I had a teacher, at my grammar school, who taught me a lesson I’ve never forgotten. She was a graphics teacher. She frightened me. I would have told you at the time that I didn’t like her but I can see now that I was afraid of her. (She belonged to the Disparaging School of Teaching Methods.) I thought she could see how stupid I was but I think she thought all the girls were stupid. It wasn’t personal.
I didn’t do graphics because fine motor skills aren’t my thing; I came to it by default on a rotation in the O’Level timetable. We’d selected ‘art’ and now we had to choose between painting or graphics. I already felt like an interloper. I was called ‘the academic one’ and my sister, ‘the creative one.’ There was no sculpture or making on offer at my school and it was many years before I realized that that was what I was. I still doubt my creative ability today even though it turns out that my sister and I are both academic and both creative.
One day, Miss Whose Name I Can’t Remember, asked us to put up our hands if we walked from the centre of town, where the buses dropped us, to school. All of us did. ‘So,’ she said, ‘here’s a quiz for you.’ This is the only question I can remember. We walked past a big car showroom, Ford, I think. She asked us if we’d seen the three cars arranged precariously on a display stand. Of course we had; it was difficult to miss them. ‘What,’ she asked us, ‘were on the number plates?’ I had no idea. Every day I walked past them and I never noticed the number plates. She wasn’t interested in the answers. She wanted to illustrate how most of us go around with our eyes shut. I knew they were there but I didn’t see them. (It was something like ‘SEE 1’ ‘LUV 1’ and ‘BUY 1’) Every single day for the rest of my school career I saw those number plates with a sense of shame. If I think now of my walk to school those damn cars and sense of shame is back in an instant.
I still fight with myself to see. It’s tied up with being blind to the things that are there all the time and taking them for granted. One of the things I do very deliberately, though not often enough, is to go to new neighbourhoods so I can see again. I am forced to look.
That’s one of the things I love about going to my jewelry class. On my walk from the underground station, I pass this wonderful spirit house and Bodhi tree. I have no idea of the relevance of the zebras although this site gives some suggestions. I’ve written about spirit houses before here and there’s a great story from Catherine at Women Learn Thai about a visit to the Chao Mae Tiger Shrine here.