When I think about creativity and the power of imagination, An E Rip, my grandmother, is usually the first person who comes to mind. In most of her waking hours, she could be found creating for others, whether it were stories in her journals, poems to share with audiences who visited her in her home or camp, or with the numerous magic markers she stored in dresser drawers and cabinets (my grandmother was a hoarder, too). In fact, a favorite past time for her was to take two pencils side by side and to doodle parallel lines that dipped to all corners of a blank page. Later, she'd color the shapes and, eventually, she would entitle the work. This piece was called, "Hynka e Orgah Marzuko" - a Ukranian translation I do not have, but I think she referred to it as a dance. I've kept this piece for many years in her memory and it currently hangs on my bedroom wall.
My grandmother was never formally trained with degrees in art, craft, or language, although she read often (biographies! She always scolded me by asking, "Why would you read fiction when you can read the lives of people who were really alive?). Instead, she spent life working in notebooks and operating from the whims and fancies of her imagination, mind, and spirit. The world was her oyster and everyone who knew here found comfort in the whacky way she lived her life. As children, my sisters and I visited her home only to find our own doodles narrated into poetry and our scribbles turned into artistic pieces that she kept in numerous journals. I also credit my Grannie Annie for choosing to explore my world with images and words, and for eventually becoming an English major. My first year in college, the same year she died, she wrote long form letters to me sharing daily insights and curiosities. As I sat in lecture halls and classrooms, I longed for the free, eccentric world she inhabited - one with a passion for nature, wine, books, and storytelling.
My grandmother communicated much to the universe and this drive, I believe, is what kept her working creatively beyond the parameters of school, rules, and pedantic curriculum. For her, there was experiences and ideas to express. To draw, to paint, to write, to sculpt, to collage, and to doodle is to explore. She did this as naturally as breathing.
In my teaching portfolios, I often recollect Grannie Annie's influence on my life and state, "I became a teacher despite the rules, regulations, and formalities I experienced in traditional school." Instead, it was the out-of-school thinking of my grandmother's creative mind that influenced my desire to play with words and images as a career. In many ways, the restrictive nature I experienced in school squashed the brilliant life my grandmother lived.
For these reasons, it seems fitting to reflect briefly on my grandmother's influence on day two of this yearlong meandering on creativity. The creative mind makes magic despite the impact of all who labor to destroy it. In my own classrooms, I've worked to unleash similar outside-of-the-box thinking so that individuals can reach their fullest potential. Rather than shaping students to fit curriculum, I alter curriculum to meet the needs of the individuals I teach. Each is creative and original in their own right.
Looking at "Hynka e Orgah Marzuka" again, I can't help but interpret my grandmother's art as the ongoing dance between her and me. We are dancing to keep Kuumba or Kreativitet alive in everything we do. Her spirit lives through me and it is a movement that doesn't sit still. Instead, it encompasses the twists, twirls, and loops all around us in a colorful palate of possibility.
We are meant to be makers, so make we must.