Michaelmas: New Dragons

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Well, I really don’t like to go this long between posts. All I can say is that our lives have been remarkably full of all kinds of wonderful and challenging pursuits, including lots of work and play. While I enjoy writing here and really need to write here, sometimes I’m just too worn out.

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I will catch up a bit by saying that our Michaelmas festival at our Waldorf school was amazing. This year our son’s sixth-grade class created and manned the dragon—and what a dragon it was! Our new class teacher brought with her a host of new ideas about the Michaelmas dragon, its form, its symbolism, and how we might create it, interact with it, subdue it. I’ve been attending Michaelmas festivals for eight or so years and I’ve never seen a dragon like this one. Our students, teacher, and a team of clever parents engineered it.

For one thing, the dragon didn’t come lumbering onto the field at the appointed time. It spontaneously reared up out of the body of our community, out of ourselves.

Maybe I can show you …

Lucas at Michaelmas 2013

Each sixth grader carried a large Roman-style shield, silver gray on one side, gold on the other. They arrayed themselves around the circle, standing quietly among the other grades and spectators.

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The festival carried on as usual, with the twelfth grade performing a play for the people of the land: this time the Arthur sword-in-the-stone legend. The young villagers danced. When the alarm sounded, the valiant fourth graders offered the villagers protection with their newly made shields. The drum boomed. This is normally when a fearsome beast would approach the field.

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Instead, our sixth graders, dressed as Michaelic soldiers, began to march and form up into ranks. The terrifying drum continued to beat, but no one knew what to expect—no manxome foe was apparent. Saint George searched and searched the field of battle for his opponent. Where was the threat?

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And then a remarkable thing happened. The sixth grade moved again in response to loudly barked commands. They formed up into a Roman battle formation called the testudo, or tortoise formation. The shields covered their bodies, hiding them behind a great silver wall.

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From its hiding place, the dragon’s head emerged and the body joined up to menace George. A technology dragon was formed of chips and wire and lights, all silver and gleaming, and spitting smoke and ferocious noises!

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The dragon’s tail was wireframe with tech parts all over it.

It was a dragon representing a threat of our modern day, as we are frequently consumed by and controlled by our own technology. We are fighting, some of us, to maintain our humanity in the face of this changing world. Some are fearful of technology, some embrace it. It is both the miracle of today and a thorny problem. The important thing is to recognize it—how it is changing our communities, our families, ourselves—and confront it, and make sure that it is working for us, and not the other way around. This is how I see it, anyway.

Furthermore, I think it’s fascinating and timely. These sixth-grade children are on the brink of becoming (probably heavy) technology users. Perhaps some already are. Our son has dabbled in a very circumscribed way. As they mature, they will learn to use the Internet for research and for fun, join social networking sites, encountering friends and strangers online. They will enjoy video games and smartphones and YouTube and Skype—all of which are fun and exciting ways to connect in a global community. Navigating this will be new and strange and wonderful for all of us. And we must face it with courage and compassion.

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As usual, our strong, noble seniors surrounded the beast, and together with the sweet, hopeful spirits of our second graders, brought this dragon to its knees.

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What doesn’t show in my photographs is that our community was suffering mightily on this day, especially this senior class, for we very recently lost a student to suicide. It is a tragedy that none of them will forget, and this circle of brave young men and women was one shining soul short. I think no one ever anticipated that suicide and loss, and tremendous grief, would be a dragon to face on this beautiful day.

(Thank you, Hinmans, for the terrific video!)

Technology dragon with teacher

Afterward, the sixth grade class enjoyed the praise and congratulations of many. Some said it was the most interesting dragon they had seen. Many adults found it to be wonderful and thought-provoking. Our kids were somewhat unsure of this innovative design. Lucas even despaired that it was too weird, and wouldn’t it be better to have a normal dragon?

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Here they are, all tuckered out after the hot performance. I really love these kids. And we are all so very proud of them. Many thanks to our class teacher for encouraging all of us to embrace innovation and change. I think she is brilliant for getting this strong-willed class to march to her drum within days of her joining our class.

Here are the morning verse and afternoon verses by Rudolf Steiner that the sixth grade had been saying in preparation for Michaelmas. I especially love the second one:

Oh Michael,
I entrust myself to your protection
I write myself with your guidance
With all my heart’s strength
That this day may be come the
Reflection of
Your destiny-ordering will.
*
I bear my worry into the setting sun:
Lay all my cares into its shining lap.
Purified in Light
Transformed in Love—
They return as helping thoughts,
as forces rejoicing in deeds of
Sacrifice.

