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Fragments : an art-based narrative inquiry Wilson, Sylvia 2000

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FRAGMENTS: AN ART-BASED NARRATIVE INQUIRY By SYLVIA WILSON B.F.A., The University of Victoria, 1983 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES Department of Curriculum Studies We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA July 1999 © Sylvia Wilson, 1999 UBC Special Collections - Thesis Authorisation Form http://wwvv.library.ubc.ca/spcolVthesauth.html In presenting t h i s t h e s i s i n p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t of the requirements f o r an advanced degree at the U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree that the L i b r a r y s h a l l make i t f r e e l y a v a i l a b l e f o r reference and study. I f u r t h e r agree that permission f o r extensive copying of t h i s t h e s i s f o r s c h o l a r l y purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by h i s or her r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s . I t i s understood that copying or p u b l i c a t i o n of t h i s t h e s i s f o r f i n a n c i a l gain s h a l l not be allowed without my w r i t t e n permission. The U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia Vancouver, Canada l o f l 08/01/00 10:44:24 ABSTRACT As I investigate, construct, and tell autobiographic narratives of mothering, of loss, and of hope, both the process of research and the "story fabric" evolve as both written and visual, an interplay of image and text. I involve myself in this investigation as I expect that it is in these places of loss, disability, and dependence that one can find things of great value, perhaps a way of being with each other, of caring, of sharing of self, and of receiving the other that does not depend on growth or achievement or on progress in learning. Ted Aoki writes of "face to face living" (1993, p. 59) of teacher and student. Living, as it were, not at a distance, but face to face and engaged as we open ourselves to the daily struggles and challenges we bring to our work, our teachingAearning, and to our research. Autobiographic narrative offers a way in, extends an invitation to give and to receive. ii TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS IMAGES CHAPTER 1: LIFE WRITING Narrative From Dependence to Dependence Of Knowing and Birthing CHAPTER 2: BEGINNING WITH A QUILT Grief-work and Mourning Quilts Image, Dialogue and Interpretations CHAPTER 3: ART BASED RESEARCH Studio Practice Rocks and Photographs Art as Research Fluid Spaces Art as Research as Phenomenon and/or Method Intuitive Spaces CHAPTER 4: AUTOBIOGRAPHIC INQUIRY Autobiography In the Squares ii i Illuminating the Spaces Between 56 The Act of Undoing Many Silences 57 Stories Within Stories 58 Constructing and Re-constructing Meaning 60 In the Spaces 62 CHAPTER 5: FRAGMENTS 68 CHAPTER 6: SACRED SPACES 90 Classroom Spaces 95 Sacred Spaces 100 iv IMAGES The images included in this thesis are from my quilt Fragments. The quilt currently hangs in the Teacher Education Office in the Scarfe Building at the University of British Columbia. The images included here are only representations of the actual art. To appreciate the texture, colour, warmth, and delicate nature of the quilt you should, if possible, view the original work. the full quilt is pictured on page 67 Sylvia Wilson. 1999 Fragments Fabric, leaves, rocks, shells, twigs, seeds, moss, lichen, kelp, acorns, pinecone, wool, sequins, mirrors. 93 x 136 cm V) ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank the members of my committee for their support and encouragement, especially Rita Irwin, who coordinates the A/R/T group and whose art work motivated my own inquiry, also Graeme Chalmers, a generous teacher, and Carl Leggo, whose poetry is inspiring. I would also like to acknowledge the other members of the A/R/T group: Kit Grauer, Samuel Adu Poku, Alex de Cosson, Anami Naths, Patti Pente, Nicole Porter, Alison Pryer, and Wendy Stephenson. It's been a privilege to be part of our adventures together. Special thanks to Anna Kindler for all her initial help. I am also especially grateful to Pierre Caritey for photographing my quilt and for his gracious assistance in the image layout. And last, but not at all least, thank you to my daughters, Shaina and Caileigh, and my son, Nathanial, for their patience and help in many small ways, and for all the joy they bring to my life. vi CHAPTER 1: LIFE WRITING My son Nathanial was born in the middle of winter eleven years ago with a rare chromosomal abnormality. It wasn't inherited, just one of those chance happenings we were told. One in 1,000,000. But not believing in chance I choose to believe instead his life is a gift given, wrapped in unusual packaging perhaps, but full of rich and wonderful things, a rare and treasured gift. Max van Manen describes the essence of teaching, and of parenting, as hope. Hope that growth will occur, that change will result, that things can become something other than they already are. He writes, "What hope gives us is the simple avowal: 'I will not give up on you. I know that you can make a life for yourself. Thus hope refers to that which gives us patience and tolerance, belief and trust in the possibility of our children" (1991, p .68). Pedagogy, he says, "is the art of tactfully mediating the possible influences of the world so that the child is constantly encouraged to assume more self-responsibility for learning and growth" (p. 80). This assumes a progressive move towards increasing self-reliance and independence. While I agree with van Manen, and metaphors of growth, change, and development fit well within my philosophical framework, I find it is not adequate nor does it fit the scope of my experience. My experience of mothering a multiply disabled child has meant facilitating growth of the spirit as well as growth of body and mind and has also included making room for what is already there to be drawn out. In addition, while fostering development for my son is a constant 1 concern and endeavour and every accomplishment and independent gain is a reason for celebration, I am also aware that independent living, and independence in most life areas, is not a realistic goal. Also, not only is lifelong dependency a reality for him, he has experienced seasons characterized by profound loss resulting in even greater dependence. How then does dependence and seasons marked by loss and not growth fit within the hope of education as van Manen describes ? Does this mean that he, and others like him, are outside the scope of education, that at this point education is no longer relevant? 1 realize that this exclusion is not at all van Manen's intention. Nevertheless, focus simply on growth and progress forward is limited and inadequate. There is a need to broaden the scope of education to include, embrace and even welcome1 dimensions of dependency and loss. My sense is that it is in these places of loss, disability, and dependence that one can find things of great value, perhaps a way of being with each other, of caring, of sharing of self, and of receiving the other that does not depend on growth or achievement or on progress in learning. Ted Aoki writes of "face to face living" (1993, p. 59) of teacher and student. Living, as it were, not at a distance, but face to face and engaged. Opening ourselves to the daily struggles and challenges we bring to our work, our teaching/learning, and to our research. 'From my conversations over the years with other parents of children with disabilities it seems that making the choice to welcome is a deliberate act. I remember well the days following Nathanial's birth, my struggles, and my choice to welcome this particular child and all that it might mean. Ultimately giving up what I imagined and envisioned, letting go of my imagined "ideal" child, and welcoming this one. This real, living, breathing child in my arms. Perhaps this too is a challenge for education. We focus frequently on what we hope for, what we idealize, missing often the living, sometimes messy, and difficult reality we experience daily. 2 Narrative Eva Feder Kittay, in her book Love's Labour, discusses issues of women and dependency work. Her writing resonates deeply with me as she speaks of mothering her profoundly disabled daughter. She works and writes, she says, "all the while continuing to use experiences with my daughter as a source and reflection and as a tether that prevents me from wandering away from the lived reality" (1999, p. 162). It is this lived reality that I aim to work out of. narrative story each day 1 tell all kinds of stories stories of hope and loss of failure and success of love and relationship of teaching and learning in hospital with my son I tell stories of medical conditions things wrong illness and disability bits and pieces of him a CAT scan the story of his brain his eyes his stomach do they know that when he throws up I stay up with him wiping cleaning changing sheets doing laundry sometimes at 3 am so in the morning he'll have clean towels to throw up on? tired the next day he's crying still and his sisters leave the room their hands over their ears arguing 3 I've told his story countless times. I've told it to doctors, therapists, specialists, nurses, residents, medical students. Everyone asking, tell me what's wrong with him, tell me about his medical history. Tell me about your pregnancy the resident asked (again) the last time we were in hospital. Was it normal? Eleven years later and I'm still telling the same story. He doesn't want to hear of the hopes and dreams I had, or of my fears, the persistent, gnawing, nagging, silent fears of something wrong. It's physical symptoms he wants, evidence, something concrete to write down. So it was normal I say. Nothing unusual. Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, and Tarule (1997) write about separate and connected knowing. Separate knowing is objective, logical, rational, analytic, and external. It is the"voice of reason" (p. 87). Connected knowing, on the other hand, is where there is an intimacy and sharing of self. Knowledge is constructed with the knower intimately connected to the known. Connected knowing uses personal knowledge, values personal experience, and speaks trusting one's inner self. Anne Plath Helle writes, "We can recognize this voice by certain stylistic markers-it includes references to the self; it may include the vocabulary of feeling; it recognizes temporal flux and change; it is a voice in which there are echoes of internal dialogue brought out into the open" (1991, p. 54). In Madeleine Grumet's words (1988, p. xv): 4 We work to remember imagine and realize ways of knowing and being that can span the chasm presently separating our public and private worlds. I choose then to situate myself in this space between curriculum as plan and the lived experiences of individuals. In this space where there is an in-dwelling or "lines of movement" (Aoki, 1993, p. 263) between the two separate domains. Where space is allowed for "stories, anecdotes, and narratives that embody the lived dimension of curriculum life" (p. 263) and where "narrative ways of knowing function collectively to affirm the values of multiplicity and connection" (Helle, 1991, p. 49). Narrative allows for the boundaries between our public and private lives to collapse (Collins, 1998). Narrative then, becomes the form this research will take. Carol Witherell and Nel Noddings write: Stories and narrative, whether personal or fictional, provide meaning and belonging in our lives. They attach us to others, and to our own histories by providing a tapestry rich with threads of time, place, character, and even advice on what we might do with our lives. The story fabric offers us images, myths, and metaphors that are morally resonant 5 and contribute both to our knowing and our being known. (1991, p. 1) The doctor at Nathanial's bedside asks me to tell him about his condition. He's back in hospital because he's been throwing up blood again. Give me some background he says, a bit about his history. I'm stumped, confused as to how to answer this question not because I don't know what he wants. He wants the same thing they all seem to want, an account of illnesses, surgeries, organ function, development, briefly and concisely told, linear from birth to present. I hesitate and stumble over my words as the doctor tries to be reassuring thinking it's too painful for me to talk about (I smile at that). I can't seem to begin this time as I can't tell this story of all things wrong and disabled again. I've told it countless times already. They can read it in his charts, 4 thick volumes of illness, surgeries, and tests. They can find it in medical books and journals, a description of his syndrome, lists of disabilities, deformities, and medical conditions. They could even find pictures there too. Invasive probing photos of children with cleft lips and cleft palates and strangely shaped features. Someone's hands pulling back a child's lips to give a clear image of her teeth. Reducing these children, my child, to medical facts. 6 I spent the afternoon in the Bio-Medical Library looking up articles describing WHS Syndrome. Stories closed and final, telling me over and over again the same thing I heard when Nathanial was born, your child will never walk, he'll never talk, he may never even recognize you (a lie I think now, as who's to say that when eyes, or voice, or hands can't respond to a parent's touch, that the heart and spirit won't still echo back the love received?). But I found one (just one), a fine golden thread of hope running through the incomprehensible medical terms and pictures of still unsmiling children posed awkwardly against stark white backgrounds, and found written between the words hope and possibility, a story left open, tiny cracks, spaces between, leaving room for the unknown. But I hesitate because it's the story of his life I want to tell. His living with me, with his sisters. Of his shaping my life as I mother him. Of how very precious he is to me, of how much I love him, of the incredible gift his life is to me. Of the fragrance of him that wafts through his sisters' lives in their compassion, tenderness, and wisdom. The story of him and me, of us together. Arthur Frank (1999) writes of a "dialogic relation" of self and other where "the self that is claimed is dialogical, and the tension of this dialogue is to include the voices of others without assimilating these voices to one's own" (p. 1). Rishma Dunlop describes "a dialogic process of 7 recognizing the other in self (1999, p. 61). Deborah A. Austin writes, "The celebrating of others through dialogue bends back upon us reflexively, sustaining, altering, or transforming our comprehension of ourselves and our social world" ( 1996, p. 206). From Dependence to Dependence While we acknowledge our interdependence, our interconnectedness, that a life is lived in relation to others, that our selves too are constructed in relation to others there is a tendency still to speak from a position of independence. As i f our life is lived only from a position of self reliance and autonomy. Kittay argues that "because no one escapes dependency in a lifetime, and many must care for dependents in the course of a life, my aim is to find a knife sharp enough to cut through the fiction of our independence" (1999, p. xiii). This fiction that we are, that we will stay, strong, healthy, independent, and able. That some may be disabled, some may be il l or frail or dependent, but they are other. They are not us. Dependency and loss still are lived realities. They are realities that will touch us each in some way. Henri Nouwen (1994) in his Meditation on Dying and Caring illustrates the cycle of dependence, independence, dependence that marks the human life as a tiny baby grows to adulthood and on into old age. In our final years of life we depend again on the care and support of others as we did in our youth. Life, he says, is "lived from dependence to dependence" (p. 14). William Pinar writes of living with the reality of death where "meditating on the fact of death brings this life into focus" (1992, p. 93). He acknowledges that in the end each of us dies. None of us will be untouched by death, loss, or dependence. So, as Dunlop writes, we trace the 8 other in self seeking to "deconstruct frozen, false boundaries" (1999, p. 68). As I teach (I currently teach art methods for pre-service elementary teachers) there are in front of me students who are young and eager, setting out on the adventure of beginning teaching careers and I teach out of the hope that these students can and will become caring, reflective, understanding, and skilled practitioners. Yet there are also in front of me students who will grow old, frail, and dependent, who will experience loss, grief, endings, death of loved ones, and