Byrd's Words

"This is not meant to offend or convert anyone.
Take what you want and ignore the rest."
— Byrd

March 9, 2001


by byrd tetzlaff

I have a confession to make: I am a shelf-lover! I love shelves. I love to have all my things right out in the open where I can see them and know what they are. Although I love and even admire the beauty and simplicity of a traditional Japanese household, with everything neatly tucked away and out of sight, I could not live like that. No, give me shelves, and lots of them. Let my eyes gaze over beloved bookays and ancient art projects from students now gone on to other things. Let me wander among sea shells brought back from friend's vacations and video tapes of favorite programs. Most of all, in my studio, let all my tools be right where I can reach out and touch them, my canes within sight, my patterns and plans for new projects in plain view.

Ah, happiness.

I have been told by an educator-friend that this proves that I have a Learning Disability. Normal people can put things in drawers or boxes and know that they are still available. Normal people have closets or cupboards with doors to keep the clutter at bay. Normal people (said my friend firmly) do not have twenty projects in various stages of completion strewn about the room. But then, I asked my friend, how do normal people exist? My eyes were wide with wonder. Ah, said my friend wisely, that is what you do not understand. There is no such thing as normal.

We laughed and spent a pleasent afternoon claying. But it got me to thinking.

I have known several of my students to be "Learning Disabled". Everything from A.D.D. to Dyslexia to "slow" learner. But I have never known a student to be without creativity, only to be without the self-confidence to try.

It occurs to me that so many of our labels are less-than-useful.

Yes, it is certainly true that many of us learn in much different ways than our school systems would prefer. Many of us are better suited to physical activity than to sitting still all day. Then there are those, like me, who love to sit still, in silence. There are those of us who hear things just once and know them cold. Then there are folks like me, who often must be told things several times before I can hope to remember them.

Artistically creative folks seem to think differently than others.

Of course, that is a vast generalization, because everyone is creative. But those who lean toward the artistic often have certain traits in common.

Many of us do prefer to have things in plain sight, especially our tools. We put up pegboards within easy reach of our chair or our tools in a holder with the handles where we can grab them quickly. My educator-friend says it has to do with the way our brains work. Left-brained, visual, intuitive. It may even be genetic.

I like that idea, a genetic marker for preferring shelves; right next to the genetic marker for poor spelling.

But, of course, none of this generalization means anything. Many folks who read this are highly artistic but they are right-brained, intellectual and analytical. They can put things away in boxes, on top of other boxes in a drawer.

I guess my point is, it takes all kinds.

We are often very hard on ourselves, because we are not like others. We think we should have a clean house, good health, cars that always run, lawns without crabgrass, perfect children, well behaved dogs, and wonderful marriages. We lookay around us and see others that seem to have their act together. And maybe they do, but I suspect the truth is everyone has part of their life in focus and part of it blurred. And within one life, the focus and blurring is shifting all the time. But we yell at ourselves for not having everything just right. It is true, we are not like others.

But it is also true that they are not like us.

So it's okayay to prefer shelves, just as it is okay to prefer boxes and cupboards and closets. It is okay to be just who we are, knowing that we have the power to change some things and the courage to face things we cannot change.

So Be It.


P.S. If you are interested in Byrd's Words continuing, please provide feedback. It feels lonely out here talking to myself.

Byrd Tetzlaff
© March 2001 All Rights Reserved

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