So, what do you think? Pretty different, eh? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Also, you can read about our past Michaelmas festivals here:

School Community Michaelmas Festival

Our Beautiful Michaelmas

Michaelmas Time

School Michaelmas Festival

Michaelmas in the Waldorf Kindergarten

First Days of School 2013

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Last Tuesday, September 3, was our first day back at school. I was over the moon to get some hours to myself. The boys were excited, but Lucas pretended to be sad about summertime coming to a close for this photo. The first morning was playful and optimistic.

Brothers (First Day of School, 2013)

Asher is in first grade this year and Lucas is in sixth! This is one of those milestone moments when you realize, wow, time has passed! Somehow Lucas’s new haircut makes him seem so much older.

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See, Asher was calm, cool, and collected, right? Lucas acted somewhat blasé about the whole thing that first morning. Though I knew that he was very, very jazzed to get to spend his days with his friends and classmates again. Lucas is also excited about having a new teacher this year. He is rededicating himself to his studies, and to his first school sport, cross country running, which is terrific.

Unfortunately for Asher, the first day of school proved to be difficult and scary. He became clingy and and weepy when it was time to go into his classroom.

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Shortly afterward the school held the annual welcome ceremony. All the classes and many parents attended. This turned out to be a stressful thing for Asher, who had never been to anything like it. He wept a bit until his new teacher brought him to sit by her at the end of the row. She rubbed his back and helped him to calm down during the speeches. The tradition is that the second graders give the first graders a flower as a welcome to the school. The teachers also give flowers to the senior class. It’s a lovely acknowledgement of their place in this beautiful Waldorf journey.

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Then, each senior student takes the hand of a first grader and as a group they walk through the school. The older student shows the younger one around, explains where everything is (playgrounds, bathrooms, classrooms, library, farm, etc.). This lovely young lady was Asher’s buddy. He was trying so hard to keep it together, but he was overwhelmed and sad.

He spent a fair amount of time that evening worrying about the next day. There were lots of tears and fear.

Day 2 for Asher started very rocky, but got better. When Ian and I picked him up after school, Asher was in good spirits and said, “It was better than I thought it would be.” Then he showed us his first form drawing and gave Daddy a drawing lesson. He said he met the Spanish teacher and learned some German words for colors. He was in good spirits, and enjoyed spending some special time with Dad in the afternoon.

By evening it was a different story, however. I was forced to admit that tiredness got the better of him and he … well, lost his composure. Again with the tears, the wracking sobs, and “Mama, I just don’t think I can make it through first grade!”

So, with plenty of cuddles and reassuring words, I lay beside him in the dark, and taught him that no matter how bad or scared he may feel, five deep, long breaths would ALWAYS make him feel better. I held his sad, shaking body and remembered that there was a time, only six years ago, when our positions were reversed. When his soft, trusting, tiny, breathing presence was the thing that kept me going when I was very sick, depressed, and terrified.

As exhausting as this mothering job is, as ceaseless and hard and infuriating as it can be sometimes, I am still amazed at the privilege I possess: to see this little being unfold and encounter the world. To see him experience his challenges and stand up and face them, to ride them out until they cease being challenges and transform into achievements. It is an honor of the highest kind.

Asher is teaching me anew about Michaelmas this year, in a way I didn’t anticipate. I am the squire who is tasked with helping the little knight onto the field.

The school days that followed have been progressively better as he became more used to his new school routine, the new expectations, new children in his class, a new teacher, desks, lessons, etc. He lamented to me several times, “Mama, it’s just all so new!” It’s true. There is so much to learn. We have talked a lot about bravery—that one can only be brave if one is also afraid. And that courage lives in us, even when we feel small and scared.

By Friday, “It was the best day yet!”

And now we’re halfway through the second week. No more tears. Asher’s teacher and his friends all report that he’s now fine. Yesterday he stayed for aftercare and even that went well. Although he was worried about it beforehand, after school he said, “It was fun.” And this morning, “Mama, you don’t have to worry about me and nap. I mean, I’m fine with being picked up and fine with staying for nap.”

Asher's first form drawing. Now he is giving Daddy a drawing lesson. #waldorf #firstgrade #formdrawing

So, with some patience, talking about our feelings, extra cuddles and songs, and some quiet routine-building, we seem to have made it over this big scary adjustment. I am so proud of him!

Lucas, suffice it to say, has dived into school. He’s happy, connected, and working hard. Homework every night, which is new, and running practice twice a week after school. He has a lot more on his plate this year, but he’s approaching it with joy.

Still Painting

Not sure what else to do... maybe if I mull it over a while I'll have a breakthrough moment.

Well, I managed to paint a painting in July. I wish I could carve out more time for this. I SHOULD carve out more time for this. But then again, I SHOULDN’T let painting—which I LOVE—become another Should in my life. Tricky balance there, see?