ultimately their own deaths. Without an awareness of this, living, relating, caring, loving, teaching, parenting, does not take into account the whole scope of human experience. So I look for ways to live and teach and act and be which acknowledges this and which grounds itself in a desire to live well, embracing all of life. As Nel Noddings writes, "Like good parents, teachers should be concerned first and foremost with the kind of people their charges are becoming" (1991, p. 169). What we do and what we accomplish are both important, but more than this is who we are and how we act and interact. In Henri Nouwen's words, "The great paradox of our lives is that we are often concerned with what we do or still can do, but we are most likely to be remembered for who we were" (1994, p.41). Of Knowing and Birthing The lines between mothering and teaching are not distinct but fluid and intertwined (Grumet, 1988; Collins, 1998; Dunlop, 1998). Madeline Grumet writes that women who teach "go back and forth between the experience of domesticity and the experience of teaching, between being with one's own children and being with the children of others, between being the 9 child of one's own mother to being the teacher of another mother's children" (1988, p. xv). I recognize that as I teach I also mother. Although the concept of "mother" is not singular or easily understood, Abbey and O'Reilly offer one definition of an effective mother "as someone whose strength of character and struggles to create a liveable space around herself offer choices, possibilities and freedom to her daughter by encouraging her to confidently believe in herself, to love her body and be comfortable with her femaleness, and to take care of herself' (1998, p. 15). I find this reflected in my own teaching. As I teach, I also nurture and care for my students and aim to create a space of freedom and possibility. I also aim to encourage students to acknowledge, be comfortable with, and develop their artistic and creative selves, to love and appreciate the work of their hands with the hope that they will go out and do well in their own lives and teaching. Yet I also find other connections to mothering. The metaphors of birthing and mothering give meaning to other experiences as well. As I have stitched my quilt and written this thesis I've had frequent dreams of giving birth. I thought at first the analogy was merely metaphorical, but in counting back to its conception I realize that it wil l have been a full nine months to its completion. I have seen the process of thinking about, writing, and creating very much like pregnancy and birthing. This thesis began with an inner sense and feeling, and "grew" into a quilt and a written document. The first trimester began with the decision to switch the focus of my thesis, and was spent with ideas taking shape as I made my quilt. During the second trimester I mostly taught, my thoughts grounded in teaching. Most of the final trimester was spent writing and I expect the birthing process will be complete in its release. 10 We know the world through our bodies (Dunlop, 1995,1998; Grumet, 1988). We feel, taste, and touch this world through our senses, experiencing through our gendered bodies. Sex. Birth. Death. I suspect that the text of the body, with its multiple discourses, is our most expressive and powerful canon as it reflects lived experience (p. 1)... I seek language to express lived and felt experience... writing that enters not through the mind but the senses. The words of this language are tasted, lingering on the tongue, touched by flesh and bone, echoed resounding and whispered, scented, language of the body. (Dunlop, 1995, p. 8) Rishma Dunlop also asserts that we learn to keep these "rich sites" hidden. Where success in academic institutions is measured by "publication records and research capabilities" and outward achievements, "the texts of our bodies, of maternal, intuitive, passionate, familial, private selves are necessarily suppressed" (1998, p. 107). And so I choose in this research exploration to welcome and to embrace the uncomfortable, the things we have kept hidden, pushed away and distanced, aiming to resist this "violent burning away of any imperfect Earthy relations, any bodies of knowledge that might be swelling with messy secrets" (Jardine, 1997, p. 162). As Rishma Dunlop writes: This choice to write is political, passionate and personal... As Shirley Kincheloe states, "in this context we can begin to replace the masculininst discourse that negates body and feeling with a new female expressiveness that draws upon personal experience". In this 11 context, our maternal voices can enrich and strengthen our scholarship, our teaching and our writing. (1998, p. 122) I feel pregnant. Full. Full of things that have come to me through Nathanial. Rare and unusual and wonderful things. Awful, wrenching, heartbreaking things. I feel full of sorrow and sadness. Full of unique and exquisite joys. Full of memories of past tears 12 over all his loss, over my loss. Of encounters when death was so close and real I could almost see, touch, and smell it. Of days and weeks when I could see death on his face in a grey translucent pallor as he lay still and sleeping breathing irregularly and I never really knew if he'd wake in the morning or i f I was kissing him goodnight for the last time. Full too of the inexplicable pain of waiting to hear that the surgery to remove his eyes "went well". As if it could go well. Cutting out his eyes one at a time, cutting out my hope too that maybe through his cloudy and blood filled eyes he'd see me and see love reflected back. Full and pregnant. Even these words here are not adequate to describe and explain this feeling of fullness. It's a feeling, a sense, an inner knowing, a presence, a part of me. Like a baby in my womb hidden and unknown, yet fully known. My research, then, is to explore this place. To explore my experience of being the mother of a severely disabled child through seasons of loss. To explore who I am, who I have become, as a result of living with my son Nathanial and with the ever present reality of death. Looking primarily into the spaces and places that we need to make a conscious and deliberate effort to welcome. Exploring too how the gift of his life has multiplied in mine, in others, and hopefully in time, in yours as well. 13 CHAPTER 2: BEGINNING WITH A QUILT In the making of my quilt Fragments, and also in the writing of this thesis, I come back again and again to hope, to growth, to renewal, and to life. Cycles and seasons, a dialectic of loss and growth. Birth, life, death. The things quilts are made of (Clark, Knepper, and Ronsheim, 1991; Shaw, 1997). And as I tell this story in cloth I situate myself within the context of other women quilters both past and present. Art that for me philosophically connects public and private, home and school, and integrates my lived experiences as mother, teacher, scholar, and artist. Quilts that cover beds and cradles, wrap sleeping babies, and warm frail bodies. Fabric that sees the changes with each season of life. Baby blankets and sleepers, children's dressup clothes, wedding dresses, graduation gowns, grandmothers aprons, and funeral suits. Cloth and quilts, art that even though hung on a gallery wall still speak of home and babies and children, of marriage, and sex, and birth, and death, of cycles and seasons. Fabric is and always has been a basic necessity of human life, used for clothing, shelter, bed and floor coverings...We respond to cloth through touch, the most intimate and primal of the senses. We are wrapped in cloth at birth, covered in it in life, and shrouded in it in death. (Shaw, 1997, p. 16) For many artists, myself included, the choice to work in a quilt medium is deliberate. As Robert Shaw writes, "For most quilters, the medium is the message, and it forms a major component of the meaning of their work" (p. 16). In part it is the "slow meditative quality of 14 work, the feeling that it is a female or feminine medium, and even that it seems fragile and impermanent" (p. 20). It takes time to make a quilt. It's a slow process. Fabric cut and torn, stitched together again, layered and quilted. The first quilts I made were planned out carefully. I selected colours, drew out the designs on grid paper, meticulously cut out the fabric pieces, and sewed together a quilt which closely resembled my original drawing. That was then -this is now. Now I have an idea of what I'd like to do, a few fabrics, and I begin without really knowing where it'll take me. Then I was still married and at home with three small children. Now, I parent alone, one child in a care home, two with me. A Crazy Quilt And so the hands of time will take The fragments of our lives and make Out of life's remnants, as they fall, A thing of beauty, after all. (Malloch, cited in Shaw, 1997, p.21) Quilting has a rich history rooted in the hiddenstream art of women (Collins and Sandell, 1987), that is art outside of mainstream art, reflecting the everyday lives of women. Traditional 15 quilts were made primarily by women as functional household objects to warm, comfort loved ones, to beautify and decorate their surroundings, and to express personal and social concerns. Quilts have been the dominant artistic expression of women in North America for over two hundred years and as a result are important "cultural documents" (Shaw, 1997, p. 15) which record the otherwise untold history of women. For some though the links to female domestic work is problematic. I read in the introduction to Fine Art Quilts: Only within the past few years has the work of a handful of fiber artists and quiltmakers begun to be accepted into prestigious exhibitions, museums, and galleries. Having roots in "women's work", fiber pieces - especially quilts, with their associations as functional objects - are considered, and even discounted, as craft instead of fine art. The struggle to be accepted in the fine-art arena is waged every time a quilt is entered in and rejected from an art exhibition. Artists engaged in this conflict are seeking ways to eliminate prejudice. They have put together shows, exhibition tours, organizations, and symposia to educate the public (and themselves) and to change the perceptions of the quilt as women's art. Through diligent efforts, their work - the quilt - in all it's forms, is gaining acceptance as a serious medium. (Smith, 1997, p. 4,5) While the delineation of art and craft on gender lines is not new (Chalmers, 1996; Phillips, 1995; Collins and Sandell, 1987), I was surprised to read how this group of artists whose work was imaged in the book (and from their names I assume them to be mostly women) 16 were attempting to shift thinking about the quilt from women's art to a serious medium. As if it could not be both serious and women's art. ... You said that because quiltmaking is primarily done by women, not by men, that it tends not to be valued. That made me so angry! It spurred me on. Who gets to decide what's valued? To me that seemed to be all the more reason for doing it — to defy such a value system. (Irwin, Stephenson, Robertson, Neale, Mastri, Crawford, 1998, p. 103) For me though, this link is its strength. My choice of working in a quilt medium is a deliberate act to work within what has traditionally been viewed as women's work. It is a choice to embrace my own heritage, my mother's and grandmother's work, and to find a way to speak out from within an art medium which locates itself within women's lived experiences. As Radka Donnell emphasizes: The quilt movement should be preserved as a collective enterprise with an ethical concern. If taken seriously as women's art, quilts cannot be perceived and enjoyed as isolated aesthetic objects divorced from the relationships of women to each other and to the rest of humankind. Quilts eminently pose the question of how one behaves in the making and viewing of art. (1990, p. 6) Madeleine Grumet (1988) describes women's gender identity developing within a context 17 of relationships and connection. Carol Gilligan supports this argument saying that "issues of feminine identity do not depend on the achievement of separation from the mother or on the process of individuation" (1993, p .48). Rather, women develop within a context of attachment and relationship and their sense of self is very much tied to connections and affiliations with others. Quiltmaking, then, becomes a metaphor for feminist understandings of women's interdependent and collective identity (Irwin, Stephenson, Neale, Robertson, Mastri, and Crawford, 1998; Donnell, 1990). Quilts, by the nature of textile, cloth, comfort, warmth, are a link to caring, nurturing, and touching. Tactile and sensual. Art made primarily by women connected to the home and family. Reflecting the lives, experiences, and stories told by women. Bernard lived at home with his elderly mother until she died in 1985. Only then, at the age of fifty-six, did he enter a special care facility. It was the only option...It was primarily the women in my family who recounted this tale of love and illness across the generations. Of course men were involved in decisions about Bernard's circumstances and in caring for him. But the texture of the story, the details and how it felt, were shared most openly among Lil's sisters and my mother. (Edelson, 2000, p. 69) Grief-work and Mourning Quilts Quilts have been made to celebrate and commemorate significant events in women's lives. Clark, Knepper, and Ronsheim (1991) in their study and documentation of nearly 7000 quilts in Ohio located quilts made to mark rites of passage such as birth, marriage, and death. 18 Of all the rites of passage marked by Ohio women through their quilts, the most poignant is death... we learned that for quiltmakers the creation of mourning quilts is one way of coping with their loss...most were made by mothers to commemorate the deaths of their children, a particularly tragic loss that inverts the natural order of life...the process of making a mourning quilt deeply involves the quiltmaker in a continuing relationship with the deceased, (p. 131) Across a clothesline bathed in sun Were patchwork quilts of cloth, homespun To passer-by these quilts have charm As comforters to keep folks warm. But loving hands that cut and pieced Brought calm, content, to nerves released. With pride and faith that labour brings While wrapping hurts in lovely things (Nettles, cited in Manifold, 1998, p.47) Quilting is slow and time consuming and it lends itself to being a meditative process. As a quilt is pieced and stitched, the quiltmaker's grief, thoughts, wishes, hopes, dreams are stitched in with the fabrics and images. The resulting quilt then is more than a quilt, it also is the grief, the love for the deceased, the spirit of the loved one expressed and felt both in the making and in the images. The grieving and the art making processes are interwoven as they both involve "losses and creation, destruction and reconstruction, and a reformulating of meaning and patterning" (Baker, 1998, p. 87). 