Each year, on the last week of March/early April, we gather together to remember Michael. Some of us had the privilege of knowing Michael or seeing him in workshops. Others must learn about Michael from his writings, recordings (whatever is available) and stories.

Peggy Sax, March 26, 2012

Peggy Sax

Peggy Sax

This week is the 4th anniversary since Michael’s death. The number “4” seems especially significant (4 years on 4/4); knowing nothing about numerology, I did a bit of googling. Discovering many ideas, I like this one best:

“Number 1 signifies intellect. Number 2 signifies mind. Number 3 is for energy. Number 4 is for unity of these 3 numbers and forming a society. Number 4 signifies society and social obligations.”

I started this study group as a tribute to Michael, knowing we could no longer rely on his workshops to bring us together in community. Surely (or should I say, “Shirley”) we continue to rely on his leadership and ongoing inspiration. We  began by reviewing the tributes to Michael (still posted onhttp://reauthoringteaching.com/michael_tribute.html) and many of his earlier writings. I can still hear his voice encouraging rigorous practice, and his belief in “the copying that originates.” Now reflecting on his frustration with “Michael White” hero-worship, I feel good about how we continue to honor Michael while developing our own ways of working. We’ve come some distance here…with more to come. I think Michael would be happy to know this, and would have all sorts of intriguing questions about our unique discoveries and developments in applying narrative ideas and practices to our our work settings.

I am grateful for this “island of belonging” and  for this opportunity to share remembrances and reflections with each other. I was “warmed” (another saying I associate with Michael) by reviewing our remembrances collected from prior years (which I will post below).

Sarah, I loved rereading your story of going for the lopsided walk with Michael around the seawall with baby Bailey in the backpack  holding on to Michael’s thumb. Can you still feel Michael’s connection to Bailey? I take away with me your words   “I loved him right away though – his kindness, his attention to Bailey, his joy in being out walking.”

Kevin – and others -shared the image of Michael riding his bicycle full tilt. In the spring of 2008, we also lost Mike Searle, an avid cyclist from Berkley, CA. I sometimes picture the two Michael’s chasing each other in the clouds. I also love Kevin’s words about: “Michael’s “wonderful spirit of joy, enthusiasm and energy, his  intellectual curiosity and heart, his willingness to push himself and others. ”

I so appreciate what Dan wrote about the sense of loss and aloneness combined with “the sense of determination in that the torch you shared will stay with me as with many.” And these words that Dan sent to Michael’s family: “Thank you for this opportunity to share my sadness with you in this time. I want you to know that Michael has been so close to my heart for a long time really, I have had his books by my side, I have a sloppy Jo with Adelaide on it, I have friends I met in narrative circles and of course in my day to day work I strive to have the clarity of Michael White. I pray for the safety of Michael and that we can have him with us some more, but if that is not to be the case then I pray that his generous spirit strikes us all with even a fraction of the magic that he shows is possible and that we strive to do justice to that enormous gift.”

And then Dan wrote this beautiful additional tribute, after receiving “Maps of Narrative Practice” posthumously delivered from Michael in his new mailbox, and taking it to a coffee shop to read and remember “how lucky we are to have him as a co-worker.”

I felt his spirit. i liked hearing how the client turned the tables in the intro and interviewed him about his messy desk. I liked hearing about laughter. I wished I could be ‘as good as’ Michael, and that I could have some of that laughter. And then a while later I realised I do have some laughter in my practice. Some of that ridiculous externalising craziness where you can punish the problem and get vicarious satisfaction out of nullifying, no, out of reducing, no shrinking it’s effect on client’s lives. (we do not want to promote combative metaphors here). I just allowed myself to indulge in Michael’s presence for a coffee and enjoyed how he said he faced his client interviewing him about his desk fortified by coffee! Michael was so grounded (that’s not coffee grounds) in the thoughts of his peers, who happen to be philosophers and such, that he had humility. yeah, I have laughter in my practice, on a good day. I wish I was part of a team but. To share coffee about narrative. Not many of my workmates over the years have been so enthused by narrative ideas. Normally I pay for supervision in narrative. I hope we get a bit close here cause I imagine it helps in the face of all this expert knowledge about internalised state understandings that privilege  professional jargon.

Oh, a soppy Jo is a messy jumper that is tow sizes too big made out of cotton and can be stamped with a logo. it’s really good having a work mate like Michael.

Bonnie you wrote, ” Reading what people who knew him write in tribute makes me feel like I did know him- I know of his effect on others, and can see how missed and how valued he was.”

What’s it like for those of you who never had the opportunity to know Michael in person?

And for those of us who were privileged to know Michael – and/or to experience his teaching –  what are you especially thinking about this week? How is Michael’s present in your everyday life? Are there particular ways you would like to honor this anniversary date? Or that we might do so here together?


Sarah Hughes

Sarah Hughes

Sarah Hughes: March 26, 2012

Peggy- thanks for this!  I love the quotes and I found the numerology perfectly fitting. Good one!
I am just back from a wonderful vacation in San Diego.  A great and much needed break.  I found myself thinking about Michael a lot. I know San Diego was where he died so I was searching for signs of him around me. I found lots!
I was staying at a surfer’s beach.  I know Michael loved surfing and I think as a teen he was a bit rockstar surfer on the beaches of Adelaide.  I think he would have loved the little funky cottage I stayed at as it was right on a beach where the waves just rolled right in and surfers were everywhere!

I also went to a talk while I was down there given by Dan Siegel. He is a neuro psychologist who questions science, and integrates ideas from many other disciplines to look at mental life – asks questions about awareness and relationships.  I am sure most of you know him.  He is quite fascinating and I was really longing to witness a discussion between him and Michael.  I also wanted to sit on the beach with Michael afterwards ( and perhaps a glass of wine) and discuss these ideas from “interpersonal neurobiology”  I just had to do this in my own mind on the bus an my way back to the cottage.