Before I share about last week I want to acknowledge that our school community has lost one of its dear and precious grandmothers. Linda, Ky’s mother, and Frankie’s Nana, will be honored and celebrated later today with family and friends, and we are here celebrating her, singing to her, and appreciating her beautiful legacy. To Ky and Frankie, we love you so deeply and hold you here in whatever ways you seek.
Each year, the weeks around Ostara and the start of spring engulf us all in the overwhelming contrast of light and dark. As we witness the (re)birth of plants and animals, we simultaneously experience death and loss. The crisp air mimics the sharp, raw emotional nature of this time of year, and to observe and feel it alongside the children offers me such hope amidst the sadness and longing. A few moments this week brought these feelings right out onto the surface of the thawing ground.
The first was after a series of conflicts that had arisen down at the stream this week, as that space began to transform from a quiet work zone to a sought after play area with the weather warming (and the desire to cold plunge growing increasingly strong). As I mentioned over the past few weeks, the emotional current has been picking up and all of the children have been moving through some transformative personal and interpersonal shifts. I can sometimes feel a sense of failure or exhaustion when the children are going through repetitive conflicts. This week, however, I watched as the younger contingent of the group was able to sit together and thoughtfully, and compassionately share their feelings and their needs and gracefully move on. My only role was to ask them to gather and sit in a circle outside and they did the rest. We all felt quite literally lifted off the ground from then on.
Another moment was at Milokan, when we all spent time together after the school day ended on Tuesday. The children had built a fire and created sacred spaces within the greenhouse to welcome guests, after which we cooked and ate and played together outside, surrounded by that visceral community connection. Before leaving, we sat together to share our perspectives on how our collaboration has been going and where we all envision it moving forward. After having shared such rich and rippling experiences over the past five weeks, I had expected to begin a bit of a "slowing down” of our time there, and yet during and after the meeting the children expressed almost entirely the opposite feeling - that they simply want to continue our weekly full days there and the work that we are doing with Rick and Rebecca. Both Rick and Rebecca also shared their desire to continue, and the impact of this gift of simply being together each week, for which we all are so grateful. So for the time being, our Tuesdays will remain at Milokan, and we will take it week by week, listening to the children and connecting to their needs as the season continues to move us all in new and different ways.
A third moment of spring was when Laura came to sing with the group on Wednesday, and began by asking the question, “What is life?” The children’s words that sprang forth were jotted down verbatim, and the list of them is pasted below. (Suggestion: read this out loud to yourself or others)
love, time, clock, heart. death.
something that is not an object
sometimes hard and sometimes good
life is hope
life is alive
life is me
A lifetime is a time you have here
on this Earth.
The fourth moment of the week that shone through for me was during a burial celebration for two of the wild bunnies for whom the children had been caring. The group returned to their animal burial ground, in the sandy valley below the culvert, dug a hole and decorated the site with rocks, flowers, drawings, sticks, and leaves. We gathered there for morning circle and sang (truly belted out) songs they chose; songs they considered to be both “sad” and “beautiful”. Huddled around a candle they lit, arms around each other we sang “Deep Inside my Heart,” “The River is Wide,” “The River is Flowing,” “We Shall be Known,” and their newest song obsession from our geography unit “The Star Spangled Banner,” which they felt truly held those two sensations. As a participant, all I could feel was gratitude and hope, and I imagine the feeling was mutual.
Beyond these moments, the week was full of so much else. We talked about the connection between Ostara and Easter as we hollowed fresh eggs with Rachael and dyed them for our baskets. We shared the story of Passover and made matzah together as our bread for the week, building upon the themes of spring, and that unavoidable dichotomy of hope and pain, of freedom and slavery, of joy and grief, that is represented in each of these spiritual traditions. We had quiet reading and reading groups, always a wondrous sight to behold the children in corners of the yurt and outside, tucked together quietly consuming books. We started a new math and logic game, called Nim, and revisited our math gnomes as we begin the division function. And we worked on cookbooks, plays and stories we are writing, and completed three sentence synopses of the 8 Shakespearean stories we have read. Whew!
And now we get to start a whole new week!
Before closing this very long email I want to share one more announcement:
We are going to hold our second parent gathering on Sunday April 16th, from 2-5 pm, with our friend and acupuncturist Ty Romijn who is going to lead us through more zero balancing techniques that we can use to support our children. I will cover the cost again, and I would just ask that each family brings some food to contribute so that we can nourish the children during, and perhaps just at the end of, the gathering before we all depart. Please let me know if you can make it!
Thank you all, and see you soon,
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The Allen Farm program is for children ages six and older. Follow along our learning and exploration in the woods, on the farm, in our yurt, and across our island community, at the upper Woods School.