One of my objectives for this blog theme, Reflecting On 91 Days of Winter White Space, was to get outside and enjoy winter more by embracing the season. I’ve started doing that by visiting places popular to tourists and locals. Here Kip and I are near the Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture in the Walker Art Center’s Sculpture Garden. This is a very busy and special place in the summertime but it also offers a great place to visit in colder months. One of the things I plan to do this winter is revisit places I’ve been to in the summer and enjoy them in another season.
I attended a social event last Saturday night at the home of friends. There were about sixty guests present who were enjoying each other’s company. One person I met and spent time talking to was a fellow educator who moved here from Europe this past summer. I was interested in what brought him here, how he liked the area, and how his school year was going. He commented to me that I didn’t talk a lot but was engaged in listening to him. He said he liked that and his experience was that not many people do that. He said people like to talk about themselves more than listen. I thanked him for the compliment and told him I was actively listening to and learning from him. His remarks got me thinking, “Can you have white space in the middle of a crowd?” I think you can. Even though there were many people around, I remember listening intently, focusing on him, learning new things, and being interested in this new friend. I found that to be white space time for me, giving someone my undivided attention.
I have heard and read from educators near and far about their daily commute. Many people relish this time and use it as white space. I know educators who stay connected by listening to and using Voxer during their drive. Others use drive time to listen to music, public radio, podcasts, or books on tape. My commute time door to door is twenty minutes and I like to listen to music. I don’t like using my hands-free cell phone or listen to the news. I like to listen to music, think about the day ahead, or reflect on the past day to get myself in the right frame of mind and spirit. Maybe your commute is time you can capture as white space.
Yesterday I was not feeling well so I took the day to slow down, focus on me, cancel and alter a few commitments, and spend time alone. I wasn’t sick enough to need medical attention or to take medication and sleep. I was coherent and was able to spend time reading, writing, and learning. It was actually an enjoyable day without errands, activities, and the busyness that comes at this time of the year. But, today I am thinking, “Do we have to wait until we’re not feeling well to have some white space?” Shouldn’t we work to create time for ourselves not just when we’re not feeling well but also when we’re alert, happy, and at our best? I’m on a mission to create that time for myself this winter.
I recently read an article that has had a huge impact on me. It suggested that if you truly want to be happy during winter, change your mindset. I’m doing just that this winter and am taking lessons from Norweigians who view winter as something to be enjoyed, not something to be endured. One way they do that is to enjoy and marvel at the sheer beauty of the season. That’s what I did this morning as I watched this amazing sunrise. Kip and a I bundled up and walked to a local establishment for breakfast, just like we did most mornings in the summer. I’m not going to hibernate this winter but am going to change my mindset, get outside and enjoy the beauty of the season. Join me?
In the winter, I get cravings for comfort foods and the time spent preparing these dishes is calming, peaceful, and white space for me. One of Kip’s and my favorite dishes is Khao Soi, a Thai curry noodle soup with beef or chicken. After some research and reading, I found an easy recipe for Khao Soi that necessitated a trip to an Asian food market. Besides being a learning experience, it was a exercise in focusing and paying attention because the ingredients weren’t as familiar to me as items in my neighborhood grocery store. Coconut milk is not the same thing as coconut cream and I needed thin egg noodles and not rice noodles. Can I use kimchi (Korean) or is there a Thai version of fermented cabbage? I enjoyed seeing and learning about different products and ingredients and this trip was not a quick in and out visit but a slow paced exploration of the store. One great byproduct of this white space time was a homemade bowl of Khao Soi almost as delicious as that of our favorite Thai restaurant.
Don’t tell my staff that I love morning arrival and afternoon dismissal duty, even during the winter. I want them to think I’m modeling for others, finding ways to be accessible and visible, and connecting with students and family members. When I became principal at Rice Lake I started spending every morning before the bell rings and the end of the day outside. This is great white space time for me. I get fresh air, brave the elements, and learn by observing driving habits, adult and student behavior, and school wide systems. I also thought that if I expect students and staff members to be outside, I need to be willing to be there myself. Arrival and dismissal duty are enjoyable for me for all the reasons I’ve mentioned and it gives me time to reflect, slow down, observe, pay attention, and learn. Okay, I might not be the greatest fan of my outside time when the temperature with windchill can be 35° below zero but I do gain a satisfaction on those days that I can handle the weather!