Figuring

I have often described my mind as being like a murky fishbowl. I squeeze my eyes tight, plunge my hand in, and clutch at water in the hopes of grasping something. Often, when I pull that “something” out of the water, it is only tenuously related to the concept at hand. 

Sometimes I am caught off-guard, but I try not to falter. I lay my slippery concepts out on the floor, consider their forms, and imagine the connecting pieces. I call this process “figuring” and by using it, I’ve learned a lot about how we are all connected.

“Figuring” is a cyclical process, a spiralling loop of informal, iterative, experiential learning. If you can imagine it, you can create it. If you can create it, you can test it out. And if you can test it out, perhaps you can evaluate it. Evaluations provide data snapshots, and those images fill my fishbowl brain. The puzzle pieces don’t form a cohesive image, but they’re all there.


I love figuring. I’m captivated by its cyclical process - of puzzlement, exploration, making connections.  I would sit and figure all day long, if I could. 

I haven’t found the perfect career yet. My favourite jobs have been ones where I’m in charge of developing, analyzing, and refining processes. I have been a dancer, a visual artist, a curator, a writer, a children’s educator, a floral designer, and a production assistant, among other things. I am proud to call myself a Child & Youth Care Practitioner. 

But no matter which field I’m working in, I have concentrated on the “how” of social learning. 

How do visual artists develop their skills and ideas? How does 2D design translate into the 3D sphere? How does the corps de ballet come to move in unison? How do living materials change the process of design? 

My STEM education has been limited, so I haven’t had significant access to quantitative methods of evaluation. My “figuring” has mostly been qualitative. What I’m beginning to realize though, is that qualitative measurements are valid.

The word “figure” refers to the container itself. A “figure eight” is a shape, a path, a movement. It does not specify dimensions, but instead, form. The quantity is only relevant once the form has been established

I understood from an early age that human beings could take on many different forms, but what interests me most of all is the “how”. 

My question is this one: How does a person come to take on their form? Are there known shapes? Known paths that can be traced to achieve comprehension? 

How do you figure?


Skywoman Falling

Sometimes, things don’t work out at all. Other times, everything just lines up perfectly without a word; a crowd of passengers filing tidily onto a bus, zipper merging.

I have been thinking about starting this blog for a long time.

I admit that I have had blogs before. It’s an idea I keep coming back to, because writing is a release for me. Writing even feels joyful at times. And I am most confident when I am writing: everything just lines up. Or it doesn’t - reality is my reality, after all. But either way, I have the desire to choose the right words. And I hope you will have the desire to understand. The words are the key. 

To begin, below, I will share some words by Robin Wall Kimmerer, from her 2013 book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. Sweetgrass (a plant native to Canada, and long used as an Indigenous medicine) has a Latin name, as most plants now do. 

In Latin it is “Hierochloë” – sacred bloom.

Skywoman Falling

In winter, when the green earth lies resting beneath a blanket of snow, this is the time for storytelling. The storytellers begin by calling upon those who came before who passed the stories down to us, for we are only messengers. In the beginning, there was the Skyworld.

She fell like a maple seed, pirouetting on the autumn breeze. A column of light streamed from a hole in the Skyworld, marking her path where only darkness had been before. It took her a long time to fall. In fear, or maybe hope, she clutched a bundle tightly in her hand.

Hurtling downward, she saw only dark water below. But in that emptiness there were many eyes gazing up at the sudden shaft of light. They saw there a small object, a mere dust mote in the beam. As it grew closer, they could see that it was a woman, arms outstretched, long black hair billowing behind as she spiralled toward them.

The geese nodded at one another, and rose together from the water in a wave of goose music. She felt the beat of their wings as they flew beneath to break her fall. Far from the only home she’d ever known, she caught her breath at the warm embrace of soft feathers as they gently carried her downward. And so it began.


If you’d like to read more, Kimmerer’s chapter can be found here.

I found these beautiful images here - if you are the artist, please let me know, as I’d love to give you credit.

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