Friday, February 18, 2011

Student of Life

This gorgeous textile is hand woven by Maya Indians of Guatemala.

I met with a career coach yesterday to help me figure out what the next chapter of my life looks like. Yes, I finally sought out a professional to help me navigate "limbo land."  The first thing she said is "You're not in limbo. You need to change the way you are thinking about it. You are going to school. You are a student of life." That resonated so well with me and today I was back at school. Literally.

I live about a half-mile from University of Washington, my alma mater. When I set out on my walk this morning I thought I would take a quick walk through campus, maybe pop in the Burke Museum on the UW campus, which I have been meaning to visit for years, and then head down to U Village to buy a new pair of sunglasses. (I am ready for spring!)

Instead, I saw a big sign for the Burke Museum (above) that compelled me to stop in. I have drug my feet for years because it is a natural history and culture museum and not an art museum. But something drew me in today. Actually to be specific it was the special textiles exhibit, an endangered art form for sure.

I was especially drawn to the hand woven textiles from Mexico and Guatemala. Not only did the beautiful colors and patterns draw me in, but they reminded me of the work I did at Starbucks with coffee farmers in those countries and because our wonderful nanny is from Guatemala. I also learned more about the civil war that plagued Guatemala from 1960 to 1996 leaving 200,000 people dead and communities in shambles. It made me want to hug my nanny for all she and her family have endured. Art and culture are definitely interwoven in our lives. Sometimes I think if I had to do it over I would triple major in cultural anthropology, art and communications, rather than just communications. Maybe it's not too late? 

At the entrance to the textiles exhibit is a sign with this quote:

“The fabrics of people unlock their social history.
They speak a language, yet more eloquent than the written page.”
-Lewis Henry Morgan 1851

This quote and the colors, the beauty, the history, the art and the ceremony all drew me in to the textiles exhibit in a way I didn't expect. All I could think of was a quote I read in one of my favorite books, The Happiness Project, before I went on my walk this morning:  "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."

I was especially taken with the natural dying process and the gorgeous red and purple colors of yarn that resulted from die made from tree bark. I asked the docent to explain how brown logwood tree bark produced purple die and madder root produced dark red die. She briefly explained the process and then said it is kind of a mystery. I was OK with that explanation.  I don’t think we have to be able to explain everything but we can marvel in the beauty of everything.


I ended today's "class" with a cup of yummy hot lemon mate tea at The Burke Museum Cafe (above), an old haunt from my undergrad days. There is something wonderful about being on a college campus and observing students and professors and remembering the days when my only job was to learn. The energy was inspiring and calming at the same time. I want to hold onto that as I embark on my education as a student of life.

I didn't make it to the Village to get my sunglasses, but I think I met one of my teachers this morning: the
Weaving Heritage: Textile Masterpieces from the Burke Collection exhibit. A blessing in disguise...

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