19 Marjorie Cohee Mainfold writes of art making and grief-work. Certain tasks, such as involving oneself in art making, is necessary "for equilibrium to be re-established and the process of mourning to be completed" (1998, p. 47). It is through the making of art that, when faced with unpredictable natural or human disaster such as death, humans may transform feelings of overwhelming, chaotic confusion into useful good feelings about their abilities to surmount the catastrophic event, (p. 48) In this way crisis, loss, and death are seen as traumatic events to be overcome. They are a rupture in the "uniform fabric of life" (p. 47) with the mourning process returning the person to a sense of equilibrium. Arthur Frank (1999), however, writes that we can see illness, disability, or traumatic events as crises to overcome, in that sense a disruption, or we can see them as opportunities for destabilization and redefining self. I would rather consider myself un-done and in that disoriented and redefined as I use art making as an engagement with the process of becoming and an opportunity for reconstructing self. You must not walk around the perimeter of loss. Instead you must go through the center, griefs very core. (Staudacher, cited in Mainfold, 1998, p. 53) While my son is very much alive and full of life, I never seem to wander far from thoughts of death, of his eventual death. As I consider his death I wonder who I will be and what 20 I will have left when he's gone. My identity already had to dramatically shift and change with his birth and again with his move into Anna's home (I wil l elaborate on this in Chapter 4). It will again with his death. I find myself trying to orient myself now to a likely future. I had a dream once where I was sitting, watching, waiting for a tidal wave. I was frantically trying to tie myself down and hold myself in place. It was futile though and I knew I'd have to let myself go and let the waves overwhelm me and take me where they will. In that dream I was looking for Nathanial, panicked because I knew I wouldn't be able to hold him afloat. I suppose once 1 thought I had to be anchored, secure, fixed, so that I could weather any storm and nothing would disrupt me. 21 I engage in art making as a transformative process, as pursuit of wholeness, that is wholeness of self and wholeness of experience (body, mind, and spirit). Arthur Frank defines wholeness as the "ongoing communication between simultaneous differences" with the challenge being to "live in the space of that tension" (1999, p. 32). Wholeness in this context can refer to living with/in the tension of life and death. I also am using art making as a method of inquiry and a way of examining, constructing, and creating meaning. Art is a human construction, a tool that human beings use to make sense of their existence, of themselves as human beings, as people. It is not a medium for transporting meaning or beauty or truth. It is a tool for constructing meaning. Art is a way that we tell...stories about ourselves to ourselves and others. (Walsh, 1994, p. 20) Image, Dialogue and Interpretations I read Carolyn Ellis' (1996) narrative, Maternal Connections, and saw in her care for her aging mother and in her contemplation of herself as mother my own stories reflecting back like light through a prism bouncing rays of colours on the walls of my room illuminating my own spaces. I saw in her narrative my own grieving of Nathanial's eventual death. Martha McMahon, investigating childlessness and mother loss, writes that not having one's own children is like "living one's own death" (1998, p. 192). Being a mother means life goes on and connections are maintained. My life will go on in the lives of my daughters connecting both past and future generations. Not having children, or I think losing a child, is like "experiencing one's 22 own own death while still living" (McMahon, 1998, p. 192). The grieving is for myself in my mortality as much as it is for Nathanial. In this way I find myself written in the spaces between Ellis' narrative, her stories resonating with my own. In telling this story I try to find the beginning. "A story", my youngest daughter states confidently, "always has a beginning, a middle, and an end." This story though has its beginning in the middle and its end may really be a beginning. My own story even can't begin with my birth as threads of the fabric that make up who I am can be traced back too through my mother's living in Lithuania and in the camps in Germany. She speaks very little of her years in Germany but I still feel myself a part of her unspoken experiences. And when I'm in Switzerland in the mountains of Glarus in the meadows high above the villages and even higher still on the rocky alpine peaks I feel myself at home and find myself there in my father's country. Lives woven together. Seeing myself, finding myself in the lives of my parents, in 23 relatives long dead, in my children, in those close to me. I feel deep in me as part of me my mother's homelessness. A "stateless person" words stamped I never knew where, on a passport perhaps as she came to Canada as a young woman torn by the ravages of war. Stamped, branded, invisible on her body, always repeating those words with an anger I never understood. So never feeling quite settled or belonging, parts of me here, parts there, never fully at home in any one place, and finding places I feel at home in odd places. At the beach, near the ocean, by the ever changing never still rhythmic restless ocean. My intention is not to generalize or to draw conclusions but to leave open, writing and imaging fragments. An invitation is extended for you to explore and to spin your own stories along with mine creating a dialogical reading (Frank, 1999) so that these narratives here can become something other than what they already are. In the narratives/art included in this thesis neither the image nor the text is meant to be read alone, rather together, each resonating with each other, reflecting, and offering continuously evolving interpretations. There is no one fixed interpretation or response. The images are not intended to act as an illustration to the text and neither is the text offered as an explanation to the 24 image. Ted Aoki (A/R/T discussion, July 19,2000) describes this "space of difference" between image and text as metonymy. It is a space where form is moving, changing, never static, full of uncertainty and difficulty. It would be more comfortable and familiar to view the text and image as if they were explanations or metaphoric interpretations of the other. It is a more difficult challenge to bring out something from within that space of difference. In viewing the image as if there were only one "right" or accurate interpretation forecloses and objectifies the experience. Although the artist may have had a particular intention, and understanding the art from the artist's point of view is always important, there are multiple possible interpretations and meanings changing with the context of the art and the viewer's own orientation. As Debra Koppman suggests, "Every viewing of art simultaneously involves an act of interpretation, conditioned by the viewer's culture, biases, and experiences" (1999, p. 89). This openness, according to Jon Prosser is the problem of image based research: The general message, perhaps unwittingly, is that: [films, videos and photographs] are acceptable only as means to record data or as illustration and subservient to that of the central narrative; they are unacceptable as a way of "knowing' because they distort that which they claim to illuminate; and images being socially created and mediated are skewed by the sociocontext of'making', 'taking' and 'reading'; and summatively images are so complex that analysis is untenable. (1998, p. 99) I, however, see this precisely as the wonder of image/art based research, that the reader/viewer's own stories can be woven in with mine, images and text resonating not just with 25 each other but with the viewer as well, inviting him/her in as a participant in the process. Anna Neumann expresses the uncertainty of interpretation as she writes: ...even in the void of not knowing, we nonetheless come to know, how when we have no interpretation, we nonetheless construct one, gathering wisps of sight and sound that surround us into images that, through the weaving of interpretation, become real for us. (cited in Norman, 1999, p. 96) Arthur Frank in his discussion of the internet as a site for dialogical autobiographical work sees the possibilities of the medium as it invites input and reader/viewer response. It is constantly in a state of flux and change. The limits of working only in a written document is that "print can seem to isolate as it fixes words and lives in time and space" (1999, p. 33). Perhaps the limits are not so much in print as they are in writing in a manner which discloses reader response and engagement. Visual art can also leave an opening as an art work is never fixed in it's meaning but always open to the viewer's response and interpretation, changing in response to viewer and context. Therefore, this place of response, interpretation, interplay and dialogue becomes a generative space. Ted Aoki writes that "it is a site wherein the interplay is the creative production of newness, where newness can come into being. It is an inspired site of being and becoming" (1996, p. 11). The spaces between art and viewer and artist and experience become one of possibility and newness. This, I find, is the hope of education, that it is/can be a generative, life giving, life extending act. 26 Phenix (1971) describes the dimensions of transcendence as hope, without which there is no incentive for learning as the desire to learn assumes it is possible to improve one's existence. Hope that new life will result, that things may become something other than what they are. Hope that even in seasons of loss, there will be rebirth. As Madeline Grumet writes: When I designate an experience as educational, I imply that its effect on the subject transcends the immediate encounter; its season passed, a spore remains and grows roots in the psyche, bringing forth new vegetation, nurtured by that singular, inimitable soil. In other words, an encounter with the world is a generative act, a spawning experience, a hybrid of objectivity and subjectivity, whose very birth modifies and extends and finally transcends its inheritance. (1992, p. 29) This thesis, then, is not an exploration into new ways of presenting art education curriculum as plan, or ways of planning out art curriculum as lived. It is rather an inquiry into ways of being and experiencing and responding to life and to each other which filters in and through and around, dwelling in the spaces between. 27 CHAPTER 3: ART BASED RESEARCH Try writing an ethnography of something very close to you... A family, silence and secrets, a few spoken words, a death, memory and love. An intimate culture, to be certain. This will take you beyond questions of participant-observation, unstructured data, case size, and interpretation. It will encompass your emotional and spiritual life, your very being. This is ethnography as the lived experience of the ethnographer. (Quinney, 1996, p. 357) My research began as studio inquiry into seasons of loss. It shifted and evolved as I wrote and imaged. It also became an exploration of artist/ researcher /teacher praxis. That is the interplay and dialectic relation between self as artist as researcher as teacher. The research presented here has been born out of the UBC Art Education Graduate Student Artist/ Researcher/ Teacher weekly discussion group (referred to as A/R/T). I have been immensely privileged to be part of this group: Rita, Kit, Alex, Wendy, Samuel, Nicole, Anami, Patti, and Alison. We inquired into, discussed, and explored in the making of art, art as research. As the discussions evolved, so did the ideas and direction for this thesis. As we put together an art show and held a symposium, I found I began also to find my place within that praxis. The words and inquiries of the group both individually and collectively are reflected in my words here. The many comments and feedback relating to my work were invaluable in the formation of my ideas and images. As well, each of the group members' own art making/research and teaching, the continuously evolving group interactions, and the 28 collaborative inquiry both fed and directed my own inquiry. Therefore, while I write about my own journey, it is a journey also taken collectively within this A/R/T group. My thoughts, ideas, and the direction of my explorations took shape within this community of Artists/ Researchers/ Teachers. The group continues to meet and our individual and collective inquiries continue to evolve. This thesis represents a part, a period of time, a moment in my/our explorations. And it wil l continue on beyond the pages written here. It has been, and continues to be, a privilege to be a part of this collective inquiry, somewhat uncertain as it is, as we travel and sojourn together. Perhaps we are not unlike a tiny band of nomads who as they travel together become increasingly knowledgable about, and sensitive to, the verities of the landscape over which they move - the movement of the winds, the pull of the moon and the tide, the direction of the stars - as well as the sisters [and brothers] with whom they travel. (Houtekamer, Chambers, Yamagishi, Striker, 1997, p. 138) Territorial liminars — nomads — can teach intellectual liminars — artist/researcher/teachers — numerous lessons on how to survive in the margins. If you find yourself on a gruelling trek, utilize all marginal resources. Maintain a sense of openness to the other, and trust that the environment in which you find yourself - no matter how barren or inhospitable — will be a giving place. Adversity gives birth to solidarity and community. Value the wisdom in your heart, as that is all you really need 29 to carry on your journey. Finally, never forget that although 'there are an infinity of paths within this finite space' (cited by Attila), we all travel by the light of a single moon. (Pryer, 2000, p. 8,9) Studio Practice It all started I think with a conversation a hope and a vision and a desire to return to our artist selves I remember vividly my first encounters in school with clay and paint. I went to a small Montessori School in rural Metchosin outside of Victoria. Our school was a large white house on a beautiful beachfront lot. We did our school work in the mornings with the afternoons devoted to art, nature study, music, dance, and drama. We sculpted out of clay, spun and dyed wool from the neighbour's sheep, wove at the large floor loom, painted, drew, made papier-mache puppets, pieced patchwork quilts, and built wooden book ends decorated with shells and coloured glass found at the beach. Only a few clay sheep and shepherd, a worn woven mat, and a couple of paintings remain from those years. But I still remember the feel of the clay between my hands, the smell of the raw sheep wool, the pleasure of drawing in the garden surrounded by flowers, and colours coming alive on my paper as I sat at the beach my paintbox open on my knee painting the islands I could see in the distance. I can still feel the barely warm early summer sun, breathe in the salty ocean air as the breeze rustles through my papers and the tall grasses on the rocks behind me, and I remember the peace and pleasure I used to feel. 30 For me this joy and pleasure was easily passed on in teaching. For years I had taught adult and children's art classes and was currently teaching an art methods course for elementary pre-service teachers. Still my greatest pleasure in teaching was being part of students' discovery and connection to studio processes. The theory, the lesson planning, the reflective, critical thinking were all important. But it was the studio experience which was transformative for most of my students. It was in working and engaging with the art materials, creating, imaging, often for the first time since childhood, that hope and possibility, in essence life, was generated. Nevertheless, in my own practice, this love of and need to create often seemed lost and distanced in the daily demands of teaching, graduate course work, research, mothering, and daily living. Art making, although central to my being, was often left as an extra. When I'm finished this paper (or this course, or this workshop...) I'd tell myself, I'll walk at the beach and photograph the rocks at low tide or maybe stitch the quilt that dances through my head as a write. I'd think in images, ideas would take shape as images, experiences would translate themselves into imagined quilts and other artworks, but I'd mostly just dream of having time to make them visible and tangible. As a group of graduate students we were looking for ways to integrate our selves as artists with our research and our teaching. As art teachers, our artist selves were often neglected and distanced, doing the often more immediate work of facilitating the art of others. As researchers, we researched and inquired into art education practices, but it was not typically centered in our own studio explorations. We set out then, to inquire into ways of returning to studio practices as central, ways of working within the triad of ourselves as artists as researchers 31 as teachers. We recognized that there were ways of knowing, experiencing, engaging with the world, with ourselves, and with others, ways of learning, and being which were uniquely linked to the arts, visual arts in particular. As art educators we wanted to explore using visual art as research, as a process and method of inquiring into our teaching. Ardra L. Cole and J. Gary Knowles argue that the nature of teaching itself supports alternate methods of inquiry: Teaching is a complex, dynamic, and socially constructed activity, sometimes impulsive, not always logical, often unpredictable, frequently intuitive, and invariably difficult to describe and interpret... If we characterize teaching as a form of creative expression-characterized as multimodal, nonlinear, and multidimensional-then it makes sense to search for ways of understanding teaching that are also nonlinear, multimodal, and multidimensional. (2000, p. 63) In our attempts to find and work within a holistic framework and practice it became necessary to embrace, integrate, make connections, and work within the relation of all parts of ourselves. To quote Dennis Sumara and Terrance Carson: Those who involve themselves in holistic focal practices understand that one's evolving sense of identity and one's daily practices must always be, in some way interpreted in relation to one another (p. xv)...who one is becomes completely caught up in what one 32 knows and does...it suggests that what is thought, what is represented, what is acted upon, are all intertwined aspects of lived experience and, as such, cannot be discussed or interpreted separately (1997, p. xvii). As I locate a space to work within this praxis of myself as artist as researcher as teacher, my research necessarily will be art-based, that is studio based inquiry. My teaching, my research, my artistic practice, each interpreted in relation to the other. Therefore, as I investigate, construct, and tell my own autobiographic narratives of mothering, of loss, and of hope, both the process of research and the "story fabric" evolve as both written and visual, an interplay of image and text. Both the visual and textual elements are significant in the research process as both my writing and my art making/ quilting are the processes by which these narratives unfold. Artist/Researcher/Teacher. Rocks and Photographs Studio based inquiry was not a new idea to me. Using studio processes as a way of investigating, sorting, figuring out, constructing, and re-constructing meaning was already a familiar practice. I spent my early years as a single parent making quilts. While the finished quilts looked much like any other in my assortment of quilt books, the process I involved myself in was still an autobiographic investigation. 