Wolf-woman venn diagram poem

Inspired by a post on Twitter*, I have attempted a venn diagram poem. This comprises three poems: the central one, read from top to bottom within the centre of the diagram; the left had one, with each line ending with the lines of the central poem; the right hand one starting with the lines of the central one.

My aim is to present two different interpretations of the same experience – or is it? A suggestion from one of my followers on Twitter is that perhaps they represent two sides of me?

Hmmm…. interesting thought    😉

Why not give it a go…. good exercise for your brain! Also useful for considering other, non-human perspectives…

* https://twitter.com/brian_bilston/status/624222674559082496

The wonder of a moonbow

The hairs on the back of my neck prickled. I felt a tightening tension across the back of my eyes. I instinctively knew what was coming: a storm. One of those stunningly beautiful electrical phenomenon that pierce the mid-summer sky. For once I was grateful my old dog is no longer here, she hated storms (and the artificial firework version) with a fierce passion. Once in an attempt to escape the bangs and flashes, she had jumped the gate and run so far, so fast, that by the time we had caught up with her, she had worn away the pads on her paws. Most times when a storm hit she would pace the house, breathing heavily, looking for solace in human form, yet too restless to accept it when she found it. She left us more than two years ago.

Free to enjoy the storm (two untroubled dogs lie sleeping), I made my way to the top floor of our house, to our bedroom nestled under the roof. The windows open right out, allowing me to immerse my head into the night air. The air smelled fresh, the cooling rain landing in heavy sploshes. Such bright flashes, so high, and scattered across the sky. Bewildering – flash left, right, overhead, in front. Intermittent rumbles and cracks of thunder that seem unconnected with the flashes, no time to count between. Then I saw it. A silvery white arc in the sky. Was it a plume of smoke? Had one of the bolts struck home and caused a fire? No, it was unmoving, a beautiful, shimmering earthbound semi-circle, a bridge connecting sky and ground…

Flash! Briefly it revealed its multi-coloured form, then back to silver, again masking its brilliance. I stood transfixed, willing another flash… yes! And again! I could sense the storm moving further away across the fells. The arc dwindled from silver to soft grey, then faded out, it was gone. I stared at the space – nothing but a soft fall of rain and the outline of the fells against the night sky. Turning I moved to the skylight at the back of the room where the moonlight was flooding in. Gazing at it, I remembered hearing a voice on the radio informing me that it was near full. I noticed that the sky around the moon was uncluttered by clouds, sparkling with stars – no sign of the storm opposite. What a wonderful night sky, which left me questioning what it was I had seen. The next day, after searching books and using the internet I realised I had seen a lunar rainbow, also known as a moonbow. I found a poem by Robert Frost, Iris By Night (short extract below):

Then a small rainbow like a trellis gate, 
A very small moon-made prismatic bow,
Stood closely over us through which to go

If gold lies at the end of a rainbow, what treasure will I find beyond a moonbow? Only one way to find out – through the moonbow, that is the way to go…

Notes: A moonbow, also called a lunar rainbow, is a rainbow produced by light reflected by the Moon. The Moon itself does not emit light, moonlight is a mix of reflected sunlight, starlight and earthlight. Because moonlight is fainter than sunlight, moonbows are dimmer than rainbows.[i]

Moonbows may be found most often over waterfalls, particularly dramatic ones, with rapid flow resulting in spray. However the more transient, naturally occurring cloud based ones are very rare, difficult to predict, and require a specific combination of naturally occurring phenomenon: the moon must be very bright (full or near full), the rain must be opposite, the clouds dense enough to refract the light, but not so dark it obscures the view. It can be even more difficult to see colours in a moonbow – lightening from behind definitely helps with this!

[i] http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/encyclopedia/rainbow/?ar_a=1

Picture available from: http://www.lovethesepics.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Moonbow-and-starry-night.jpg

What a busy bee I’ve been…

busy beeSo busy I haven’t got round to updating my blog! I have lots of good news to share:

  • I passed the first module of postgraduate certificate in academic practice. In September I start the second, and final, module. This one is a short action research project, and I intend to focus on story-telling in higher education – nicely linked in to my PhD.
  • I entered an essay-writing competition – the RGS-IBG Higher Education Research Group (HERG) Postgraduate Reflective Essay Competition 2015. This is not something I have ever attempted before – and I won! The title of my essay: Developing an academic identity: What’s the time Mrs Wolf? (The answer to this is it’s my time) 🙂
  • I have presented at two conferences so far – York St John University and Leicester University – both were well received.
  • I will be presenting this week at the University of Cumbria’s Doctoral Colloquium – a poster and an oral presentation. Then I have a bit of a break until September when I will be giving two oral presentations (Exeter and Belfast) and a workshop in Northampton. Phew!

