As part of attaining a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of British Columbia, my husband is enrolled in a course to learn how to teach secondary students to develop their written composition skills. Reasonably enough, the instructor’s basic premise is that teachers of composition must genuinely enjoy writing themselves, if they are to have any success in getting their students inspired.
One of the activities the professor had his student (future teachers) engage in was to take a fifteen minute walk outside the classroom, pad of paper and pen in hand, and bring back with them a description of five sensations, one for each of the body’s five senses. Here is the list that my husband brought back with him:
1) The changing temperature on my skin, as I move from the shadows into the light and back again.
2) The faint smell of decay of an alder leaf crushed in my hand.
3) The hissing sound of the heating system in the building next door.
4) The bright orange colour of construction cones.
5) The taste of a small fragment of blackberry from a homemade scone, dislodged by my tongue.
Not necessarily profound or exotic findings, perhaps. But, what strikes me about this exercise is the fact that we so seldom pay enough attention to the information that our bodies are giving us as we move about our world on our daily orbit of activities. It is not very often that most of us actually take the time to stop and genuinely smell the particular qualities of the air that day, to pay attention to things such as the play of light and shadow on a building facade, or the taste of an orange as we bite into it. Could it be that each day of our lives could be vastly improved, if we took the time to actually slow down and savour it?
Another thing that this small experience out of my husband’s day brought to mind for me is the way in which creativity can be de-mystified and made more accessible for all of us. Do you remember being in elementary school, and each and every one of us was an artist and a poet (and a rocket scientist, an actor, a soccer star, a musician, and a gymnast)? Somewhere along the road, though, we began to lose this sense of potential and unlimited possibility, and our horizons became a bit narrower. Somehow, most of us came to the understanding that creativity is a special, cordoned off area of knowledge and practice, only to be engaged in my serious artists. In truth, I believe that creativity is an essential part of our identities as human beings. I also believe that art, as diverse as it is, is really just an expression of the way that we each explore and understand the world through the input of our senses, and the lens of our unique minds. What if we just paid attention to the details and wonders that surround us every day and recorded those details in song, photography, writing, painting, etc.? And what if we celebrated these creations, passed them on to our friends, and hung them on our walls? Wouldn’t we all be artists and a bit richer for the experience?