33 I made several quilts with traditional patterns in my early years of single parenting. Stars constructed in blocks, sewn together with sashing between, planned out and ordered. Reflecting back it seems I was trying to create some order out of what I saw as chaos. I was still struggling with the expectation of the way things were "supposed" to be. Things however were never really how they were "supposed" to be. It just took me a long time to let go of that expectation. I had, I think, a "happy family" jigsaw puzzle box with a picture on it's lid of a smiling couple, a few happy children, a dog, and a house (this image resonating with Linda Nicholson's (1997) discussion of the myth of the traditional family)... I must have begun building that puzzle sometime after I was married and my first daughter was born. The smiling faces on the pieces though hid the way things really were. Then with Nathanial's birth I couldn't seem to make the pieces fit. Having a child with disabilities, and later being a single parent didn't match the picture at all... As I cut, pieced, stitched, and quilted scraps of pale greens, 34 blues, and pinks, I tried to re-construct my life. It didn't work of course and I haven't made another traditional quilt since. Also I'd already spent years photographing rocks and shore and beachside crevices. In the summer following Nathanial's first serious near death experience and for several years after I found myself compelled to go outside, searching, exploring, investigating, looking for something, although I didn't know exactly what, camera in hand. As I walked and explored and photographed I realized I was looking for something permanent, something lasting, something eternal made tangible and visible. And as I walked and looked over the grey sandstone rocks at Satuma Island I was led by a promise: I will give you treasures of darkness riches stored in secret places Isaiah 45:3a I found that in the detail, in the lines and crevices, in the green of the seaweed, in the shapes and contours of the rocks, I began to see reflected back incredible beauty. It was a sustaining glimmer of hope that if there were treasures in darkness, beauty in barrenness, there might also be life in death. And I saw life growing in unlikely places. A tuft of grass squeezing through a tiny opening. Tidal pools in the rounded sandstone hollows scattered along the coastline. Rock that had seen the changes of centuries, sculpted, worn, and ageless. A photograph records events and happenings. Something lived, and touched, and held, and 35 experienced, captured and frozen within the frame of a glossy image. An image to look back on and remember. An image that might make vivid again those long past experiences. After Nathanial's first face to face encounter with death I took countless pictures, trying to preserve his life and our lives together, making sure I would always remember. I don't want to ever forget. 1 need to remember these events that undid me, destabilized my existence. This child who still looks so small when he's asleep, who cannot see or talk or walk, whose body is so limited but whose spirit is strong, who has shaped so much of who I am. I know I will never forget. I know that I don't need pictures to remind me of him as who he is will always be present in the secret places of my heart. And there are things no image could capture. Like the sound of his singing, his laughter, and his tears. Like the sway of his head to the rhythm of the music. But I think it's for others that I want to remember. So Others can look and see that he did live with us, that he was part of us, and that he was loved. 36 Art as Research In our A/R/T meetings we were continuously drawn back to the problem of how art was research, and how to distinguish art practice from art as research. Certainly, not all artistic/studio practice could be classified as research. When was art (j u st) art, and when was it research? Robyn Stewart, in a paper arguing the validity of art as research, discusses how art based research is like other forms of qualitative, and also quantitative, research methods. Visual art research echoes the interests of other forms of research, in "originality, being primarily investigative, and having the potential to produce results sufficiently general so that the human stock of knowledge, theoretical and practical, is recognizably increased" (1999, p. 2). She writes, "visual research models can be described as processes of reflective, critical inquiry which are concerned with the advancement or extension of knowledge, new discoveries, solutions to problems and conceptual progress" (p.3). Rhonda Watrin emphasizes that art is at times like qualitative research in that it "seizes the fullness of lived experience by describing, interpreting, creating, reconstituting, and revealing meaning" (1999, p. 93). Samuel Adu Poku also links the process of art making to both qualitative and quantitative research methods: Ceramic is a rigorous discipline that blends the creative passion with the development of a critical eye, technical skill, and theoretical knowledge. The process of creating a ceramic piece requires the exercise of mind, vision, intuition and kinesics elements... The structure and process of ceramics provide a link between the rigours and sensibilities of 37 quantitative and qualitative learning modes respectively. (2000, p. 3) Rhonda Watrin describes similarities between qualitative research and studio art practice. Both artist and researcher examine, describe, interpret, and draw meaning from the "lifeworld" or lived experience. "Descriptive writing, like artwork, cuts through surface appearances and penetrates into the meaning of events, places, people, or processes" (1999, p. 94). Art making, like qualitative research, is a combination of intuition, subjectivity, and objectivity which leads to insight and understanding. The analysis of data is similar to the artistic process in that it involves divergent thinking, inductive reasoning, making connections, and communicating meanings. She writes: Phenomenological inquiry is not unlike an artistic endeavour, a creative attempt to express our experience of the world...It parallels art in that it is unique, holistic, analytical, evocative, precise, universal, powerful, and sensitive....Hermeneutic phenomenologists use texts and their own experiences as data. Artists create text as they draw from their own experiences and understanding. Hermeneutic phenomenologists and artists are both engaged in processes that synthesize knowledge, as well as describe and interpret lived experience in the search for meaning, (p.97, 98) While there may be similarities between visual research and other forms of qualitative or quantitative research, the unique beauty of it lies in it's artistic intent and process. We can, for 38 example relate how qualitative and quantitative forms of research are similar. They both are systematic, investigative, original (etc) processes. However, the richness of qualitative methods can only be described in terms of it's difference. It's strength is in the lived, felt, descriptive, nature of experience. As we continue to explore and to redefine our understandings of research, it is important to investigate new and alternate methods of investigating and reporting which work specifically and uniquely within the problem, question, or experience being studied. As Shaun McNif f writes, "there are manifold issues and problems to be studied and...they will require equally diverse methods of investigation. We must get beyond the attempt to impose a single type of research onto every life situation" (1998, p. 12). Fluid Spaces Robyn Stewart (1999) asserts that art as research must have an investigative intent. Art practice, while it may be innovative, original, systematic, and imaginative, is concerned primarily with product not investigation. Although I agree with this, I have difficulty with attempts to set definitive boundaries. In my early quiltmaking I was primarily concerned with product. I intended to make quilts for my girls' beds (though most ended up smaller and on walls), and although there were threads of inquiry woven throughout, they would have to be classified as art (or rather craft). My photography certainly started as research (although I suppose I should have known what I was 39 investigating). Yet as the inquiry progressed, as it became clearer what I was looking for, and as the images began to speak back to me, quality of product became more important. In this way it was both ar, and research. That we were in the presence of research in our weekly meetings became abundantly clear to me as I enthusiastically cajoled as fellow group member, "You are doing research, you are because you are here and that is what we are doing" as s/he questioned labelling our work research, choosing instead to label it simply art making (feeling more comfortable in a familiar place) and not research (this more difficult place in which we wished to dwell).. For me it was the moment of being in and of "the other", (de Cosson, 2000, p.2) As artist/ researcher/teacher I am not looking for ways of conducting research which echoes that of other methods, although there will be similarities, but to locate that which is decidedly unique and centered within artistic practices. I prefer Alex's term "fluid spaces", as if the lines between art as practice and art as research flow back and forth, and in and out, each influencing, directing, and informing the other. Researchers - qualitative and quantitative, observe, record, investigate...cycle after cycle in an effort to understand, 40 uncover, discover and articulate ways of seeing the world. Ideas are revisited, worked over, edited and examined repeatedly. This is not a linear process. It curves in and over itself. As an artist and teacher 1 am engaged in the same process. The reflective practitioner examines the practice of pedagogy, the artist steps back, and goes away, comes back, removes and adds... artists, researchers and teachers give in to the dream like quality of their art. We have a 'sense' of what it is and can be... We create images to find meaning, to examine particles and to place ourselves in humanity's story. (Naths, 2000, p. 15) As the term "art teacher" implies, both disciplines of pedagogy and studio art must be recognized as contributors to the art classroom...It is an inspiring proposition to bring the roles of artist and teacher together in the classroom in such a way that we do not feel that they are in opposition but in fact make each other stronger. (Porter, 2000, p. 12) Art as research as phenomenon and/or method Art-based research can be viewed both as visual documentation and as visual expression of a research project and inquiry. As Samuel Adu Poku writes, "To appreciate how artistic ways 41 of knowing and making meaning can inform educational research requires an understanding of how art making is both a process of experiential inquiry and a process of creating meaningful art forms" (2000, p. 1). Art is both process and product. Art based research can be understood as an alternate form of representing research. Robyn Stewart advocates for recognition of the exhibition as an alternate form of publication. Wendy Stephenson's work is a good example of this, as she considers presenting her PhD research in art education history in the form of an exhibition rather than a traditional written dissertation. Art, she argues, has always been a "valid way of communicating and preserving major events in history" (2000, p. 6), for example paintings such as The Death of General Wolfe and The Fathers of Confederation. Art not only illustrates, records, and documents events it also references and reveals the "subtleties of different time periods" (p. 6). Visual art can be used as illustration or record keeping as in family photographs for example. Paul Duncum (1998) in Family Photography discusses how photographs create narratives of family members lives and are important in reproducing the family's values and interests. The images record events, remind the viewer of long past events, give evidence of what things looked like, create a sense of identity, and tell stories of peoples' lives. It becomes problematic, however, when we see it as a purely factual or objective record. The images may tell stories of smiling happy children, while at the same time hide stories of abuse. Images are remembered, interpreted, and responded to in a variety of ways by different people as meanings are subjective (Prosser, 1998). The viewer, then, becomes an integral part of interpreting, understanding, the imagery. Meaning is not necessarily inherent in the art but is created in the 42 viewing and in the response. As artist and as teacher, I hold authority in the contexts of the classroom and the gallery. In my anticipation of the lesson or the show, however, I sometimes forget that each learner/viewer brings with her a personal way of constructing meaning. I cannot dictate how the art, or the learning will be received. (Pente, 2000, p. 3,4) This circling from other, to self, to other, to create meaning finds a home in philosophical hermeneutics and phenomenology. When engaged with/in art it is the circling from viewer, to art, to viewer that meaning is made, (de Cosson, 2000, p.2) Art as research can be understood and situated, as Alex de Cosson describes, as phenomenon and/or method. It can be the creation of a specific art work which visually represents a research inquiry. However, if we have a more holistic view of research and art production, both the process of creating, the research, and the final product are integral to the final outcome. Neither can be separated out as independent parts. Rather it becomes an interplay of image, inquiry, and art production. 43 Shaun McNif f writes of art-based research in an art therapy context: I define art-based research as a method of inquiry which uses the elements of the creative arts therapy experience, including the making of art by the researcher, as ways of understanding the significance of what we do within our practice...