On playing well with others (I)

Hard to be a person. Hard to be one with other people. And yet how rich and how rich. I’m sounding like a self help book back cover. Kill me now? Or not. I’m thinking this, after a hard mother’s day (not having one of those right now) as I reflect on a couple of recent collaborations that have me (lord let me always write from just here) at the edge of my game.

One, a three-way conversation to be published in honour of a close friend who has passed. With me in it my two dearest friends in the world. And we have made each other nuts in the doing of it. E-mail conversations about our e-mail conversations about how to draft our draft of our rough draft. They all deferral and demurral, and I (this is deeply gendered of course) all irritation and eruption.

No one’s fault and no one’s foul. We each have a lovely fluid friendship with each the other. And those rare times we three are together, it takes an hour to choose a restaurant for dinner, and sitting there we are more three two-way friendships at one table, than one threesome.

So take three writers, each with their own way of working, each on their own arc of mourning, each vexed by the tricky work of plucking, from their private grief, what they’re ready to risk to say publicly. And each has well worn paths to the doors of each the other – ways of speaking and being together – shared language gesture and understanding – to which the third’s not privy, nor need she or he be.

The project could have been done by any one pair of us with some hardness and some tears and many walks back and forth along one of those footpaths. But we are three and every passage from one door to another has had to be done in the gaze of and for the understanding of a third. What were we thinking when we said yes to this?

Misunderstandings, hurt feelings, intemperate ventings (that would be me), bendings over backwards not to offend, lost gists, broken threads. Tensions, bumps, bruises, gaps. And always our unfinished work of mourning ready to gush hotly up through the fissures.

And yet – this is the point I’ve been headed for – no worry ever that the friendship was in danger. That ground has felt solid as a sky of stars.


The fruit of our work, of being our lumpy selves together, it’s going to be quite something. A lot more true honest real and fierce an honouring of our friend than the usual celebratory fluff you see at about this point after someone’s passed. If I do say so ourselves.

We find in good friends the parents our parents however they may have wished to couldn’t be for us. The “good enough mother” I read about in Winnicott I found in the flesh in these two. They’ve raised me up – what Pound said, m’elevasti. Much of what’s good in me, they’re to thank for.

89R scrap 1

One, lovelykind, wrote after I apologized for another grump. “Chris, no wonder Mother’s Day’s hard. A friend posted on FB yesterday, ‘Hugging everyone for whom today is a kick in the face.’”

After a day I couldn’t cry it’s that that gets me. My heart feels kicked in the face. Though I know “heart” is a dumbass metaphor and “Mother’s Day” a marketing contraption.

I wanted to write about collaboration in teaching, as well, but this post feels full, so I’ll save that for another.

The image atop is, leaves from from my red osier dogwood yesterday afternoon – thank you red osier dogwood god – plucked and scanned, for I said I was about total translation here, and that means translate the moment of translation, and one moment as I made some marks that afternoon was, leaves blowing out back there blowing into mind. So I went out and picked some fer yehs.

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headComposter

I write draw teach blog in and from the Pacific Northwest of America.

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