Remembering Elisabeth Walker,
who taught me the difference between
the way of learning by doing and
the learning by non-doing any copying
“I only show you the way I teach,
I am not the only one” (1999, Oxford)
“Don’t copy me” (2006&2007, Catalunya)
Among the many things Elisabeth has taught me,
I have come to understand these two quotes
as key ways of transferring the Work verbally,
in a discrete hint to everyone, not only to me:
”find your own way, walk your own path
with open eyes and respect. Bon Voyage!”
It took me quite a while to take this to my heart – because, I was a translator. I worked with words, not mind and body. How on earth could I use the Alexander Technique in the world of words?
Looking back today, I am extremely grateful to Elisabeth for her words. They made me write a Swedish poetry book about the Alexander Technique as an instrument in walking through grief, with my own illustrations. They made me translate part of it into English (Tiny poems sprung from the Alexander Technique and our Intrinsic Resistance against Change). They made me come to Lugano to give a workshop on this item. Elisabeth’s words, Don’t copy me, have made me cross my own borders and opened huge possibilities in the use of words about the Use of the Self.
I remember Elisabeth from John Hunter’s Summer School in Catalunya, swimming in the pool, like a black seal – without stress, guided by Ian Cross. I remember the question: Will you come again next year? And Elisabeth’s answer – It depends on my feet.
STAT’s poster for the International Alexander Awareness Week last year inspired me to write my impressions in a memorial text on a Swedish poetry site, poeter.se.
It went something like this:
there she stands, with her left foot on the pedal, our Grand Old Lady, next to one hundred years of age, dressed in her lionly yellow jacket with details in soft chocolate brown.
She is so chic, so elegant and full of life, taking the role of a mannequin for
“this wonderful Work” – illustrating the theme of the International Alexander Awareness Week 2013 “look … feel… and grow younger”. Looking as a not quite yet 75er, she is smiling to the camera – and of course, to the photographer that we don’t see – in her cunny, funny way, so full of awareness.
Did she then know or even sense that it would soon be time for her to enter the bike, and step out of the picture? Personally, I love to see it just that way, – that the same brave heart that once made Elisabeth climb the Matterhorn now was taking her into the bike saddle – in a symbolic last greeting to all of us in the Alexander World.
Elisabeth was one of the very rare persons I can call intensive, yet without feeling a certain exhaustment creeping into me. She owned a delight of life and a peaceful awareness that was enforcing me exact there, where I was standing at her side – in 1999, shy and insecure after the then almost three years as a trainee, exploring the “lunge”. Or later, with yet less than ten years of thin teacher’s skin on my nose – in comparison to her huge experience of seventy years as a teacher of the Work.
I remember Elisabeth’s beautiful garden in Oxford – and the explanation: ”My students… I always tell them how good especially gardening is for their Use of the Self”.
Her already many times quoted words “There are so many people to go on loving”, uttered to a colleague and friend a week before she passed Forward and Away*, are typical for her personality – just think of her closing words at the Congress in Lugano 2011: ”Go out in the world and teach this wonderful Work, go on with F.M:s work as I have done, with respect and joy, because the world is full of people who need you.”
That is how I remember Elisabeth Walker, I cherish her memory and am proud of the snapshots of her, me and my pupil in Catalunya.
That is what I wanted to share with you today. And that is, why I want to wish Elisabeth Bon Voyage there, in the Great Unknown.
And the tiny poems?
Don’t copy me,
and I misunderstand.
it is not about ”copying prohibited”
it is a hint – do find your own thing,
is encouragment to trust one’s own feet,
senses and secretly sleeping talents
* * *
* * *
have the copyright to
our own lives
* * *
THANK YOU, ELISABETH!!!!
written to be expressed at the commemorial concert in Oxford, due to unfortunate force majeur I could not attend the occasion. Perhaps publishing the draft may contribute to pass on her, and F.M. Alexander’s testament
* “Forward and Out” – the title of Elisabeth’s memoirs 2009
First published on poeter.se July 26th 2014