Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lessons from Karsh

Where has the time gone? My semester break at the end of April whisked by without fanfare, with just a quiet, relaxed gentleness. Then, it was back to lectures and seminars, research and more research. I also started the first of my practica at the university clinic, with two little boys as my first clients. I've been assessing and treating them twice a week since the beginning of May, and am having a blast. Meanwhile, the paperwork continues to pile up, and I swear to myself that I will not let it bury me. I shall strive, and I shall conquer.

I'm still managing to live a balanced life, which in itself is a minor miracle. I'm only in front of the computer when I have to be, when there are assessment reports to write, important e-mails to send, research data to code. Unfortunately, this blog has fallen victim to my general aversion to the computer lately. Springtime has come and gone, and in the revitalizing rays of summer, it's time to resurrect this blog of mine.

A few weeks ago, I went to the Edmonton Art Gallery for the last day of the Karsh exhibit. Yousuf Karsh was a Canadian photographer who was famous for his portraits, particularly of politicians and celebrities. He captured on film the people that made up the zeitgeist, the world's visionaries, shakers and movers. In the documentary shown at the art gallery, Karsh dispensed his wisdom on how one might pursue the dream of being a photographer. He said that being a photographer is about seeing the world differently, purely. It's about appreciating the fine arts, the most beautiful pieces of music, the quiet, unsung spirit of simple things all around us.

In the past month and a half, I've learned that any passion, any calling, needs that same way of seeing the world. Working with the two little boys at the university clinic, I've come to realize that the heart trumps the brain any day. Yes, it helps to have all the tricks on how to elicit a "k" sound if the child doesn't know how; it helps inifinitely more to greet that child every time you see him with a sincere smile and tell him how glad you are he's there. And, when a child has a meltdown and clings onto his mother's leg, it's okay to just stand and wait. The heart tells you that, even as your brain churns and churns and worries that you won't get through the rest of the planned activities. It's almost always in the unplanned moments where true learning occurs. One day, unexpectedly, the child who substitutes every "k" sound with a "t" says, clear as day, "Can I have a magic key?" when you play a treasure hunt game with him. You were going to direct him to just make that "k" sound without any word attached. But, here it is, a whole sentence, with two "k" sounds no less! Then, the child falls back into calling it a "tey" the rest of the session. But, you have experienced that elation, that "a-ha!" moment, and you've seen his eyes light up. You know it's only a matter of time before "Carl is a cool calico cat" rolls off his tongue with ease. And, the more important thing is, he knows it too. You hope that you get to see it when he does it, that it will happen before the summer is out and your sessions are done. You hope, and yet, as long as you keep saying "I'm so glad to see you" and mean it; as long as you praise him for all of his attempts; as long as you see him for the delightful child that he is, you have captured what really matters. He shall strive, and he shall conquer.

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