I wanted to open this week’s Notable Notes, which will focus on the #CLMOOC Make Cycle #5 Stories and Spaces, with an addition to my initial thought on this subject: Streets, Space, and Silence. After I posted my blog post, I wrote a Tanka poem about silence and my sister-in-law Betsy reminded me of another important, public, storied space: water! (That is her in the image above!) I don’t know how I could have forgotten about water as a place. I grew up on the shores of Lake Ontario which connected our small community to the larger world (see St. Lawrence Seaway) but also controlled our weather, provided entertainment, and sustained our local fruit farmers. Similarly the Erie Canal was another storied place shaping local history. Adirondack Lakes and the Thousand Islands are also bodies of water that shaped my childhood, but it is the Finger Lakes which Betsy specifically described that will always hold a special place in my heart. But enough about me…
In her blog post “Stories and Spaces within a #blimage challenge,” Helen J. DeWaard writes: “One image can shape our understanding, but does not define the totality of the space or place.” She is writing in response to a blog-image challenge, but this is such an interesting powerful statement it stuck with me and I continue to ponder it. I think about this not only in the educational terms that Helen proposes it, but also the human terms that touch all our lives. I wonder if this is the source of so much friction in our lives — the fact that some people don’t understand this simple idea. We want to think that one “image” or idea has captured all that some “other” is, but, of course, there is more to the story and it is our job as humans, if we want a better world, to embark on that journey of discovery.
Lee Skallerup Bessette writes about public places especially contested spaces and what we can and cannot do in those spaces. Some of her ideas are not new to me as we have had many conversations about the sorts of subversive teaching that we think is necessary to better serve our students. But the ideas she shares about the choices we make about entering, creating, and sustaining places, both digital and real, both public and private, are important, because these choices shape who we are as well as the world we inhabit.
I love Tania Sheko’s Meditation on Public Space, Or Space with a playful juxtaposition of images and words. The words in particular that caught my eye were: “In my mind I mix up the public spaces by pulling in images from dreams, photographs, memories, stories.” This is probably because I am the same. Isn’t everyone? How much of our idea about space and place is tied up in things we carried with us to that place? How much in words and images that others gave us before we even visited?
I was also struck by Kevin Hodgson’s Smattering of Poems In/Of Public Spaces — especially the idea that we are hitchhikers on paths we cannot see or touch just be using our cell phones or cable networks.
I will wrap up this reflection on stories and spaces with a piece by Margaret Simon in which she asks us to reflect on the values our public places make visible.
I invite you to continue this reflection, meditation, and musing about spaces and stories. I know I will.