Monday, April 30, 2012

Moving a little in order to listen

Some people learn better kinesthetically, moving slightly as they listen. I often build in movement to stories for young children who learn through their bodies. If kids aren't bothering anybody else, I don't mind if they are fidgeting or drawing or rocking. It would be great if we could let kids listen however they are most comfortable, from lying down to sitting to kneeling to wandering. I recently heard at a lecture on brain science that the best posture for learning is with the hips at about 135 degrees--slouching back. I ask kids to sit "criss-cross applesauce" (cross-legged) so everybody can see, even though I find that pose uncomfortable myself.

I understand kinesthetic learning on a personal level. When I'm listening to a keynote speech, if I'm not moving slightly, I space out in classic girl ADD behavior. If the images are strong enough, if it's a well-told story, I stay with it. If not, I go into deep daydreaming.

When I was in graduate school, I took notes and doodled, which always helps me focus. Partway through the year, I bought a small sewing kit, tiny scissors included. I began cutting small paper dolls, though not during class. There's something satisfying for me about tiny figures. 

Eventually I found folding scissors at the grocery store. I've carried a pair of these since 1986. The blades are small enough that I can even carry them on an airplane.

The very first paper dolls I cut were the flame-head dancers (see yellow figures below). Then I branched out. When I cut hands, the pinky fingers are always a little crooked. Now when I go to storytelling conferences, this is what I do during keynote speeches so I can listen. I give the cutouts away because there are always more in my scissors. Many storytellers put them in their nametag holders.

I don't follow a pattern. I just look at a one-inch square of folded paper (like an accordion), and cut, leaving a little bit attached on either side. The conference program book is usually pretty good material, with nice colors. Occasionally I'll take notes if I hear something insightful.

Randel McGee is another storyteller who makes cutouts, but his are quite different, beautifully done in the style of Hans Christian Andersen. I don't know if he does this in order to listen, though I know he does paper cutting as part of some of his shows.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Natural distractions

It's hard to sit at my desk these days. Here are a few reasons:

These have gone by already but were great while they lasted. I also had tulips in many colors, snowdrops and grape hyacinth. I missed the flowering of the weeping cherry, but was consoled for this by the dogwoods. 
I brought the purple irises from my house in Lawrence. The white were from freecycle last year, so I didn't know what to expect. Lovely!

Dianthus in a little strip next to the walk where I had the only bit of lawn on my property. I dug that up and added these, hardy chrysanthemums, sedum and snapdragons from the distressed plant shelf at the hardware store last fall. I added daffodil bulbs and the above irises. None of this is distressed now! 

Notice the clematis climbing the fence--last year I thought that was chokeweed and tried to pull it out. Thank goodness for its survival instinct.
This flower alerted me to the existence of the vine.

The clematis in front of the house is amazing this year. The roses are hiding behind this  vine. 
Here's the clematis close up. Fancy variety!

I'm not taking pictures of the lettuce and peas, as there are way too many weeds in the vegetable bed. I may take some of this afternoon off to deal with them.

Back to storytelling soon!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

More on renewal: Artist Dates

Not long after it was published, I read The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron.


I confess, I did only about eight of the twelve week course, but I got a lot out of those eight weeks. One of the basic tools Cameron recommends is a weekly Artist Date:
An artist date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend against all interlopers. You do not take anyone on this artist date but you and your inner artist, a.k.a. your creative child. That means no lovers, friends, spouses, children--no taggers-on of any stripe.
Sometimes I break the rules and take Artist Dates with friends and/or for a shorter amount of time. It's a great way to renew my creative spirit. I don't do it with a goal in mind, say, to find a specific story, but I do it to remind myself of beauty in the world.

One of my favorite Artist Dates is visiting the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Last summer, I treated myself to a membership at the Nelson. There is no admission fee at the museum, but a membership gives me free tickets to special exhibits and lectures, and free parking. I live about 20 minutes away, so I can (and do) just stop in for a brief visit. I don't have to plan the whole day for a museum trip, as I felt I did when I lived in Lawrence.

Yesterday a friend came to town so we went to see the new exhibit at the Nelson. I'm definitely going back--it's the kind of show that deserves several visits. The exhibit is of functional art, beautiful and useful pieces from earlier times.

While we were in the museum, we also saw the Bill Viola video installation, 'The Raft," a thoughtful and thought-provoking look at isolation and connection. I found a clip of it on Youtube, but it doesn't do the full piece justice (the clip is about half the length of the total). If you get a chance to see this, do!

We went up to see the statue of Kuan Yin, then meandered down through the gift shop before leaving, refreshed.

How do you renew your creativity?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Inspiration and renewal: Farfalle

As a self-supporting performing artist, I find that it's important to take myself out of my little world of storytelling or marketing my storytelling, to enjoy other artforms.

Today I drove over to Lawrence to see a wonderful show at the Lied Center of Kansas. This was part of the 2nd grade residency, Exploring the environment through the arts, which I've worked on in the past. The centerpiece of that residency is a performance at the Lied Center. Today it was "Farfalle," by Italian dance company TPO. It's a magical dance of the lifecycle of the butterfly, with music, color, light, shadow and lots of audience participation. Normally audience participation makes me slightly nervous, but it worked splendidly in this dance. The company uses what they call a "cheering carpet," which has sensors that create different effects when touched. Here's a look:

I love live performance. As an audience member, sometimes I lose myself in the performance and sometimes I watch with an analytical eye. I did both today, enjoying the sensory experience and also watching how well the two dancers worked with the children. 

More on how I find inspiration and renewal in the next few posts.