every now and then there's a flurry of correspondence from folk demanding to know why i am continuing to destroy the planet by flying about in planes, teaching face to face instead of simply offering classes online.
it was the subject of lively discussion with my son this morning as we shared several portions of delicious caffeine. i wish i had taken notes as i've already lost half the words he offered (all of which were deeply insightful).
i had mumbled something along the lines of it probably being easier to stay at home ecoprinting mass-produced garments and plenishing the bank account than teaching instead except that this would go starkly against my life philosophy. and would be quite lonely. and i would miss the wandering.
that when boiled down to the essence, what really takes me out into the world to teach is not business, it's personal. it's the being together with a dozen like-minded souls eager to learn and keen to share.
it's the importance of making a connection, of spontaneously reciting poetry and breaking into song, about the burbling laughter and sometimes even the tears. it's that moment a face lights up with joy at the work that has come from a person's hands, the energy that fills a room when we collectively read the aleatory poetry created by sharing gathered words, the hilarity that follows an impromptu dressing up session (and sometimes simply knee trembling awe at the intangible presence of beauty) and when someone tells you that something in their life has been bettered or even healed simply by being present in a class. *
when we go online (as my son pointed out) we are (no matter how we try) dislocated from reality. people might sit at their computers, thinking they are being deeply social and being included because they can participate by pressing a few buttons but really (if they thought about it) being very much alone, no matter how many comments buzz back and forth or how many little hearts and happy faces are pasted into the screen. (i'm not being dismissive of those of you who live remotely and to whom the internet has been a boon, just trying to explain what i'm thinking)
to me there's little that beats being gathered around a cauldron or in a cosy sewing circle, sharing cups of tea and morsels of chocolate and above all, sharing community. and it's almost impossible to recreate the satisfaction generated by the ceremony bundle-opening in a happy group through simply demonstrating to a camera in a "virtual" class
signing up for a workshop (and i do this myself several times a year) means choosing to participate in a group of people who share your interests, being embraced, as it were, in a way that is non-threatening and nourishing to the spirit. being (t)here, being present.
it's why i am working at creating more opportunities for people to gather together in places where i can also prepare food for us all (i love that the roots of the word 'companion' are from a Latin word for "one who breaks bread with you") and i think that minds and bodies function better when fuelled on food that is delicious and healthy
sharing food communally for the duration of the workshop/class/retreat gives us the sense that we are truly companions on a journey, however brief
which is why the substance of my classes has stretched, shifted and broadened over the years. sure, i could simply continue to teach "an introduction to ecologically sustainable plant dyeing" in a purely academic way, but that's not how i want to experience my work with making colour from plants.
i think plant dyes are situated at a kind of crossroads, a meeting place for art, craft, medicine, chemistry, botany and ethnobotany, geography, culinaria (why isn't there a more romantic word in the English language to describe cooking?), ritual and poetry. i think that paying attention to the natural world in this way (and of course it's not the only way) makes for a richer life experience.
i see life as a glorious adventure, over far too soon and often completely out of my control. heaven knows i'm not perfect but, like Phyllis in "The Railway Children", i mean extremely well.
so i'm going to keep walking this path, sharing the delight of the ecoprint but at the same time also hoping to make a difference in people's lives and doing the best i can. i'm aspiring to do it with grace. i hope to keep learning as i go and to keep playing, because so much of what i have learned has been through play
i was lucky enough to win the interplanetary lottery, not just to have been born but to have so much choice in what i do and, with that, to be in the position to (i think) do something of use...and i'd like to continue sharing that in person, not at the click of a download**
so i'm leaving the idea of online teaching (and also classes on DVDs) to those who do them well.
you'll find me out the back, piling twigs and thistle heads, blowing a flickering flame into life, wrapping a length of well-loved string around a bundle or three,
with my pockets full of leaves and my heart full of hope.
fingers crossed i'll see you there.
*in the interests of total honesty i will reveal that there have been about five people in all my years of teaching who haven't liked what i offer, or have found it not what they hoped for... at least, five that were brave enough to tell me.
**making the PDF of the Bundle Book is the closest i want to come to that!
PS thank you, all of you who have been part of my journey so far. i am truly grateful.
if you've made it down to the bottom of the page
i've decided to give an early bird discount to those who sign up before July 22 for either of my two classes in Mansfield this year (which is a saving of $70 per class)