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Field Notes - 4/20/2016

smalina's picture

Yesterday, we gathered at Haverford with the artists with the intention of collecting twigs and leaves to fill our boxes. The artists arrived late, and we were all moving slowly, so it took about half an hour to gather by the duck pond. When we got there, we wandered around, checked out the skate house, watched the fish and geese, and collected interesting things we found on the ground, including sticks, seed pods, and leaves. Because not all of the artists had fit in the car, Stacie* went back to the center to pick up Valerie*. I thought it was interesting that we decided collectively not to budge until Valerie was there, not even to wander around the pond--we really wanted to wait until she got there to experience everything, because each step was an important one. We tried to do some bark rubbings with paper and a crayon, and eventually ended up stopping quickly along our path so that the artists could eat their snacks. This process was also a slow one--the artists clearly didn't feel in any rush, and Sharon* apologized when she suggested we start moving after realizing she hadn't noticed that one participant was still eating, saying "I'm sorry, Jacob*, I always rush you!" Again, we slowly made our way along, and ended up stopping several times to check out small details on trees or on the fence that surrounded the pond. At one point, we got to a small stream where the path was constructed out of a few rocks. I know that some of the participants in our group have trouble with coordination, but Sharon didn't question whether or not it was a good idea to move forward--she decided that we would move forward if people expressed interest, and planned to make the path as accessible as possible. It was a great example of interdependence, as we took multiple minutes to cross the stream, holding each other's hands, giving tips and suggestions on where to place feet, and at the end of the path, Sharon even moved a rock so that it was close enough for a participant to comfortably step onto it. At another point, we stopped to look at a toad, and Patrick* got a splinter from leaning on the fence. After a classmate of mine helped him out and removed it, it was still hurting, and Jacob* stepped forward to mimic the movement of pulling it out, calming Patrick down. 

I was really struck by both of these moments (the stream and the splinter) as examples of interdependence, which feels inextricably tied to empowerment. In insisting that we could work together to cross the stream, Sharon demonstrated the participants that they all had the ability to help one another--that they had skills and knowledge from crossing the stream themselves that would be useful for those who were crossing after them. I saw a noticeable shift in the attitudes of the participants after this leg of the journey, and I don't think it was disconnected from the spinter incident--when Jacob decided to step up without prompting to help his friend, even just by pretending to remove a splinter that had already been removed, he was clearly acutely tuned into Patrick's needs and struggle. This web of cooperating relationships made me feel all the more comfortable in my own role, as I didn't feel any need to step up and take on a leadership role. Because Sharon had made a space for adults to depend on one another, there was no reason for them to depend on me beyond the knowledge I had of Haverford's campus.

This was the last week spent with partipants directly--next week we will be working on the installation, and my role will primarily be recording audio for the artist statements the participants have written.  


Kristin's picture

I'm struck by how taking things slowly, working interdependently, and being sensitive to individual needs and emotions made possible a potentially tricky stream crossing. The pace of the semester makes it hard to s l ow  d o w n and work together, but we'd all navigate streams better if we did.  

alesnick's picture

is the way to go.  How can we denaturalize the pace of the semester?

glombaguzm's picture

Loved reading these field notes. Compassion and love really shine through: waiting for valerie to arrive, letting everyone eat at their pace, passing through a stream while helping each other, relieving the pain of a splinter. I also really think the setting of these field notes is so interesting. I never get to interact with the center goers outside of the center, so it's so interesting to see how their system works outside a familiar setting. I also really like your sentence "we really wanted to wait until she got there to experience everything, because each step was an important one." It really resonates with me.