[it] may sometimes encourage immersion in the uncertainties of experience, 'finding' a personally fulfilling path of inquiry, and the emergence of understanding through an often unpredictable process of exploration. (1998, p. 13, 15) The process is not one that is easily defined as the artistic process is often by nature ambiguous and uncertain. It would be impossible (or at the very least, dry and prescriptive) to devise a method or sequence of steps to art based research. It is precisely this uncertainty and ambiguity which holds open a place for new life, for renewal, and for possibility (Jardine, 1992). It's in the not knowing, the "knowing by unknowing" (Shantz, 1999, p. 65), the setting out on an undetermined adventure that we experience the "vibrant difficulty" (Jardine, 1992, p. 126) of visual arts inquiry. Intuitive Spaces It is difficult to always find and express meaning through words. Art, images, drama, dance, movement, music, all enrich our expression and understanding, adding creative, intuitive, expressive dimensions to our perception of events and experiences. Intuitive ways of knowing 44 illuminate things the rational mind cannot explain. Words are often not adequate to express deep inner knowings and stirrings. So as we engage with images, music, sight, sounds, we experience and know not just though the mind but through the senses, through the body, through heart, and through the spirit. John P. Miller writes of the need to make greater connections between our inner and outer lives. He suggests that reflective practice brings the "intuitive into consciousness where it can be acted upon" (2000, p. 123). Intuition is a little valued way of knowing within the scientific, logical, rational framework of contemporary Western culture. In other cultures, however, it is viewed differently and valued equally with external rational knowledge. There is no room for a clear cut separation of spirit and matter as opposites. The dichotomy between religion-superstition-revelation and logic-science-rationality...is unknown in indigenous African societies... "Just knowing" by spiritual or psychical discernment is no different from knowing by the evaluation of external data. (Austin, 1998, p.227) John P. Miller (2000) also describes attentiveness, watchfulness, and contemplation, as the means by which we can listen deeply to ourselves and others. He writes, "As we contemplate a beautiful piece of art or music... we feel it becomes part of our being, or soul"(p. 123) and our souls are nourished. He suggests that through contemplative practice we nourish our inner spirit and soul and connect to our deepest feelings and longings. Art making, particularly art making as an inquiry process, engages both reflective and 45 contemplative practices. My method of inquiry involved both imaging and writing with each directing and informing the other, creating, and constructing knowledge and understanding in the process. This way of knowing and method of inquiry requires openness, receptivity, responsiveness, and an intuitive engagement with image and text and the processes of creating. Nathanial "knows" the wind like I may never know it. But I try to enter in to his world and to his experience whenever I catch a glimpse of something I think I might understand. I watch him outside at the beach, his eyes closed, his head lifted up, a smile of pure pleasure pasted on his face, and if I try it too I can feel the wind blowing in me and through me, to the very center of me, where it becomes part of me, or rather I become part of it. I tend to stay put, sitting on a log or standing on the path, but maybe Nathanial flies, soaring upwards, floating, dipping, and twirling, up over the trees and clouds, and on into the heavens. Nathanial's teacher once gave me a glimpse into his world and I will always remember her well because of it. Nathanial has always loved to play with socks and pieces of paper. He holds them, most often barely grasping the lower edge, and waves them up, just over his head. An odd toy others we passed on our walks seemed to think (poor boy, in a wheelchair, and all he gets to play with are socks...). I always laughed to myself at their puzzled looks. I loved his unusual and unique preferences and all the ways he expressed his quirky, mischievous, and very individual personality. Once I went into his classroom to pick him up after school and found his teacher sitting on a chair, eyes closed, waving a small sock over her head. I smiled (poor teacher, had a hard day...). You have to try this she said, handing me the sock and excitedly telling me all about the wonders of sock waving. 46 I take my lead from him in so many ways. For three years I sat with him as he was critically i l l , through severe pain and surgeries. I helped him as best I could, mostly just being there, watching, letting him hold my hand, rubbing his back, doing endless caregiving tasks, hoping to make things as comfortable as possible for him. ... The ways are countless: through words, prayers, and blessings; through gentle touch and the holding of hands; through cleaning and feeding; through listening and just being there...all are ways of expressing our faith that those we care for are precious in God's eyes. Through our caring presence, we keep announcing that sacred truth: dying is not a sweet sentimental event; it is a great struggle to surrender our lives completely. (Nouwen, 1994, p. 59) As I wanted to give up, to let him go, to see some relief for him, he never did. After every surgery, even as he turned blue and struggled for breath, he still refused to give up. In ICU, in critical condition, still refusing to let go of his paper, waving it defiantly over his head. After surgery, the anesthetic still not worn off, waving his sock, determined, as if to say, "I'm still here and I'm not 47 giving up". He had an incredible will to live. Then in one of his last hospital stays, for the first time 1 didn't see him fight back. He seemed completely content and at peace but I didn't sense that familiar fight and determination Yet again taking my lead from him and feeling in me an unexplainable peace, I realized that i f he could experience acceptance in surrender, then perhaps I could too. And for the first time death seemed like it could be a calm and natural transition. 48 CHAPTER 4: AUTOBIOGRAPHIC INQUIRY The way in to making my quilt Fragments, was littered with scribbled notes, lists, cut out bits and pieces of hand dyed fabrics, conversations with friends and colleagues, readings in curriculum theory and art education, and a lifetime of memories and experiences. I sketched images out, arranged blocks on paper and in my head, imagined quilt pieces that could be touched, held, and rearranged, the viewer engaged and interactive. I wrote my thoughts on paper both lined and unlined, on scrap pieces, in sketch books, and in note books, and finally on my computer. I read and re-read past notes and journal entries. 1 compiled a bibliography of authors that had been significant to my thinking. Words scattered, gathered, collected, and re-arranged. A l l in an attempt to find my way to the heart, to the center of what I wanted to do and communicate. notes written on scrap paper stuffed into my notebook touch walking through an art exhibit and wanting to touch and feel the art I shouldn't as art is meant to be looked at not touched - touching can damage, leave marks look but don't touch touch can be risky, easily abused - so lines are drawn to keep things safe, clean, undisturbed The intimacy of family life is drawn into touch and sound and movement in the shared space of our homes... schools on the other hand, requiring order and stillness, replacing touch with the exchange of 49 performance for grades. (Grumet, 1988, p. 157) But I still want to touch, to interact with the art, to be part of it, not distanced. Why not make art that can be touched, felt, moved? Perhaps a quilt where touch, texture, movement, are a part. A quilt that can be changed and re-arranged. Blocks that can be taken apart and put together by the viewer/participant. velvet silk sandpaper rocks buttons felt crinkly cellophane An invitation to touch feel the varied textures, soft, rough, smooth listen to the sounds of the materials between your fingers and enter in to the process of making in the viewing. Within the weekly A/R/T discussion group my ideas emerge and begin to take shape. I begin to reflect on my own mothering experiences and I talk about my son. His world blind and dark yet rich with texture, touch, movement, music, and sound. So much of who I am is because of him. So I begin this exploration with him and my experience of being his mother. 50 While our conversations and writings may begin with or come around to teaching, our words seeni inevitably to wend their way back toward life itself, not merely what we have to say and do about life in our classrooms. And in such a wending, we find ourselves becoming increasingly aware of the experiences, grand narratives, and historical circumstances which shape us and contribute to the ways in which we speak and act in the world. (Houtekamer et al, 1997, p. 138) I try to find a place to speak out from which welcomes and gives voice to the personal, the intimate, the private, the emotional, centered in my lived experiences, and situated within the everyday. I realize there is risk in speaking of the personal. There is risk in not being taken seriously and risk in revealing too much. Still I would rather take that risk than keep these things hidden, distanced, and silenced. As Madeline Grumet writes: Convinced that we are too emotional, too sensitive, and that our work as mothers or housewives is valued only by our immediate families, we hide it, and like Eve, forbidden to know and teach what she has directly experienced, we keep that knowledge to ourselves as we dispense the curriculum to the children of other women. (1988, p. 28) 1 began thinking I would create an interactive quilt. As the images emerged and the A/R/T discussions evolved it began to become clear that this was an autobiographic inquiry. Fragments from nature found their way into the squares: moss, lichen, kelp, leaves, shells, seeds, pinecones, twigs and pebbles. It felt too vulnerable to have others touch and rearrange parts of 51 my self/life and the quilt squares were too fragile to tolerate much handling. So while the quilt squares remained still impermanent and moveable, the invitation to participate was extended differently. The invitation was extended instead to respond and interact in the interpretation and in the reading of the text and images. I was hoping to leave space for the narratives to resonate with the reader/viewer still inviting him/her in as a participant. I began with images of seeds. Fruit ripe and full encasing seeds and the hope of new life. Seeds hidden in dark places released in death and bringing forth life again. Cycles of birthing and dying. 1 had intended a different starting point but as 1 reflected on my life with Nathanial these were the themes and images that resonated with my experiences. The first image I stitched was a green pepper. I looked at it and saw myself reflected back. Here I am I cut open. The last green pepper I made was an etching. A beautiful, rich with greys and blacks, image etched into a zinc plate. Acid eating away the smooth shiny zinc leaving a dark inviting comforting hollow. It looks like a womb a friend had said running her finger over the pepper's cavity. I remember feeling uncomfortable with her statement. Too exposed. As a young art student without much life experience I had struggled to find something to say through my art. Express something about myself? How could 1 do that? I had spent most of my life silenced. So here I am now, older, wiser (I hope), a life full of endings and leavings and beginnings and challenges. Another green pepper. This one soft, tactile, ripe with seeds. 52 Autobiography Autobiographic inquiry is an important part of understanding ourselves as teachers. As we understand ourselves, our histories, and the narratives that shape us, we also come to understand who we are and how we act as teachers. As Ted Aoki writes, "he is the teaching, she is the teaching" (1992, p. 27). Ardra L. Cole and J. Gary Knowles also view teaching as inextricably linked to autobiography: 5 3 We see the process of becoming a teacher as an autobiographical project-a discovery, a creation, an imitation of the self-a process embedded in an examination of past experiences within the context of current and future actions...because we see the practice of teaching as an expression of who we are as individuals-that is, an autobiographical expression-we assert that to understand teaching in it's complex, dynamic, and multidimensional forms, we need to engage in ongoing autobiographical inquiry. (2000, p. 14-15) Cole and Knowles write that teaching is an "autobiographical act". "To teach is to construct an autobiographical account, to develop a living text" (p. 22). And I find that as I research autobiographically and involve myself in life writing, the act of inquiry directs and changes my teaching practice, shifting and changing as I investigate and construct meanings. I expect that the act of autobiographic inquiry also shifts and changes my identity of self, being never static, never quite in one place for long, always in process. My autobiographic inquiry is represented in my quilt, both in the squares (the known and the represented) and in the spaces (the unknown and unspoken). In Carl Leggo's words: Life writing is not only recording and reporting and repeating the lived story as known, as written by the subject; life writing is recoding and restorying and restoring the lived story as unknown, as unwritten by the subject (2000, p. 3-4) 54 IN THE SQUARES In the coloured, constructed, stitched, squares of my quilt I have imaged and imagined autobiographic fragments of my living with, mothering, caring for, loving, responding to my son Nathanial. The images represent and tell narratives which construct and reconstruct my experiences. Arthur Frank (1999) writes of illness as an occasion for autobiography. Marjorie Cohee Manifold (1998) describes death and loss as deep ruptures in the fabric of life which prompts the grieving individual to engage in art making rituals as a means of creating new meanings and reorienting self. As we are undone and destabilized by events in our lives we seek ways to construct and reconstruct meaning. These events become opportunities to redefine self. As Celeste Snowber suggests " it is in listening to parts of us which may be difficult that we have the opportunities to receive deep knowledge; in fact brokenness can lead us to being in a receptive space" (1999, p. 19). As we discourage our engagement with life from arm's length, the binary worlds break down, and we are given a place to rediscover gratitude for each event which comes into our lives. (Snowber, 1999. p. 19) 55 8:30 It's Saturday and Nathanial wakes up crying. I sit with him for 1/2 hour as he tries to decide if he's going back to sleep. He's sick. The only way to communicate how bad he feels is to cry and hit his head. His small fist pounds the side of his head, and he leaves a bruise on my hand as I interrupt his swing. I run my finger over the still swollen part of his ear, a thin scar to remind me of last year's surgery to repair a self inflicted injury. 9:00 two minutes in the bathroom. N's crying again. I change the CD, turn it up a little louder and give him a sock. That gives me another 5 minutes to get dressed before his crying resumes. 9:15 I carry him downstairs. He's 53 lbs and I can still carry him, but not much longer I think. I deliberately put the thoughts of the future out of my mind as I really don't know what TD do when I can't lift and carry him any longer, the implications of that too huge to mink about now. I put Vivaldi on as he generally finds it soothing (and I do too). He's in a new room and interested and distracted enough to give me a couple of minutes in the kitchen. My girls aren't here mis weekend, and I realize again how much I Illuminating the Spaces Between Eva Feder Kittay (1999) writes of women, equality and dependency, mothering, and the policies and ethics of care. She writes convincingly of the need to include understandings of the nature of dependence in our understandings of equality. Throughout her writing she weaves in stories of her daughter born with multiple disabilities, and stories of what it means to mother and care for her. It's these narratives which illuminate and bring to life her arguments and theories. Autobiography also invites in and illuminates the secret/ hidden places to ourselves. David G. Smith (1997) writes that to become a teacher one must take up the difficult challenge of facing oneself. The act of autobiography can be "a true facing of oneself (p. 275) where our fears, distress, suffering, and grief are revealed and we are given the opportunity to befriend and embrace these as essential parts of our selves. As Smith suggests: What we fear, we repress, and what we repress comes back over and over to haunt us in our dreams, in our compensatory actions, until the day comes when we can no longer run away from it and have to make friends with it and embrace it as part of what sustains us. (p. 276) In the revelation and illumination we can find beauty uncovered in opposites (Snowber, 1999). We also can find wholeness, awareness, and self 56 depend on them to help out. I'm glad they're gone, having fun, and not here to hear him cry, but I miss the help they give, someone to sit with him for a few minutes means I can have a shower, make a meal...still I'm careful how much I ask of them, I want them to remember him well not resentful. I sit with N as I drink my tea. He lies on the couch, his head on a pillow. He whines and complains, but as long as I'm beside him he doesn't hit his head. 11:05 I briefly leave the room to get a book, but before I unzip my bag N's hitting his head and crying again. I grab what I need, hurry back in, wipe his tears, and slowly rub the red marks on the side of his head, reminded of the years when this was "normal" home life. Next time I get up I wrap him tightly in a blanket, his hands confined. He spent months like that and I hate to see him like this again, but perhaps I'll have another 5 minutes before he figures out how to wriggle free. 11.10 the phone rings. The conversation is cut short by his crying. 