Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Final Project...

Finding Workshop

I think that this journey can best be described as a winding river (although I am partial to the word “tributary” in that it holds a stronger connotation of meandering), with lots of offshoots that could take me in various directions.  

When I first climbed into my “vessel” and pushed off from the shore, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to find.  I had some supplies with me and I knew that I would use what I had in new and unusual ways.  I trusted in the course, in the constant flow of water, to push me along towards a destination, I just didn’t quite know where that would ultimately be.  With each new piece of information that I learned, I took a side trip down a smaller stream, exploring the different modalities of digital storytelling much in the way I would explore a small pond or, in some cases, the edges of a vast ocean. 

As I traveled along through this journey, there were many times when I had to trust in the tides.  Often I would paddle furiously, trying to Get Somewhere…and then there were long periods when I would drift, continuing to move forward, but relying on the forces around me to help me along to the next moment.  It wasn’t until I came close to my final destination that I realized that I needed both; the quiet contemplation was necessary to balance the frenetic work of movement.  I never capsized, but I definitely took on a bit too much water.  

Tonight, though, I’m able to tie up to the dock. Drop anchor. Reign in the sails.  Rest for just a bit.  
I began by trying to find my father’s story and, instead, I found my own. The story that I ultimately set out to tell was about what I do each day in my classroom.  In the end, it became a love letter to Writing Workshop.  While I haven’t abandoned my father’s story, digital or otherwise, I am committed to telling the story of Workshop to whomever is willing to listen. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

An Exercise in Perspective

Thirteen Ways of Looking at My Father
(with apologies to Wallace Stevens)

Among many souls passed along,   
The only one moving
Was the soul of my father.   

I was of three hearts,   
Like a child   
torn between three beloved stories.   

My father buzzed through his days.   
It was a small part of his manipulation.   

My father and my mother
(were) one.   
My father and the other[s]
Are one.   

I do not know which to prefer,   
The memories of my childhood
Or the mystery of innuendoes. 
The truth uncovered
Or just after.   

Words filled the infinite days
With stories of unknown verity.   
The shadow of the truth   
Danced around edges carved by elaborate tales.   
The full text   
an intricate machination
impossible to comprehend.   

My father of my childhood,   
Why do you imagine golden tales?   
Do you not see how the colors
infiltrate the world around you
blending—ultimately--into darkness?   

I know your heart of justice
And the clear, inescapable beats of righteousness;   
But I know, too,   
That the lies are involved   
In what I know.   

When my father left the first time  
five days of vigil
one of many circles.   

At the sight of his return   
Flying in a golden light,   
Even the doubts of a small child
Would vanish, simply.   

He found renewed life
In a fragile story.   
Once, fear of truth pierced him,   
But then clear honesty
Boldly embracing the lie as truth

Time is moving.   
My father’s life must be flying.   

It was ending as it began.   
It was his reality   
And it was going to remain his reality.   
My father wrote   

the world he imagined he lived.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Cracked Pot

The Cracked Pot (click link to audio story)

This is an ancient Chinese folk story about purpose...and acceptance. It is, really, about recognizing that flaws are gifts and that imperfections are necessities.  While the story itself is short, the implications are significant.

The two pots seem to have a similar purpose:  to carry water from the river to the home.  However, one pot is cracked--imperfect--and is unable to hold all of the water for the journey.  The poor pot becomes more and more unhappy as it recognizes that it is unable to fulfill its purpose.  Unbeknownst to the pot, the woman who carries the two pots daily has not only seen the unique gift the pot brings to the world, she has exploited it over time and is able to show the pot the beauty created out of the pot's purported failure.  In the end, the pot has brought beauty to the world and the woman has shown the pot its true value.  

We are all cracked pots; we have beautiful imperfections that affect our world in profound and unique ways.  And, perhaps more importantly, we often do not see our own gifts so it is critical that we show others the value they possess.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Search Begins

I clicked from picture to picture, link to link, scrolling through text and images looking for a glimpse of my father.

I read through obituaries (finally finding the one that I had written--poorly, I might add) and medical research...pages upon pages of research... his name attached to professional papers with titles about immunoglobin something or other and C3 proteins.  I even found a handwritten census from 1942.

I kept going, a gnawing sense of familiarity in this search made me uncomfortable.     

Finally the Google search: “Howard University College of Medicine” brought me to the archived yearbooks.  I had been looking for traces of my father’s existence and finally, finally, there was an archive open to me, without a fee attached.  Howard University Yearbook, The Bison.  There it was.  My clicks were a little faster.  I searched “Roger Spitzer--Roger E Spitzer---Roger Earl Spitzer” and each time the message popped up instantly: no pages found.  I tried every date I could think of...maybe I had my dates mixed up? I searched the yearbooks 1960...61...59...63?  The date I knew was 1962, but with no trace of my father anywhere in this digitally archived yearbook, I was, quite suddenly and without warning, questioning everything.  Was this another one of his elaborate lies? Was this another story spun out of control, family lore that bore little resemblance to reality? My clicks were becoming frantic, no longer seeking out details, but now just needing confirmation.  In a moment of haste, I downloaded the entire 1962 Howard University Yearbook to my school issued computer.  All 302 unsecured pages.  Every last potentially virus-ladened bit of it.

I enlarged the text and started to look carefully, turning the pages electronically and watching the brown faces float across my screen.  I got to the end and stared, disbelievingly, at the back cover.  How was this possible?  I went back to the table of contents.  I went back to the college of medicine.  I looked again. Slower this time.  And there he was. Page 234.  In the upper right hand corner, just above Joseph Evans Sutton, Jr.  Looking remarkably like my older brother.

In that instant, I was reassured that my father was who he said he was. He hadn’t embellished his medical school education.  His enrollment was not a fabrication.  This was something that was, in fact, true.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

"Walking" by Roger E. Spitzer

The following podcast is an audio recording of a story written by my late father, Roger.  I gently edited it for length and clarity, but otherwise the words belong to him.
"Walking" by Roger E. Spitzer read by Amy Spitzer