Monday, February 11, 2013

Are you a docent?

Docent as defined by Merriam-Webster
noun \ˈdō-sənt, dō(t)-ˈsent\
: a college or university teacher or lecturer
: a person who leads guided tours especially through a museum or art gallery 
Origin of DOCENT
obsolete German (now Dozent), from Latin docent-, docens, present participle of docēre
First Known Use: 1880
I see these definitions as inadequate though...  Let me digress and when we finish maybe you will see why I feel this way.
The word docent seemed foreign to me until the mid eighties when I was taking an art appreciation class at Orange Coast College. I was making an attempt then to get my associates degree and maybe transfer to one of the Cal State Universities but I'm digressing too far. This class was eye opening to me because the teacher had a passion for the subject he taught. Past teachers had some of the drive but this teacher/professor just glowed when he talked about art. He arranged excursions to his home and three other homes of his fellow art enthusiasts for lectures on the art they had in their own home. The class is held in a huge amphitheater with more than 200 students so the at home visits were by sign up on a clip board that passed around the hall. I was able to attend two home lectures. 
The first was at a small condo in Orange where she offered wine, cheese and nice finger foods. She had a well decorated home with hundreds of little objects everywhere. The art she brought out to pass around was mostly pre-Columbian. She spoke of the art like her children. She knew everything about each piece. The students who were there with me asked questions about the origin, use, age etc. Next was the teacher's home in Huntington Beach. He lived in a suburban tract home but he had a stainless steel sculpture in his yard atop a pedestal, not what you would expect to see in a casual surf locale. His home was a mixture of art museum and the residence of the original Addams family TV show home. When you cross the threshold you couldn't miss the African burial canoe suspended over the entry way. Everywhere you looked there were fertility gods and figurines. Masks and artwork adorned the home but he actually handed us pre-Columbian art to hold in our hands and admire. OK enough back ground minutia. This professor was a fanatic about what he loved. So the part about this that refers to the docent you ask? We had one last required field trip to the Getty museum in the hills above Malibu. This is now referred to as the Getty Villa because they built a new museum in the Sepulveda  pass. What I was getting to was we eventually made it to the museum where we met the docent who was supposed to enhance the visit by giving the class a deeper explanation to the art we were supposed to see. As we walked into the side entrance we paused to hear the docent's description and when he was finished the teacher waxed poetically about  the purpose of the room in such detail the docent just listened and said he never knew any of the details the teacher was sharing. This went on throughout the tour. At each point the docent spoke and then he looked to the teacher to add what he knew. 
Sometimes the docent is the one who just need to listen to learn. When we stop learning, our life grows stagnant.  I see the docent as one who gives to others so they may grow. I have had many docents in my life. Many give without any restraint. You fiber docents out there who have given to me as a way to keep the fiber arts growing. Lori and Janel have given to me the love of spinning. I have given freely in your honor to any and all who want to learn. 
Recently I've had the chance to give and receive, I'm a knitter who understands the stitches and most of the techniques but the series of techniques needed to make the project often intimedates me when it shouldn't. I have trouble interpeting patterns that are not written in the way I think. One pattern that fits this is the Baby surprise jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman. I've had the good fortune that I met someone who knits like the wind and understands these patterns that befuddle me. Susan says I just over think what I'm doing. She offered to do a knit-a-long with me on the BSJ and so far so good. Last week she asked me to teach her how to spin so now I get to repay her and pass along the craft. Today was our first lesson and she just took to it like a natural. This isn't our first attempt at spinning. about a year ago we tried this and she wasn't really wanting to learn yet but now she really wanted to learn.  Watching her was so inspiring today. Sometimes when you are the docent, you learn a lot about yourself if you are willing to listen. Try to surround yourself with people that are passionate about what they love and share your passion with others. Be a docent or be a student, don't just be...
At this point I want to thank a few other life docents who have change or inspired my life. 
Celine for inspiring me to be true to myself no matter what.
Athena for letting me give to you what nobody ever has. 
Rex for giving me the strength think out of the box.
Terry for encouraging me when you knew I needed it. 
So many have given to me and you never realized the impact you had on my life. Be a life docent when you can.  

Life is Good