I have also been invited to give a guest lecture – really honored and so want to do it. Unfortunately I will be on the way back from Belfast (via a weekend indulging in ‘wolfish’ things in Edinburgh – more on that later) so have had to decline. Booooo….I so need Hermione’s time-turner!

My next post will be less self-promotion/congratulation – hey, don’t judge me, I’m learning to give myself a pat on the back occasionally by focusing on what I have done, rather than what I haven’t done.

The next post will take the form of a more reflective and thoughtful short story….

First conference presentation of the year only a day away…

Presentation written (including a short story, references to muppets, wolves and other animals), clothes ironed, boots polished… all I need now is an early night. Leaving home at 6.30am tomorrow to travel to University of Leicester for my first conference presentation of 2015.

It’s going to be a looooooonnnnggggg day! But I am really looking forward to it – the sessions look really interesting, and very relevant to my research. In fact, I told a colleague I was going and they manage to book on too, so I ahve company for the journey – in true kermit fashion “Yaaaaaayyyyy!”

More info on the conference is available here: http://emotionalmethodologies.weebly.com/

I hope to be tweeting through the day and will write a blog entry afterwards. For those who are interested, this is what I will be presenting:

Title: Developing an academic identity – It’s not easy being ME!

Abstract: Challenging behaviour in children can be really… well, challenging! Challenging behaviour amongst researchers can be even harder to handle – for their supervisors and colleagues – and for themselves! How do you ‘handle’ a creative researcher who is reluctant to use academic language, actively welcomes emotions in research, refuses to put away their toys and insists on playing at every opportunity? What about when they influence and inspire others to do the same? Perhaps most challenging of all is my preference for first-person language in recognition that I am embedded and embodied within my research.

I will be exploring what it means to be ‘different’. Some of the questions I will be asking:

  • Different from what…?
  • What role does emotion play in my research?
  • Does this approach affect my credibility – is it wise to be ‘childish’?
  • Will my research be perceived as insignificant if it is communicated in a playful way?

I will also be asking you some key questions for you to consider about yourselves – after all, despite the title, it’s not all about me!

  • What about you, how different do you think you are? What does that mean for you?

Research has greater impact at every level (personal, social and cultural) when we have the willingness to take risks, to break with the safety of tradition and to creatively be ourselves – but who is that? Perhaps I’m not being different, I’m just being ME? Let’s explore this together…

Weaving golden threads into a tapestry of life

Choosing an image that encapsulates this post has not been easy. Which bit do I choose to focus on: the threads, the weaving process, the end result/outcome? Is it really possible to separate these without losing the overall meaning? In the end I have opted for a picture of a tapestry created by one of my favourite artists, the delightfully controversial, persistently challenging Grayson Perry.


Like Perry, much of my work is auto-biographical in nature, and I aim to employ political, social and sexual criticism – although not as graphically or violently as he does. I also draw inspiration from many other people, including Rachel Carson, the environmentalist who has been described as a ‘gentle subversive’. I like her approach, less overtly challenging but still aiming to bring about change.

Grayson Perry is quoted as stating that, “I’m perhaps more self-conscious than some artists of the mechanisms that make me who I am. They’re happy to ride the waves of their lives but I want to see how the waves work.” I too want to find out ‘how the waves work’ – I also want to enjoy riding the waves. This has led to exploration of my identity in an attempt to answer the question “Who am I?

The photo used here is of Perry’s creation titled “The Walthamstow Tapestry,” which has been described as a sensitive depiction of the journey through life. In this picture of the tapestry the sails of the boat appear to be woven from golden threads – another metaphor carrying me forward…………….

The voices in my head…

voices in my headThe voices in my head are memories of the people in my life captured within my mind. They combine to provide the guiding golden thread of inner dialogue (my intuition) which I use to navigate the world and attempt to make sense of it.