11:15 N's crying and begins to throw up brown bile. I clean him up and mentally note how long it'll be before I have to take him in to understanding in the contradictions of life and despair and suffering and hope that are at the "heart of life" (Smith, 1997, p. 277). The Act of Undoing Many Silences Writing an autobiography can be a political act because it asserts the writer's right to speak (Norman, 1999). It can be an attempt to claim one's life and find one's voice. In telling the stories not told before, "the stories about the spaces and gaps in our own lives, silenced or forgotten" (Houtekamer et al, p. 139) one can both locate and define self. I work autobiographically in an attempt to uncover the silences in my own life, to find/ locate myself, to speak where I have been told in countless ways to be silent, to take the road of least resistance, to keep things personal, emotional, intimate, uncomfortable, unsettling, and messy hidden. I do this also in response to the fear and stares and silences that distance that reflect so many people's attitudes to disability and difference. I tell stories of my son because he cannot tell his own. And I work autobiographically in an attempt to figure out how I can live and work and learn and create in that space which embraces and welcomes the personal. So that in doing this I can find ways to teach and facilitate learning which also dwells in that space. These silences. The silences in the night as I sat beside his hospital-24 hours to see if he improves, otherwise he'll be back in Emergency. N's still crying and by now I'm crying too. He was up several times in the night and I'm tired. I try to rock him on the rocking chair, it used to soothe him, but he's grown too big, too old for that he figures. So we sit on the couch again. 11:45 I change the music and I get half a smile from N. He's silent and waves his little blue monkey in the air, the same blue monkey we bought him after his first eye was removed. Pachelbel's Canon is playing and N listens quietly. I begin to relax. 12:00 it's noon and I should be leaving. It's my mom's 70th birthday and there's a party at my brother's house. I still have to stop and pick up a few things I said I'd bring. I should have done it yesterday, but I ran out of time and wanted to pick N up from Anna's as soon as I could so they would have enough time to themselves before I brought N back. I feel stretched between everyone's expectations and my own. But Sunday night will come soon enough and N will be gone and I'll miss him. 57 I clean N's face, put a fresh T shirt on (the bed waiting for him to sleep or watching death hover over him. Endless nights and days and nights all rolled into one as I went through the never ending motions of caretaking exhausted and numbed by far too little sleep. Stories Within Stories Our narratives construct our histories and our identities. Yet this is a complex matter. We choose the kinds of stories we tell and reveal and there are stories within stories. Each story we construct is part fiction and part truth and the self, with multiple identities, is only ever partially told (Leggo, 2000). Ursula Kelly writes "to tell one story is to silence others; to present one version of self is to withhold other versions of self (cited in Leggo, 2000, p. 12). Fragments of our lives and fragments of our selves are told in our narratives. As I was writing this chapter of my thesis, thinking about narrative and story, and the stories we choose to tell others, the story of Robert Latimer was in the newspaper again. I wrote a response to the article I had read and sent it to the Vancouver Sun. I spent a very sleepless night worrying about what 1 had done, imagining the newspaper spread out on breakfast tables all around the Lower 58 laundry pile grows on the floor) I think about what people in the store will see - a sick miserable boy bent on hitting his head. Still I'll present him as best I can, clean, well dressed, visible signs that this boy is loved. 12:05 fiddle music on. N listens and cheers up a bit. I wrap him in a blanket, give him a kiss so he'll know he's loved, and get my things together. 12:15 We finally leave. I go because my being there's important to my mother, and everyone else will be there. But I'm reluctant. What will they see? A crying sick boy? A "burden"? But maybe, more likely, they won't see him at all. 12:30 we're in the car driving, the radio's on loud. I look in the mirror and see N, nose dripping, drooling, mouth open, laughing and singing to Britney Spears. His taste in music eclectic -yesterday it was bagpipes he sang along to. I switch it to a country music station, generally his favourite. N pulls his socks off, flings them in the air, laughs and sings, his head moving to the rhythm of the music, feeling the sway of the car. The sun is shining and I think this is a good day. One day with him, but a good one, and another memory stored away for that one day Mainland, my story there, open, my child viewed with harsh critical eyes as if I had pushed him into a busy store and left him there to be stared at. I wanted to take it back, gathered it in, save it for other spaces. It wasn't published (thankfully), Latimer's story already old, already told, yesterday's news, as if telling a story once meant it was over and finished. But I think about it still, the story of a father who gassed his multiply disabled daughter, my story written in between his, different endings perhaps, but my story there too. when all I will have is memories. 1:15 we stop at Safeway. I wipe N's nose, straighten his clothes, and brush my fingers through his hair. We maneuver the aisles, people still don't move aside. N's nose is dripping again, he sings a little too loudly, people stare uncomfortable at his odd sounds. But today is a good day. N is happy and I love to hear him sing. Over the past several days I've been reading that the Robert Latimer case is before the courts again. The story he/the media chooses to tell is that of his love for his daughter. And I don't doubt the depth of his love for her. A s a parent of a profoundly disabled child myself I know the depth of love, the unconditional commitment, care, and delight one can feel for one's child even with minimal response back, even in the absence of response (although I still doubt that there is ever absence of response). My son was born with a rare chromosomal abnormality. He is described as being profoundly mentally and physically disabled, he cannot walk or talk, he is blind, completely dependant, and often very sick. I have two daughters as well and I can't say that I love my son more, as if love could be measured in quantity or amount, but certainly differently. I love him with a love that is deeply nurturing and protective, cries with him at night in his pain, grieves at how awkwardly he is received, and angers at the stupidity and ignorance of people as all they see is the wheelchair, eyes that are missing, or a body that doesn't function as theirs. I look at my son and see a delightful boy, full of life and joy and incredible determination and resilience. So I understand that story of love. But a story that is not told is that of how unbelievably difficult it is to raise a child with severe multiple disabilities who is in constant pain. The story of the hourly, daily, weekly, yearly, never ending, demanding, so thoroughly exhausting caregiving and the too limited relief and help available. Perhaps Robert Latimer felt he had no choice, that there was no relief, and no other way out. 59 But there was a choice, Justice Jack Major argued. He could have put her in a home. But which home? In a residential home or hospital? In B C at least that's not an option. A foster home where newspapers and former foster children still tell stories of abuse and neglect? I was also faced with such a choice. It was a profoundly difficult and agonizingly painful choice which seemed at every turn to negate my love for my son and my understanding of what it meant to mother him. How could I hand my child over to strangers to raise, and bathed and care for? Who would love him as I do? How would my child be able to let me know when things went wrong? Give up my child?? It would be shared parenting, an associate family I was told. But I would have to willingly let the B C government become the legal custodial parent of my child. Even joint custody would have made more sense and made the decision an easier one to consider. Also government cutbacks meant that it wasn't a straightforward decision. I couldn't just decide to put my child in a "home". There were meetings and committees and decisions, and at any point they could decide no, no more children in care, we have to keep the numbers down. I think about Robert Latimer and wonder if perhaps death would have been a preferable option as at least then I wouldn't have had my self so thoroughly destabilized at the choice before me. I would have stayed a loving, caring, nurturing mother. My relationship sustained. But my son is alive, very much alive, and I did let him go. My intention is not to condemn Robert Latimer for what he did. He deserves compassion, understanding, and respect for all the years of loving caregiving and self sacrifice he did give his daughter. But neither do I support his actions. I just look at my son and see how his life still touches and enriches the lives of his family and caregivers, his teachers, and those privileged to be his friends. And my son did stop crying, he recovered from the surgeries to remove his eyes, and the awful pain in his head is gone. And his foster parents love him. They have welcomed him and cared for him as if he was their own. And they miss him when he's home on weekends. The Robert Latimer story is not just one of disability, pain, love, and death, it also is a story of the impossible burden of caregiving with inadequate relief, the awful heart rending decisions a parent is faced with, and the lengths one might go to preserve that which is most valuable. It's the story too of how desperately we need more, more caring, family supportive options available, not just for parents of children born with disabilities, but also for others who find themselves in the often overwhelming role of caregiver. 60 Constructing and Re-constructing Meaning Autobiography engages the writer/artist in a search for meaning and making sense of life experiences. Through writing/imaging I take fragments of my life, reframe and reconstruct them into images and narratives, reconsider, re-examine and reflect, then reconstruct them again into a larger whole. I live and re-live these experiences as I write and image. As Renee Norman suggests, "The story of a life is both story and life. We live an event, and then live it again when we write and even re-write that event" (1999, p. 52). In the writing and imaging and re-living I look to construct and reconstruct meaning, deeper understanding, knowledge, and identity. Neil Postman believes that the most significant crisis facing education today is that students and teachers alike need to remember that the reason for education and learning is to find meaning in life itself. By going deeply and courageously into our own lives, perhaps we have, in our own way, begun to face this crisis. (Houtekamer et al. p. 139) Autobiographic inquiry, then, requires that the writer/artist "live a life of awareness" (Sumara and Carson, 1997, p. xv) with an "openness to the complexity of the relations among people and things" (p. xv). As I wrote and imaged I found that I understood the beginning as I wrote the end. My experience and understanding being circular not linear. If you trace the stitches holding the three layers of my quilt together you will find they trace in and through the images, some hidden behind the squares, curving in on themselves, circular and cyclical like the seasons. My writing emerged much like my quilt did, fragments making up the whole. Like images juxtaposed, the fragments of writing inform, illuminate, and resonate with the 61 neighbouring text and spaces. ...when we write the narratives of lived and living experiences, we must be careful that we do not misrepresent the complexity of the experiences by writing narratives that exclude and silence difference and conflict and confusion in a misdirected zeal to produce tidy linear narratives with appropriately happy endings. Instead we need to honour the multiplicity and meaning making and mystery that are at the heart of the searching in our research. (Leggo, 1997, p. 3) IN THE SPACES It was late in the fall, the leaves had turned yellow, orange, and brown, and we were in Starbucks having coffee talking about life and loss and letting go. I talked about Nathanial and his move into Anna's home. You talked about your journey, a country left, the release of all you had known to embrace the hope of the un-known. We talked about releasing in order to find, losing in order to gain. As I went home and » 62 looked at my quilt I decided then to leave it open, with spaces, un-done, un-fmished. I had been trying to finish it, close the story off, find an ending, but I hadn't been able to find one. I still see that conversation and that friendship in the empty spaces of my quilt, and it breathes hope into those spaces. Hope that there is presence in absence, fullness in emptiness, and life in loss. Pauses, times of stillness and silence are critical to the development of our own sense of knowing...the silent spaces of our discourses may inform understandings in ways we may not have imagined. (McElfresh, 1999, p. 147-8) Nathanial was born in the middle of winter, a cold and bleak January without snow. When I think back what I remember first about his birth is not the moment of birth but the daily drive home from the hospital. I remember looking at the clock in the nursery while holding him, putting him back in his basinet nurses watching, walking out the doors, and the long drive home. Most 63 often I left the car window wide open so the cold air would blow in and keep me awake. But still I'd fall asleep at stop lights and wake suddenly to the car behind me honking. Strange how it's the leaving I remember first. Sometimes I think that when I'm an old woman I will still look for him. Perhaps I'll still think I hear him crying and go looking for him and again I'll feel guilty that I've forgotten him. I still do even now. Sometimes at night I'm sure I hear him crying and it's not until I'm standing in the hallway half asleep that I remember he's not here. And when I hear sounds that remind me of his complaining or his singing for a moment I think he's in the next room and I wonder how I could have forgotten him and left him alone for so long. I feel guilty for forgetting about him but the reality is I can't forget. These memories of him are written deep in my heart and mind and my body still remembers the feel of his. This is something permanent. But when I'm old and I confuse the past with the present I don't think I'll want to be told how things really are. I imagine my daughters fed up from telling me again and again that he's not here, that he left a long time ago, and I'll feel the agony of his leaving over and over and over again. I think I'll just want to be told that he's ok, that he's not alone, and that someone is with him. 64 My grandmother is very old. To me she's always been old. Life's been hard for her and she says over and over in her very limited English "bad time, bad time". And now that she's older still she cries sometimes as she did when she was nine and her mother left her. 1 look at my daughter who is nine and wonder how her mother could have left her behind. But life was different then my mother says and war creates a different reality. She looks at me as if I don't understand war. And in a way she's right. I don't understand it, at least not as she does. I've only seen it from a distance, through my mother, through my grandparents and aunts and uncles, and through my father's eyes as he climbed the lookout towers in Switzerland and felt the war close, separated only by a river. Close enough to have felt that these were my memories and experiences. And as I write I wonder how different my grandmother's being left is from my own son's leaving. Maybe other mothers look at their children and think that they would never choose the leaving as I did. 65 Traditional quilt patterns and geometric designs. Quilts carefully planned out, pieced together precisely, with tiny perfect stitches holding the layers together. I can't seem to do that. Looking at my life, at the pieces all around me scattered. Trying to make some sense of it. The only way I can make a quilt right now is to just start, then see what happens. Moveable pieces, interchangeable, nothing fixed, maybe there even are some pieces missing, placed elsewhere, lost, and I haven't found others to fill the gaps yet. I don't mind the spaces or empty places much anymore, they give me time to think and reflect as to what I want to fill them with and how I want to put my life together. That's what my years as a single parent has given me, lots of empty spaces. An empty bed, an empty chair at the table, now two with Nathanial gone, empty arms often. I used to feel so lost in that emptiness. But it's been in those places and spaces that I've found much life. Looking into the emptiness, living in the loss, and finding my way to being content and at peace with emptiness and absence, to letting go and letting be. 66 67 CHAPTER 5: FRAGMENTS Cycles and seasons, growth, and life and death and decay. These things are written into the ever changing natural world. Spring, summer, autumn, winter. Spring with the promise of new life in the buds and blossoms ushers in the harvest and the abundance of summer and fall. Spring also speaks of the inevitable winter. Trees that once were full of fragrant blossoms lose their coverings and stand naked in the winter cold. Yet, even in the frozen winter the branches hold tiny tightly closed buds that wait for the coming warmth. Life always springs up again. Renewal. Hope. And it's this hope of life again, of new things, new discoveries, new possibilities, that keeps me pressing on. But it's only part of life. Cycles and seasons of loss, loosing, releasing, shedding like the autumn trees, are woven through life. 68 69 In the carrying, birthing, and raising my son who is multiply disabled, grief has coloured my life. My feelings of sadness, grief, loss, others perceiving these as if they negate my love for him, my pleasure in him. Not at all. Death and loss and grief, like autumn leaves in the dying becoming brilliant and magnificent, lend a richness and intensity to life and to love that otherwise would not have been possible. autumn leaves falling spinning dancing in the wind dancing as they die 70 \ We tend to live as if life goes on forever. As if it's a continual pressing forward, gaining, and achieving. But we all die. Death follows life as certainly as fall and winter follow spring and summer. It's this contrast that brings depth and brilliance to life. Like colours in a quilt against the black bringing out the richness of each colour. 