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Learning by Going Where I Have to Go: The Slow Process of Getting Going

Tower of Mosaic Books
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Tower of Mosaic Books.

In 2005, I spent some time with Master Career counselor Damona Sain, as I was feeling restless in my librarian world.  Every inventory I took said art, art, art, and librarian was not coming up, and in fact may have been on the “make me loopy” list.  I was making collages at my dining room table, and loving the world of color and pattern, but I assumed that I wasn’t an “artist”.  But I started listening to the voice that said “you can make art,” and when I discovered mosaic, I knew this was my medium.  The challenge was the kernel of truth in my librarian self, my attraction to research.  I read 20+ books on making mosaics.  The photo of the tower of books only represents books I own, not the ones I checked out of the library!

I read until I thought I would burst if I didn’t make a mosaic soon, but I was still in a holding pattern, wondering if I should read one more book.  This limbo was an uncomfortable place, as I searched for everything on “doing” but remained in my head.  Making the leap was the scariest part, but once I landed, I was on holy ground, feeling truly like myself.  I loved the poem The Waking by Theodore Roethke when I was in high school, which captures the paradox of learning by going where we have to go:

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Aptly, my first step was making pebble mosaic stepping stones, for the house Stratoz and I had just bought.  I was in heaven, sorting pebbles, seeing the subtle gradations of color.


Pebble Mosaic in Progress
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Pebble Mosaic in Progress. Photo by Wayne Stratz.
Pebble Mosaic Stepping Stones by Margaret Almon
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Pebble Mosaic Stepping Stones by Margaret Almon.
Big Pebble Spiral Stepping Stone by Margaret Almon.
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Big Pebble Spiral Stepping Stone by Margaret Almon.

What was a first step that you took toward learning by going where I have to go?


I’ll leave you with Kurt Elling’s lovely jazz interpretation of Roethke’s poem.


  1. Janet says:

    Great post! My own job situation has really gotten me pondering my ultimate path in life, so I’m really into reading stories like this, on how people found their true passions. I hope my “new” job is mine, but we shall see!

  2. Elise says:

    This is a lovely post. It is encouraging to hear “success” stories such as yours…and to see IRL your art knowing that you are doing what you love….. Love the poem…. Will be embarking on this journey soon….

  3. Serene says:

    That’s beautiful. The moment I knew I was really truly a writer was when I almost crashed my car trying to write a note to myself to remember that the freshly cut eucalyptus trees lining the street I was driving down smelled a little like lemon soap.

  4. Reenie says:

    I have been moderately creative- at least I think I have been- I paint, I draw, I write, I sketch- but I am not extraordinarily good at any of those.
    I have a brain for numbers- I think I may have a gift there. I cannot explain- but to me June is 6, November is 11… M is 13, A is 1, and so on. For a long time, I thought everyone processed information like I did, until I knew that they did not… I do not exactly ‘enjoy’ numbers like I enjoy sketching or writing- but it is my marketable skill- my bread and butter… I am a Chartered Accountant now…
    … all others remain ‘hobbies’ and I wonder if I’ll ever know if I were good enough to ‘explore’ them…
    Loved this post, btw- I’m glad you found your ‘calling’…

  5. Your number mind is cool. I believe that when you find a medium you love, that is when you begin to grow into “good” or “extraordinary” but that the most important thing is the exploration, learning, and growing. I hope you find your calling too.

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