The photo here is of a creative reflection of my learning on the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice. It is a paper sculpture of a circle of four people, representing the four themes of the course. They are joined at hands (support) and feet (grounding) and wrapped in a friendship band of interwoven threads. The threads represent social, emotional and theoretical strands of learning. The red thread linked my creation to those of my peers within our group of four (working together on this task). Their creations were very different, however we were united by the threads of conversation. 20150414_110927_resizedMy thread was red, the others used green, blue and gold. Starting separately, they became twisted and entangled into one twine, which when viewed at a distance, looked like an umbilical cord. I have been inspired by their stories, thoughts and experiences…I carry some of these forward with me. To capture this I took a small piece of each of their threads and rested it on the heads of my paper sculpture (see photo).

On leaving the room I realised I had lost these small threads. I looked around but couldn’t find them and sighed, ‘oh well, I have them in my head‘. Before I made it through the door, a gentle hand stopped me, tucked the small threads into my hand and a voice whispered, ‘I found them on the floor, here they are.’ I looked up and we shared a smile. ‘Thank you‘ I replied, meaning for so much more than just those threads. It was one of the others from our group, she had instinctively understood how I had been feeling and we had talked about it in the session. She had noticed that I was unhappy (a combination of her high emotional IQ and my expressive face), and had taken care to find out why. She could see that I do not like negativity. My default reaction to situations like this is to play the clown, diffuse tension, emphasise the positive, to ‘jolly folk along’. Like others on the course I have ‘issues,’ I have too much I want/need to do, and not enough time. I just choose to view it as a challenge, to take a positive approach.

I am enthusiastic about learning, I cherish opportunities to learn with and from other people. My approach has taken many years to form, and is the result of many different encounters with other people. I share a few of those voices (memories) here. These are the ones that have most helped me recently – perhaps they may prove helpful to you?

Seriously mate, you need to re-frame that in a more positive way! Why so negative?” The voice of a past colleague helped me to feel less isolated – she was by my side, seeing it from my perspective. This helps me to maintain my enthusiasm for learning when I feel trapped in a negative environment.

Remember the Wizard’s first rule: Look at the potential not at the problem.” A voice that guided me to take my first tentative steps as a youth worker, and continues to help me focus on the important things in life.

Flick the bird of doubt off your shoulder.” A metaphor for the self-doubt that plagues many of us as we start learning something new – it reminds me of a very special fellow PhD student, and makes me smile when I think/say it as I feel her presence nearby.

Boggarts featured at the … conference yesterday. I sensed your presence!!” A small comment within an email from a learned, critical friend. Reading his work had prompted me to apply to University of Cumbria to do my PhD – I wanted to meet him, know him better, learn from him – as I now can (and do).

I also have to acknowledge that some of the voices I carry are less overtly positive. I share a few here:

“Higher education isn’t for girls…”  “You’re just an over-opinionated housewife.” “You never finish anything…remember when you tried knitting?” “You’re being too reflective…” “Teddies? really? But these are academic people, they’ll expect something more clever! Better think again.”

These voices can also be interpreted in a positive way – they motivate me, they have helped me to understand who I am, and enabled me to be able to explain this, and if needed justify it to others.

I thank you all.

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the rest of the world calls butterfly…

The title for this post was taken from a chapter within a book by Ralph Metzner, who attributes the quote to American author, Richard Bach.

Within this chapter lie many words of wisdom, including: “Our experience confirms what the elders and wise ones of all times have said that we live in a constant state of change… We grow up. . . we grow old. . . but we always grow. Our lives appear to unfold in multiple inter-weavings of cycles of change at many levels, punctuated by discontinuous transitions.”

I found this book whilst searching for the derivation of the word ‘metaphor’. I found the quote on an online site, then traced its source back to this book (not ordered as yet, but saved to my ‘wishlist’). I understand now that Metaphor is a word that has Greek (is there no escape from those Greeks?! – see earlier posts) roots: meta – “beyond” and pherein – “to carry”. It represents a ‘…carrying beyond, a transferring of meaning from one domain into another’ (Metzner, 2010: 7).

The golden threads of learning link this wonderful new find to my earlier treasures… I am aware that it takes determination and patience to become a butterfly, and a willingness to move forward.

My learning journey continues…