71 I mark time by Nathanial's surgery. "Before he lost his eyes" I say to people, and I note how words mask and hide the harshness of the experience. His eyes were cut out, the eyeball removed and the contents of the eye socket cleaned out. An implant that seemed too large was pushed in with donor cornea stretched over top. Someone else's death meant that his eyes, although blind could move and hide too (unless you look closely) the fact that his world is dark. But I still say he lost his eyes, thinking that maybe softens the shock and brutality of it for the listener. Masking too my pain and grief. But if I think about it how horrifying it would be to walk in one morning and find that in the night my child really did lose her eyes? Perhaps they rolled under the bed among the piles of clothes and toys and are waiting there still staring into the darkness hopeful that someone might stumble over them and return them to their rightful owner. Words that hide, conceal, that only reveal a part, half truths. If you look behind the words and behind the images perhaps you can see what's there in what's not said, and what's not imaged. In the spaces between, as Ted Aoki would say, and inside, and under, and behind. We listen carefully, attending to what's not said, to what is unspoken or unvoiced. Laugh your head off. Cry your eyes out. That strikes me as so funny sometimes. Funny because it's so tragically real. Nathanial cried for a year and a half, day and night, without stopping, and then his eyes came out. 72 I looked at an empty square today and wondered how you draw tears What colour would they be? Purple? Blue? Grey maybe? And what would they look like in cloth? Tears are made up of water, but that image is too fleeting, too temporal. You cry, tears evaporate, and they're gone. If that were only true I'd colour them blue green like glacier lakes. Tiny sparkling drops like brilliant glacier pools dancing on my quilt. My tears though have not been like that. They've been heavy like rocks collected on a walk at the beach, filling my pockets till they sag with the weight. I hold one in my hand and its hard cold shape warms in my palm and feels comfortable there. Comforting actually, and I'm reluctant to put it down. My life with Nathanial has been marked by tears. Joys too of course. The rare and wonderful joys that only can be felt as deeply as they have because of those tears. But it's tears I remember most. 73 Blues emerging in the colours of my quilt. Deep blues that draw me in. The crescent moon reflected on the midnight blue of the ocean. Rocking children to sleep, cradled by the rhythm of the words. Goodnight sun. Goodnight moon. Fighting sleep, resisting letting go, hanging on to one last glimpse of the day. 74 Overwhelmed by waves of sadness, grief deep like the ocean. You say that Your love is like that. Unfathomable. Deep. Rolling like the mighty ocean. Swept out here and uncertain if I'll ever find my way back. Scared even of these words here as I see reflected back again and again the intensity of my grief. Abundant life. This? Abundant pain and grief and loss? Is really the way to life only through the valley of death of darkness and shadow? Dying and birthing so inextricably linked. A baby's journey through the birth canal, out of darkness into the light. Dying to the familiar secluded comfort in order to be born fresh and new My marriage over slowly dying bit by bit until there was nothing left. Nothing preserved. Nothing left to touch, to look at and say this was good. Had it been over suddenly with the swiftness of a car accident or heart attack I would have been left with the memory of being loved. At least the memory of what I had thought or of what I had wanted. Maybe though remembering only what I wanted to remember, forgetting the rest, with images changing over time becoming something other than what they really were. At least this is real. Harsh, but real. 76 My child my baby your tiny body cradled in my arms. I still feel where I held you up against my breast and in my arms. I can measure your length here and here. Your head against my heart, and in the bend of my arm. There seemed to be too much of me and too little of you, and at any moment you'd slip out of my grasp. I knew your name before you were conceived, saw you, then felt you growing, stretching, trembling inside me. Cradled and loved. But you were born a stranger looking at me through medical articles, terrible pictures, and cold unfeeling descriptions. Your nose too big, your eyes too small, a cleft palate, hypospadias. Too many things wrong. One or two would be okay they said but this is too many. Numbers and medical words and charts. Tubes and needles and stethoscopes and monitors. Breast pumps, blankets that I held at night without you, stares and whispers, pitying stares and whispers that would stop when I came near, cold linoleum floors, harsh bright lights, nurses, doctors, specialists, students, residents, curious, poking, probing, dissecting, writing. Charts and more charts. But day after day as I sat with you, as I held you, and as I rocked you, I knew you again, the same baby I had carried. Still loved. Still welcomed. 77 While it mattered deeply in other people's reactions, in their stares, in their fear, it didn't matter much to me on my own with you that there were so many things wrong. You were loved here in my arms, here in my home, here with your sisters, still cradled and held. Loved. My son. My child. Your first birth had rocked my world. My contained, safe, and calm world. Had shaken me so thoroughly I'd never be the same again. Time again marked by your birth. Marking me, my change, my becoming, with your arrival. But your second birth tearing, ripping, leaving me fragmented, wide open, bleeding. This birth more violent that the first. Sudden. Forcibly pushing you out, expelled, gone. You've grown too big, I can't keep you here, my womb won't hold you anymore. Birthing you unwillingly. You born again. Me dying again. 78 Surprised at where I find myself. Expecting to find the comfort of an enclosed room, warmth and beauty in the surroundings. Finding instead seemingly endless walls leading out as into another world beyond the wardrobe into the harsh, cold, barren, desolate winter. The bitter wind stinging my face. Intensely cold. Surprised too at how few words I have at my grasp to describe the cold. I could describe the generativity, the green of spring, the fragrance of summer, the magnificence of fall, but winter has been something to be endured, waiting impatiently instead for the first signs of life pushing up through the ground again. 79 It seems I buy primroses every December and plant them out in my garden as a visual daily reminder that spring will come. Their cheery bright colours hold through the snow and frost and only just begin to fade as my first snowdrops and crocuses push their way up. I check my lilac bush for the promise of spring in the tightly closed buds and imagine it's May fragrance. I note again where my tulips and peonies and lilies will push their way up. But I wonder whether I do this really out of the hope of spring or out of fear of winter. Embracing and living in the winter seems to go against everything in me. Embracing death. How can one really do this? Life in me, in my garden, in the natural world, always springs up, pushes up through the ground, bursts forth again and again. 80 I've seen it in Nathanial. This life that flows through him, that drives him, that won't let him let go. Life that can't be contained within the limits of his body. Life that bursts forth in unexpected incredibly funny ways. Like his so sudden out of the blue shrieks of laughter... 81 82 Still, I've watched him die twice. There were many times when death was tangible and present and he seemed to be suspended motionless in an other worldly kind of place, a place where I couldn't go but just watch and sit and wait. But twice I stood by and felt his life leave. I watched him as his heart stopped, as he stopped breathing, and as he went a peculiar shade of grey. Both were frantic times for the medical staff, but for me time slowed to a dream like confusion. Here was my child leaving. And he would not return. I remember thinking of him as a baby, of his sisters, of his infectious laughter and exuberant screams, of his soft little hands, and of holding him, and that I wasn't ready for this. It was too soon. And perhaps it was too soon as both times on his own he returned to this world, to my arms, and to things familiar and tangible. But there will be a day when it will be final. 1 tell myself that I will acknowledge the end when it comes, that I won't choose life support. That the end always comes. That there will be a winter and life does die. 83 I'm told that the death and loss of a child is the most intense prolonged grief one can experience. But I wonder how you measure grief. How can you measure the depth of one's soul? Is it like measuring intelligence? You can only measure, chart, graph, quantify, what you can see and perceive outwardly. What about the places that no one sees? The places that are deep and dark and hidden and are unfamiliar even to me. 84 85 Then again I had an odd dream the other night of hedgehogs and deer coming out of my closet. I looked but couldn't see where or how they had come in. But still they were there curious, wandering into my livingroom. "It's spring" my daughter said, puzzled as to why I hadn't seen the obvious. "It's spring in Narnia". So spring again. Hope again. The hope of life again. Faith, it says, is the assurance of things hoped for. Perhaps this is faith. Sure hope that spring will come. That spring will always follow even the darkest coldest winter. Perhaps I'm unable to live in the winter. Experience it, taste it, touch it, but not live in it or stay in it. Loss like the winter is only a season and life will always come again. Written in the trees and on the leaves and in the seasons. Written on my quilt. Written on my body. Written on my heart. Whichever way you look, whatever view you take it's there. Death. Life. And death and life again. Dying and birthing again and again. 86 And so with the hope of spring this quilt is finished Back again at the beginning More accurately maybe seeing the end from the beginning The end is hope Hope of life Hope of spring Hope of something more, of new life over the horizon and around the bend. 87 88 My quilt finishing with my walks at the ocean. Finding shells and rocks, treasures lost in the grey sand as the waves lap around my bare feet. The feel of the wind blowing through me and in me, the fragrance of the salty air, perfume to me as the ocean speaks to me of eternity, of things deep, unfathomable and incomprehensible. But these beachside pathways I've stitched, instead of ahead, lead me back into my childhood, and into other years of faith and doubt, of searching, looking, discovering, finding, and searching still. 89 CHAPTER 6: SACRED SPACES There are many more events, writings, artworks not included in this thesis. To think that I could write from beginning to end (as if there were such a thing as an end), include all of my experience, describe all of Nathanial's life, or contain all of my studio research within these pages would be a serious error. What I have presented here is a part, a glimpse into my thought, experience, and process. I cannot contain the whole here. I can though "gift enough that a certain existence has been sustained" (Quinney, 1996, p. 381). I spent much of my research and writing asking myself "what on earth am I doing this for?" Still thinking that in the end I would need a small tidy package, some "useful" information, some measurable results or generalizable data to hand over, saying this is what I learned and discovered from this endeavour. Some information or knowledge for others to use and enrich their teaching practice. I could see benefit in my inquiry for myself. I was aiming to find a space to work out of which embraced, integrated, built bridges and connections between somewhat separate areas of 90 my life/self. And it was (and is) exciting to live and work with/in that praxis of artist/teacher/researcher, writing and imaging with/in the back and forth flow of my personal, private, and public lives. But what, I kept asking, am I doing this for? What practical, useful value was there in this for others? I still felt that in the end I should be left with a concise summary and an immediate, practical application. I sometimes feel guilty about painting in my art room, like I should be marking, prepping or something. Even my students don't understand why 1 am painting...One girl asked who was making the painting and 1 replied that I was. Then she asked "What's it for?" I was so struck by this. What is it for anyway? Students make art because they're in a class and the teacher marks it. WHY would a teacher make something? (Porter, 2000, p. 5) I think though I had been asking the wrong questions. I had been assuming (again) that what I did personally, although it might have value for me, was separate from who I was as a teacher or artist. If Aoki is accurate in saying "she is the teaching", then this exploration is centered in the very heart of teaching and pedagogy, rooted in the intimacy of experience (Glazer, 1999). Max van Manen writes: Some argue that phenomenology has no practical value because "you cannot do anything with phenomenological knowledge." From the point of view of instrumental reason it may be quite true to say that we cannot do anything with phenomenological knowledge. 