“You think people are silly to believe in ghosts,” an old man had asked Fred Foley.
“You should hear some of the things that ghosts believe in!”
R. A. Lafferty, “Fourth Mansions”
What is writing? What is being a writer? What am I doing? How do I start or finish?
I looked down at the bones and rotting flesh of a famous witch in the center of a roofless concrete tomb without window or door. The bones rose and joined and flesh began to form until there was the shape of woman. She rose up. I fled through the fairy tail theme park. There was a child sized pirate ship sitting in a canal with aquamarine cement bed so the water looked bright and tropical. Turds floated on the surface mingled with other litter and chaff. There was a tree house slide and a crooked maze all overgrown and broken up, abandoned. I ran along the winding tilting path of the maze. Whenever I looked back she followed, flesh gathering on her at every floating stride.
“I must get out and seal her in, ” I thought.
But one of the stone walls surrounding the park had collapsed into rubble. Panicking, I ran until I looked back and saw that she was catching up to me. So I turned to face her. As she came close I grabbed her head and looked into her pale, hard face and bright, empty eyes. I started to twist her neck.
“No please,” She whimpered, her face softening into miserable fear.
I sat down with her in the middle of a dark road in an empty city and held her. I had no idea what to do with an evil reanimated witch.
The Sculpture Project Continued:
We took a walk to see the hanging spiral sculptures in the art building. The children, parents and teachers all spread out underneath drawing what they saw and talking about it. Earlier in the week I gave S the opportunity to set up a sculpture project in the studio and she used a carpet tube and nails and two pieces of wood to make the structure. The children painted it and helped with the nailing. We also had many exiting discussions about sculpture.
I also organized a one day project in which a small group of students made structures using wooden blocks and sticks. They started by them drawing an idea. Then they constructed their idea in three dimensions using the blocks and sticks. I took a picture of it and they used the photograph to reconstruct their sculpture using glue to make it permanent. Then we displayed them with the photos and some of their words. I could tell they felt like artists after going through the process and seeing what came out of it. This total involvement in process and experience is what I find most rewarding as a teacher. Some children will not be able to complete such an involved process. Some of the children painted rocks with water, or arranged natural objects into patterns, some came up with their own activities or continued on their own path.
I gave S some time to set up a studio project. She used a carpet tube and nails to make a base for a project and then invited children to explore with her the next steps which turned out to be painting, wrapping it with string, and painting it again. Many hands, arms and faces were painted in this process as well. In the end we had a marvelous piece of art to display to which everyone in the class contributed some paint, ideas, or string.
This kind of creative process is what makes me want to teach young children. I get to teach and learn, discuss and negotiate, experience and guide acting as part of a group that is exploring ideas. It is a powerful way to include every member of the community in a learning experience through which each member can find their own path as well as share and combine ideas with others in the group. And finally, they can see the outcomes in their recorded words, photos and pieces of individual and group art. This kind of teaching feeds my inspiration and is quite addictive.