This week was so delightful, particularly given the stunning fall weather which allowed us to spend less than a handful of minutes indoors during the entire week.
We continued our ongoing work on creative writing, research projects, and calendars, while integrating new concepts as they are introduced. After a discussion around the challenges of the original task to envision the year ahead in our calendars, we decided as a group to shift that focus and instead use the abundance of poetry and song to fill our illustration pages for each month of the year. It is a wonderful concept to think ahead and try to plan out one activity each month that we will engage in over the coming year, but in practice the group felt uninspired by the challenge. What inspires them beyond anything else, and what truly lights up their souls and bodies and minds as a community, is song. And so, as they do time and time again, the children guided themselves into a practice that is much more deeply connected to their inner workings and, of course, to nature and the rhythms of the year. What initially felt like a daunting task immediately opened up into an exciting opportunity and they launched rapidly into filling their pages. Another beautiful example of child-guided learning.
We returned to our maple grove after more than a month, and the following day walked to Fulling Mill to visit the beech groves. We continue to study the trees that are surrounding us here, their latin names, and songs that connect us even more deeply to them. Our swamp maples, or red maples, Acer Rubrum, have been a significant space for the children for the past four years, and the first place on the farm that the children began to create their own community beyond the yurt. Much like in my favorite children’s book, Roxaboxen, the children find their place, their voice, and their connection to each other in these spaces that are away from the structures and systems that the world has created for them. In these spaces they can have the agency to create a home - and beyond - at their pace, at their scale, and that meets their needs. We arrived and met as a group in the “town center”, a clearing in the middle of the maple grove, and I helped to guide them through a town meeting during which those that needed a “home” tree could find one, with the help of the group. They designated roles, professions, identified tasks at hand, and dove into their work there. We had a picnic lunch amidst the trees, and shared stories of the various forms this particular community has taken over the years.
The next day at Fulling Mill, we sat in and around a grandmother beech tree, Fagus Grandifolia, just over the stone wall from the farm, and sang our newest song in the beech grove. It is a call and response song, with six verses that move through the parts of the beech tree. Without sharing the sad reality of the beech trees, as they are dying off in huge numbers across the Northeast due to Beech Leaf Disease, I simply invited the children to sing. I wish you could hear their voices now as each of them, all of them, belted out the Beech song, and then continued to sing every tree song we have learned thus far. They asked to sing them alone, without me. They asked to sing them again. They sat for more than 30 minutes amidst the trees and just sang, healing these trees and this community in ways they may not understand just yet. It was one of the most beautiful moments I have witnessed with these children. And yet I know this moment is not an isolated one - there is a current of song that runs so deep within this group it feels as though it can carry us all along through whatever may come our way.
This connection to music is innate, and yet if left without cultivation and nurturing it can easily wane, and as children grow, sometimes vanish. It took me into my adulthood to recognize the healing power of song, and I had to dig quite deep to reconnect to that innate voice. I am deeply grateful to Laura - our Woods School music guide - for catching the children in their earliest years, when almost all their words are sung, and carrying them through these years as they grow and develop their voices with music deep within them. In this way, they won’t have to dig as deep to rediscover their voices later in life. They may not have to dig at all.
We will get to share some of these songs at our Lantern Walk, which is planned for Thursday, November 16th, our last day of our fall season. I will send out another email with more details this week. To prepare for the Lantern Walk, the children are preparing a play as they have done in the past, to perform for the younger children and their families. It is a short play, based on the children’s book, The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything. A clever little autumn story:)
In alignment with this running musical thread, we reconnected with our ukuleles this week and the returning students introduced the instrument to our new students, taught each other to tune, played the C, F, and Am chords, and then played and sang their Woods School song to close out the day.
After reviewing our main four Stoic philosophers earlier in the week, we had a second visit from Scarlet who took us through various scenarios to play out different reactions to situations based on elements of Stoic philosophy. Each child was given a scenario and had to identify the things they could and could not control, and recognize how they could react to and prepare for these various situations. It is so powerful to see the children grasping these concepts, and guiding each other through practical applications as we move through our days here.
Finally, on Thursday we had another wonderful day of mentorships - from fresh indigo dyeing with Rebecca, to woodworking with Steve, to painting with Val, to Samhain preparation with Clare - with children rotating into different offerings with such ease and cooperation. It is a joy to watch them work together to make decisions, sharing tasks, addressing conflicts. It is just a joy to be with them each day.
Ok, last little update: this coming Thursday we will be pausing on our mentorships and holding school at Rachael and Mirabai’s home on 16th street in Edgartown for fall crafts, foraging, forms, and more. Drop off and pick up will be there, unless anyone would like to carpool with me from up-island. I will send out a reminder on Wednesday as well:)
Rain this week, so be sure to pack layers and rain gear!
Thank you, see you soon,
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.