Listening and Drawing

Drawing from Marybeth Rosenthal's talk
My favorite drawing from Marybeth Rosenthal’s talk about her love of cooking.

I have to say, this weekends trip to New Jersey and Jon’s TED Talk was a bit of a roller coaster ride.  Just driving in Jersey, with the traffic and congestion, well, I’m from Long Island  so I’m no stranger to it, but when you live  in upstate New York, you forget what it’s really like.

My nerves were jangling and so were Jon’s.  For him it wasn’t just the energy level, it was coming back to the place where he spent so much of his adult life.  The place he left to move to Bedlam Farm.   So between the two of us, we were a bit out of sorts.

The talk went from 9Am to 3pm.  We got there sometime after 11 and Jon was talking at 2:30.  Into our second or third talk, I started to feel the panic.  There were charts and graphs on the giant screen before me.  Suddenly I was back in school, in science or math class, the speaker was speaking a language I couldn’t  understand one that didn’t hold my attention.  I started to fidget, my leg shaking up and down, and then the din of feeling trapped fell over me.  I was paralyzed.  I was a kid in church,  what seemed like hours of sitting still and not being able to leave, stretched before me.  I was visiting my grandmother.  Something I had to do everyday of my childhood after school. Sitting silently across from her, as she talked on and on  in broken l English, my heart pounding, trying to think of an excuse to leave.  Trapped, once again I was trapped.  This is not what I expected from a TED Talk.   I started to get angry.  I imagined myself walking up on stage and strangling the speaker.  How dare she make me sit here and listen to this.  How dare she make me look at charts and graphs.  And then it dawned on me.  She wasn’t making me do anything,  I wasn’t trapped, I didn’t have to stay.   Quietly, I got up and slipped out the door in the back of the room.  Knowing I could leave and actually leaving was enough to break the spell.  When the talk was over I went back into the room.  I pulled out a sketch pad and a pencil from my bag.  If I could doodle, I could listen to almost anything.  And that’s how I spent the rest of the day.  Listening and drawing. I found some of the talks more interesting than others.  Some had visuals that made me put my pencil down and look as well as listen.

So it turned out to be a good day, for the speakers who got their message out to a crowded room of people and for me.  I got to exorcise an old fear and do some drawings.

Drawing from Nancy Eastman's talk
Drawing from Nancy Eastman’s talk


drawing from Joel Stillerman's  talk
drawing from Joel Stillerman’s talk



13 thoughts on “Listening and Drawing

  1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets caught up in those old reactions and forgets I now have choices. I’ve bookmarked this post to come back to when I need a reminder.

    I really like the boots on the chicken and the tree roots coming from the woman.

  2. Oh, my Maria…I can relate…visiting my Grandparents and sitting for hours listening to their Grandfather clock gong as every hour passed by…hours and hours spent in church. Oh dear! I love how you worked it all through and love your pictures…they speak volumes! 🙂

  3. Dear Maria, HOW I LOVE IT THAT YOU KNEW YOU COULD ESCAPE!! I am a wee bit embarrassed to admit that it did not occur to me, while reading this poignant story, that you could simply, quietly GET OUT!! So now I know that I do not have to avoid situations where I fear I will be trapped with the droning on and on and on…… I can LEAVE, nicely of course! Thank you!! Annie

  4. I’ve been in situations like you describe. That’s why I carry knitting with me wherever I go. Just like your drawing, it helps to calm and center. You’re free to listen – or not – and it’s your choice. Plus, it’s a chance to be creative!

  5. The church I go to has bags of drawing materials for the children to use. I love your drawings, Maria, they do speak volumes!

  6. I know this post is from a couple of days ago, but I needed it today. I needed a reminder that I always have a choice. I am feeling a bit trapped right now, not knowing what to do, but I do have a choice. Often we make choices based on other people’s needs instead of our own; that is what is hanging me up right now. The choices are not easy ones, but they are there. Thanks for the reminder.

    1. It’s so true JoAnne, but I find when I go inside myself, I always know what I really want, even if it’s hard to admit to myself. BEst to you

  7. I used to let my daughter draw and color when she was young in church… and now she’s an artist! A few months ago the priest said something that really caught my attention and I wanted to write it down – so I took out my cell phone and typed in my “notes”. You should have seen the disgusted looks I got. They must have thought I was texting or something. It took all my will power to “not care”. If anything it made me keep it out a bit longer … not sure I should do that in church, but it made me feel better ;P

    I think these drawings are fascinating – There is so much symbolism – and I wonder what the tree beneath the table means, the “sunny” face. Boy, it would be fun to use these interesting sketches for a poetry challenge! 🙂 It would be fun to see how close the poets came to what the talks were about.

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