Tuesday 29 November 2016
Chris loved her work at Schumacher College. She felt at home there: nourished, appreciated, and given licence to work at the juicy edges of her practice as a facilitator and teacher. She adored the long walks along the River Dart that she took each year with her MSc students, so when I spoke recently with her dear friend and collaborator Toni Spencer, we decided to go there together to spend some time reminiscing and to put some of Chris’s ashes in the river.
While Ted chewed fallen twigs and splashed in the water, Toni and I made a fire on the bank, drank from a thermos of tea, and talked about Chris and about what was happening in our own lives. I spoke about finding new love in the midst of grief and Toni told me about her own journey of transition.
Only then did I understand why I had been called so strongly to this place. It was time to say goodbye to the woman that Chris was becoming before she died: a woman claiming her power and place in the world; painting, drawing and clowning with great gusto; writing boldly and creatively; and bringing her unique practice of artful inquiry into being.
Toni and I took it in turns to step into the Dart and release Chris’s ashes into the water. When I got back to shore, Toni pointed out a Robin that had been dancing on my abandoned jacket while I was standing in the middle of the river. It reminded me of the Robin that had made its way into Folly Cottage just after Chris died, but before I had a chance to get misty-eyed and sentimental, it defecated on a nearby stone and flew off.
Amusez-vous. Merde! clown teacher Philippe Gaulier would say to his students. Chris quoted it in her PhD thesis to stand for a “tenacious, non-sentimental insistence on life within loss that is honest, ready to risk failure, and absolutely courageous.”
It’s how Chris lived her life and it’s how I’m trying to live mine.