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OK, anyway, I took this photo (above) of Wrights Lake in the El Dorado National Forest and I liked its simplicity and shapes. I liked its colors, too, and I thought it might translate nicely into a painting. You know, if I could paint it. So I tried.

It's coming along. Think I've corrected a couple of problems. I think I see some more.

This top photo is where it was after a couple of hours. I’ve put these phone snapshots into this post even though they are not good pics because I like to be able to see where I started and how the painting moved forward. Each stroke changes the whole. Each decision takes you farther along in the painting. I am usually making these decisions with my gut, and less with my head. But my head really wants to know WHY I’m deciding what I’m deciding as I paint. (I SHOULD go back to class.) I hope that I am improving the painting as I work on it. But sometimes I am not too sure.

I still struggle with putting in too many lights too early. I still struggle with translating a photo into a painting; I don’t really want the painting to be photorealistic but I do very much want what I’m painting to be recognizable, to look real. You might say that I don’t trust my ability to render my subject. I’m still learning about how light works and moves, so I try to replicate what I see faithfully. I don’t know if I know enough to invent. I want to learn to let the painting be my interpretation, to be my expression of a scene or a mood. I want to learn to use the paint to communicate emotion and not just “I was here.”

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So. Here is where my painting stands now. I’m calling it finished. I signed it. I like certain things about it; parts of the water are working, I think. I dislike other things. All those qualities I want my paintings to have—well, I have to keep painting to get there.

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And if I want to keep learning and getting better, I have to get this one off my easel so I can start something else.

Making art is hard.

Making art is scary.

Keep making art.

 

On Grieving

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I am somehow both pan-religious and nonreligious, both Catholic and pagan. I don’t really know how all of that exists simultaneously in my heart and mind, but somehow it does. For a long time I thought that was an untenable state, and expected that sooner or later I would have to commit to being and believing one thing or another, and not all things and none all at once. But I’ve lived in this state for many years now, and truthfully it shows no sign of coming to some cataclysmic end. Somehow this all-encompassing, tolerant nonbelief system of mine works just fine.

Most of the time.

When terrible things happen, though, there’s no rulebook for me to turn to. All the various religious answers about death and dying, loss, and grief fall flat. The feel-better remarks and there-theres don’t work for me. All I know is that I have to feel my feelings all the way through them, for as long as I need to, until I release them (or until they release me—I’m not sure which it really is). I don’t know if that’s healthy or not healthy. It’s just how I am.

I found this poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay. I understand this.

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

—Edna St. Vincent Millay

We all have to navigate life’s injustices and sorrows in our own way. There is no script that fits all actors in this play. We have our rites and rituals, our traditions of marking difficult passages. They are useful and good for many. But they are not perfect. And no funeral or day of mourning or flag at half-mast brings an end to the grief. Grieving continues and passes through many stages. We are not resigned.

A long time ago I worked at a funeral home. I spent my workdays with grieving people and people whose job was to help grieving people. A co-worker, Barbara, who had lost her husband many years before, once said to me something I’ll never forget. “After the funeral, all the people go home. The funeral was closure for them. But the grieving goes on for the loved ones, the spouse, the parent. For them, the grief stays.”

Just as our happy moments, our loves, and our triumphs build together and become part of who we are, so do our sorrows knit themselves into our bones.

So how do we cope and what is normal? All of it. Normal is preparing for Christmas with tears falling down one’s cheeks. Normal is gathering with friends and loved ones, smiling and laughing even with a broken heart. Normal is putting one weary foot in front of the other, making breakfast, enforcing room-cleaning, and cuddling precious children to sleep even while you hear the imaginary wolves scratching at the door. All of this depth of feeling and contradiction can exist simultaneously, too. Life is mucky and confusing. It is never as neat as a greeting card.

We say our prayers—or not. We light our candles and weep and gather together. We look to our heroes, spiritual leaders, and poets. We make sandwiches and feed chickens and watch movies for relief. Our hearts break, and we gradually put them back together—with wise compassion and great waves of Love.

We are changed. And that is normal.

Tragedy

I am struggling to find words to express my horror at the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Yesterday was a wash; I mostly sat here and cried, or walked in circles in my home. Couldn’t think. Couldn’t work. I am too permeable.

Last night we went to our school’s Winter Concert, a celebration of light in the darkness. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to celebrate anything or anyone. I didn’t think I could handle watching all of our beautiful children performing their songs and dances—the menorah lighting by third grade, the lower school chorus, sixth grade sword dance, seventh and eight grade choir, high school orchestra, a h.s. percussion ensemble. There in the dark of the packed auditorium, listening to these amazing, shining, hopeful children, I let my tears flow.

