise the child for a result, a product, but instead say: "That was a big work." We acknowledge the process, and I'm learning how to have a relationship with that beautiful concept of "the friendliness with error." This, too, is a big work.

We turned in our albums on Thursday, and before I let mine go, I gave it a little embrace and kissed it--this is what I do to submissions of poetry; I kiss the envelope before I drop it into the box because I want to wish it well into the world and love it no matter what the results may be--and that 340-page monster joined the slippery pile of other monsters of varying length. At one point, some topped to the ground, causing this impressive collective gasp-groan from the room and much lunging from the nearby Montessorians, but they are well, intact, and in the hands of the graders, who have a great deal of my sympathy as my least favorite thing about teaching older students was the piles and piles of grading. Fortunately, the system is pass or resubmit, rather than a complicated A-F, scribbled with red kind of deal. We're given commentary that is rooted in the desire for us to actually improve as opposed to justify the letter grade we got.

I've always kind of loved the want/need/wear/read philosophy of gift-giving, and that's been heightened after reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Simplicity appeals to me, which is perhaps why Montessori appeals to me. (And yes, those of you who have seen my house, I know. I'm working on it.)

But I'm fluttering around what I really want to get at, which is how the act of work with one's hands can represent such a deep manifestation of love. Maya draws something with her hands, out of love for the person she draws for. Each drawing often has a narrative--one she's made while she draws, sometimes with the birds and fish and whatnot conversing with one another as they come to life. And I looked at one and thought, "I want to have a relationship with that." It's a collaboration, between me and my bear, these little embroidered illustrations. I'm working on another on my travels to Maine (hello from the Bangor airport!) that I will reveal later. My fingers stitch over her illustration, fiber over embroidery pencil, my hands repeating as best I can what her hands originally did.

Above is the result of what got me to finally put needle into fabric. I'd puttered around with handstitching on birthday crowns but hadn't embroidered before and knew it was time because I had swooned a few too many times over other people's work and daydreamed about what I could do myself--imagine the ways in which I could marry fiber plus pocket nature finds plus poetry!--and here is my second embroidered work--Maria Montessori's bulb of development, but the one done in her original handwriting because there's another layer of handwork that I love. (Before she passed away last October, I'd write a letter to my grandmother nearly every day, though it slowed a bit after children, sadly.) This bulb was a gift to our foundations course instructor, who, much to my relief, loved it, and now I'm itching to keep doing this, the tiny intimacies that come from fingers moving over a palate, over all of the space that is my deep appreciation, my love for what four weeks can do to a human being. My way of bowing and saying thank you. Of saying namaste. I bow to the divine in you. The Buddha in me sees the Buddha in you.

And the ones with Maya are my favorites, because who doesn't love that kind of collaboration? I asked her who we should give the first one to, and she was very insistent that it was a gift to me, so I've framed it and put it up against the wall right next to the first family portrait she drew (so much has changed in her fine motor control!) and Finn wanted in on the fun, so he gave me some glorious scribbles, and when I return home, I'll sit down with that and collaborate with my son as well.

(PS: title of post from Kahlil Gibran)

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