91 But to paraphrase Heidegger, the more important question is not: Can we do something with phenomenology? Rather we should wonder: Can phenomenology, if we concern ourselves deeply with it, do something with us? (1998, p. 45) I remember in one of our early A/R/T meetings gathering in Rita's office as she showed us her art work created in response to a childhood rape. It was her explorations in text and in image and in her words as she talked about it which gave me the courage to go deeply into my own experiences with Nathanial. I saw also how her story was received. I had been hesitant to open my personal life and struggles in fear of what others might think, perhaps being considered too emotional, too subjective, and taken less seriously as a result. Yet, I saw Rita's story received with an attitude of respect and honouring and in that felt an invitation extended to look beyond words and theories to lived experiences, embracing our full humanness. It was a story returned in "good company" (Grumet, 1991, p. 70). Carl Leggo quoting a friend, says "to live well takes courage and humility" (2000, p. 2). It takes both courage and humility to embrace our full humanness, not separating or distancing ourselves from others, but embracing and connecting to the humanness both in ourselves and in others (Remen, 1999). It is in this that we can find authentic human connection. It also becomes a place which nurtures "mental stillness" and peace. Rachel Naomi Remen writes that this inner peace "is not the outcome of distancing oneself from life, rather it is about knowing life so intimately that one has become able to trust and accept life whole, embracing its darkness in order to know its grace" (1999, p. 37). To live well, to teach well, then, is to act and respond with humility and humanness, "to live rooted in the earth" (Leggo, 2000, p. 2), responding with 92 courage and hope, and imparting the same to others. In this chapter then, I return to van Manen's questions and examine what this inquiry has done for me, for my teaching, and for my art making and continued inquiries. What has this inquiry done for me is a difficult question to answer as I still am very much in the research as I write now. I think I will still need time to step back, reflect, and watch and see how this works itself out (and in and through) the coming years. I can say though that I feel more grounded, more centered, and more settled. Max van Manen (1998) writes that "the writer2 produces text, and he or she produces more that text. The writer produces himself or herself... the writer is the product of his own product" (p. 126). So I find myself formed and made in the process. In this inquiry I have come to know again things I already knew, yet understanding and seeing them with more detail and depth. Writing separates the knower from the known...but also allows us to reclaim this knowledge and make it our own in a new and more intimate manner. Writing constantly seeks to make external what somehow is internal. We come to know what we know in this dialectic process of constructing a text (a body of knowledge) and thus learning what we are capable of saying (our knowing body). It is the dialectic of inside and outside, of embodiment and disembodiment, of separation and reconciliation, (van Manen, 1998, p. 127) 2note that in the use of the word "writer" I am also understanding that to mean artist, and "text" to also refer to image and art, as in this inquiry I have used writing and art making interchangeably. 93 It is in and through the research, the writing, imaging, and art making, that, as van Manen suggests, one can measure the "depths of things" and can come as well, "to a sense of one's own depth"(p. 127). As a result my inquiry has also been a journey of illumination, revelation, and awareness, a journey which is central to an ability to meet others well. As Thomas Merton writes: The inner "I" is certainly the sanctuary of our most personal and individual solitude, and yet paradoxically, it is precisely that which is most solitary and personal in ourselves which is united with the "Thou" who confronts us. We are not capable of union with another on the deepest level until the inner self in each one of us is sufficiently awakened to confront the inmost spirit of the other, (cited in Miller, 2000, p. 15) It is this willingness to go deeply, to live fully, to live well, to live a life of awareness and openness, and to embrace our humanness which speaks to our students. John P. Miller writes,"There is nothing that our students desire from us more than...our authentic presence" (2000, p. 10). So I ask myself whether in my teaching there is passion and life and hope generated, hope for new life and opennes to possibility Is there respect and attentiveness to ourselves and each other, as we learn to listen to ourselves and to our own experiences, do we also grow in our awareness and openness to each other? Stephen Glazer asserts that awareness and wholeness are foundational to "sacredness as the grounds for learning" (1999, p. 10). Sacredness is the practice of wholeness and awareness. It is approaching, greeting, and 94 meeting the world with basic respect. What is sacredness as the grounds for learning? It is rooting education in the practices of openness, attentiveness to experience, and sensitivity to the world. Spirituality in education begins with the questions: What is my experience? What is my effect? What are the interrelationships between myself and others? Are these being attended to? (p. 11,12) Classroom Spaces Currently my teaching centers around adults who are learning to be teachers. I found that as I began to construct my quilt and began my autobiographic exploration my teaching began to shift. At first it was a hesitant, tentative shift. I was still somewhat unsure of how it (or I) would be received. Up until this point I had kept my personal life mostly separate. Most students knew I had children, I had talked about my previous art teaching and education, but little else. But as the boundaries between my research, my mothering, and my art making began to relax, so did the lines separating my personal life and my teaching. I didn't specifically set out to talk about myself, my children, Nathanial, or what 1 was doing in my own art work and research. It just seemed to filter in. When we worked on quilts in class I brought in examples of my work, still in process, in bits and pieces. When students made collages about their past art experiences we talked about art making as an inquiry process. We discussed how the process of making images can illuminate, reveal, and clarify and I used my own work as an example. When my quilt was in the show I invited students to take a look. Some did. I told only bits of my story, lines woven in our conversations together. I don't think 1 95 ever said very much. Nevertheless, it opened a space for questions and for genuine conversation. A pedagogy of remembrance... gathers students and teachers together in a genuine conversation about life. For example, a teacher who lives well, with a healthy remembrance, is able to talk in such a way that students can learn to see that there is more to life that what appears on the surface - that there is indeed an Other side to everything, a silent archeology in every speech, a secret which inspires the saying, indeed an absence which is always present...and remembering well does not mean just remembering happy times, that is suppressing the fire by which we might be refined. More importantly, remembering well means remembering how each of us might struggle through life's bittersweetness with the kind of courage that enables life to go on. (Smith, 1994, p. 179-80) [there was] a very friendly and warm ambience in her class...She really made me feel at ease and calms me down after a stressful week. Her attitude about art and the process of making art is inspiring to me and makes me feel very optimistic and positive. She is very down to earth and on the same level of her students. 96 My search for meaning and constructing meaning through art, naturally lent itself to helping and encouraging students to do the same. 1 found myself teaching out of the awareness that we were all in this business of life together, each trying to figure out our own place and meaning within it. Meaning heals us...by reminding us of our integrity: of who we are, of what we are doing, and how we belong. Meaning gives us a place to stand: a place from which to meet the events of our lives; a way to experience life's true value and it's mystery. (Remen, 1999, p. 47) We looked at examples of other artists and how they had constructed meaning through their art. We discussed the meaning children make in and through their own art. We discussed social and contextual meanings of different art works. We struggled through students own efforts to create personally meaningful art images. Yet our conversations still seemed to wend it's way back to life, not just to teaching and art, but to how we were living life. Students talked about parents with cancer, heart disease, a beloved pet that had just died, relationships that had begun or that were ending. Other narratives of disease, disability, and trauma filtered into our classroom space. And this time my own perception of these narratives had changed. I began to see them, instead of extra, an added dimension to students lives, distractions, or difficulties that might "get in the way" of student's learning and participation in the course, as life itself, the place of real learning and being. And for the first time I felt I shared a genuine space with my students. Carl Leggo, in reference to Margot C. Rosenberg's work, Seams to Me: 97 STO(stories)RIES of Death, writes: Margot describes the "narrative zigging and zagging" that comprises the journey of her research: "What happens when we risk disseminating ourselves in the public spaces of the classroom? We witness the blurring of the traditional separations between teacher-student, student-student, and knower-leamer." As Margot shared her own story of grieving the death of her mother, she learned that the spaces between teachers and students do not have to be spaces of separation and isolation, but can be spaces of connection. (1997, p. 4) Thank you for making art so 'real' and for sharing your personal experiences She got me to think deeply about many aspects of art and life. I found that the atmosphere in the classroom began to change. As I offered fragments of my experiences (in conversation and in image) a stillness seemed to settle over the room as these also were received with an attitude of respect and honouring. The students reciprocated the same to each other in their own sharing of stories and personally meaningful artworks. I began to see compassion, caring, and respect filter in to the classroom spaces as personal narratives were welcomed and invited. 98 Compassion emerges from a sense of belonging: the experience that all suffering is like our suffering and all joy is like our joy...True compassion requires us to attend to our own humanity, to come to a deep acceptance of our own life as it is. It requires us to come to a right relationship with that which is most human in ourselves, that which is capable of suffering. (Remen, 1999, p.35) She was warm, open and inviting... The course was rich and fulfilling...[the instructor] was encouraging, supportive and incredibly respectful. She was very understanding and supportive...she encouraged the students and provided a safe classroom environment for learning. The relaxed atmosphere enabled us to be as creative as possible. Your ability to create a supportive classroom in which students could 99 eventually feel free to express themselves was one of the highlights. You provided us with a nice "secure " environment in which we could take risks. My task in teaching is to prepare students to teach art in the elementary classroom. It's a true pleasure and joy to teach art, to watch and be a part of students own discoveries and growing confidence in their abilities to create art and in their preparation to teach it. But it's a greater privilege to be part of their lives for a while. To pass on to them courage and hope if I can, to meet life well and to use art making as a means of living well and engaging well with the life before them. Sacred Spaces As I wrote this thesis and as I reflected again on my quiltmaking I began to think of art not just as an investigative process and research but as spiritual practice as well. I began to see art making as contemplative practice and as a prayerful act. I saw similarities between inquiry and search for revelation and understanding and prayer. In this way I came to think of art making as prayer, as a deeply spiritual act giving voice to the inner longings of the spirit with an attitude of receptivity and openness. Prayer can be viewed as giving voice to deep and inutterable longings. It can also be understood as conversation, waiting in hope with receptivity 100 and expectation. Celeste Snowber writes, "When we look expectantly, we look with gratitude; the space is open for possibilities; the imagination is ignited and many things are possible" (1999, p. 22). As I began to consider art as a spiritual practice, I thought also about my mother and the years she spent in the camps for displaced persons in Germany during the Second World War. I began to wonder what my mother's thoughts and prayers were as she crocheted, knit, and embroidered intricate and delicate tablecloths, runners, and bedspreads during those years. Did her handiwork as well give voice to deep inutterable longings? Perhaps each item she stitched is still a reminder to herself and to God of the secret things she never spoke. Susan Shantz, quoting the anonymous spiritual classic, The Cloud of Unknowing, writes, "You will seem to know nothing... except a naked intent toward God in the depths of your being...learn to be at home in this darkness" (1999, p. 65). She writes that before she could make art in that space, she had to make that place home. I found though that it was the process of making art which found me a home in that darkness. It was the process of making and imaging which located that space of death and darkness, enabled me to find my way in it. The process of art making was one of "turning the body inside out" (Shantz, 1999, p. 68) giving voice to deep inner stirrings. As I conclude this thesis, images of tidal waves still linger in my mind. My quilt finished with images of ocean shorelines and beachside walks and reminders of my (continuous) search for the eternal made tangible and visible. This writing brings me back to similar spaces. The image I'm left with is not of the actual wave but of the moment when the tide has receded fully leaving miles of shoreline exposed. In this moment just before the tide turns I imagine it to be 101 perfectly silent, the roar and swell of the waves still, everything suspended and timeless. And I'm anxious to get back to my art making so I can explore these places further. Endings and Other Beginnings And so we move on into another chapter not written yet. In September Nathanial will move on into a new school farther away from me. He'll move out beyond what has been known and familiar for the past ten years of our lives. He has in many ways already moved beyond in his move into Anna and Eckhart's home. Yet I find myself grieving this new move. The leaving behind of the old, although a good change, means leaving behind the places, people, and settings that have been part of his/our living here. My drive into Surrey to pick him up for weekends home will take me through different routes. The house we lived in, he was born in, and lived in with us, has new tenants. His school and his classroom, a place that had seen him through many achievements and successes and equally as many difficulties, will have other children occupying the space. These places, rooms, and walls that had become so familiar as they seemed to hold secrets and stories, things I knew about and others that I didn't, daily happenings and reminders of my son's place in the world. And in each of these losses I feel and grieve again the final leaving that is a constant presence. Yet I find myself learning to befriend death. To see death in these changes and leavings and see also hope that in every death there is the promise of new life. we have treasures in these jars of clay... 102 Perhaps all ethnography is about wonderment, about the ecstacy that comes in looking between the cracks, beyond the veil. We are playing in fields of Time-and we entertain its good friend, Death. The letter and photograph give us evidence of time past and time passing. What once existed no longer exists, except in memory, in the viewing of the artifact that is letter and photograph. In the evidence is the fact of life and death. (Quinney, 1996, p. 381) And so how will I live now? How will I live with the presence of death? How will I make these moments count? How will I value and take hold of the present knowing that it's only for a time? How will I live the present knowing that I will see Nathanial's passing, my children will grow and leave, I will move on from these years here, people I love will move and leave, that I cannot hold on forever to this present. Today I talked to Anna, Nathanial's sick again. Things can change so quickly for him. After a weekend home where he was so very happy and well, he's suddenly sick. And after years of living with the nearly tangible presence of death my 103 automatic response is to ask am I ready. If this were his last day, would I be ready? I don't think I'll ever be ready in that I'll face his death fully prepared, steady, and anchored. I fully expect to be thrown again into the dark unknown. But have I lived with him so that I have no regrets? Have I lived and loved fully? Have I given my best and received and welcomed him without reserve? And today I feel full, full of the incredible privilege it has been/ is to know him and to have been his mother. 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