Truly, normal is what we need. We must continue, yet continuing feels wrong.

We are not discussing this tragedy with our children, and I am grateful these events are far away. I fear Lucas and Asher will find out soon. If and when they do, we will do the best we can to explain the unexplainable. There are many resources online about how to talk with children about tragedy, but the truth is I don’t want to do it at all.

I am reading poetry and trying to take comfort in wise words—God or light or “look for the helpers.” It’s not working. And any words of comfort I can think of are sawdust in my mouth. It’s too soon for comfort.

 

 

 

 

Tough Mudder 2012

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Once again, my dear husband tackled a huge dragon and completed the Tough Mudder in Patterson, California. He trained hard for it and had a great time. Somehow this was a kind of birthday celebration for him. I don’t know. He’s kind of weird. (That is a safety pin in his mouth, not a piercing. He was pinning his number onto his shirt when I snapped the photo above.)

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Ian joined our friend Cherylyn and her family’s team, the Jog-or-Naughts. They were all in pink, and Ian gamely donned their color for the event. I was able to follow them from the start and to the first couple of obstacles.

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We mistakenly thought it would be relatively flat terrain. Wrong. Tons of climbing through hot, dusty hills.

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I soon lost track of Ian and the team because I couldn’t follow. I spent my time eating a hot dog, drinking a beer, and taking photos of hunky hot athletes. That was just fine. The mud spatters on my clothes were worth it. I got some terrific photos.

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It was a very hot day, 95 degrees or more. I never really could check because I had no Internet connection. Unlike the previous Tough Mudder he did in Squaw Valley up on Tahoe, in Patterson the water/mud events were actually a little refreshing, and not freezing cold. I sat a very long time by this muddy pond to wait for my Mudders to swim and wade through here and to get this one close-up photo of Ian. I also got a stinky, muddy kiss for my troubles. After hours of waiting while my friends were miles away, climbing hills, slogging through mud, going over and under umpteen yucky, dangerous obstacles, I was very relieved to see them coming down the hill and entering this gross pond, hale and safe.

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Here is the last obstacle, named “Electroshock Therapy.” Those are electrified wires hanging down and the Mudders have to run (or fall, slip, crawl, and slide) through them, getting shocks all the while. This was the second obstacle with electricity. Ian had already gotten shocked pretty bad, which he says felt like being kicked in the head.

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All six of our Mudders completed the course. What I like about this event is the emphasis on camaraderie and helping one another through it. Our Jog-or-Naughts stuck together and everyone tackled the obstacles that were right for them.

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Here is their celebratory beer, which I am told, never tasted so good. I am terribly impressed by all of them! Congratulations, Ian, Cherylyn, Kimberly, Cybil, Susan, and Nina!

School Community Michaelmas Festival

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Last Friday was our school Michaelmas festival and we really go all out at Sacramento Waldorf School. While the pageant take the same form each time, every year there is a new dragon to conquer. I think this is an interesting metaphor. Aren’t we always facing some new dragon or other, along with our familiar ones, of course.

The sixth grade class creates and then mans the dragon. This year’s beast was magnificent! Those kids and their teacher should be very proud.

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The fifth graders, Lucas’s class, played the folk music (flutes and xylophones) while the village children (the third graders) did their folk dance.

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Here is a shot of George kneeling and receiving the blessing of the Archangel Michael.

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And then George must face the ferocious dragon, for it is threatening the villagers and the peace of the land.

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This year’s “battle” was particularly dynamic with all that hot dragon breath.

Each class has a verse they say and I wish I knew them all but I certainly do not. This year I learned that the fifth grade verse is the one that suggests the plan for bringing the dragon under control.

“Keep your courage from shrinking!
This beast requires some thinking.
Let’s make a geometric plan;
Surround the creature, if we can.
With courage, strength, and balance,
We’ll make a strong alliance.”

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The the older students surround the dragon and the youngest students (second graders) join them, wearing their knight tunics and with wood swords they have made. It is a powerful alliance, indeed.

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After the dragon is tamed with communal commitment and cleverness, and not might, George manfully leads the dragon away from the town. He has done his job well.

This festival never fails to inspire me because of its message and the great effort the school and each class puts in to make it so wonderful. Each year I get something new out of it. I hope your Michaelmas was full of shining courage and deep meaning.

Michaelmas Is Nigh

 (Art by Bernhard Hoetger, 1874–1949; photo by Jürgen Howaldt )

Michaelmas Song

Wind in the trees blows for summer’s last song,
Threshing the boughs, pelting the leaves along.
Sleepers awake, hark to the word of the wind!
Breaking old summer’s dull drowsy spell,
Show us the way,  go with thy spear before,
Forge us the future, thou Michael.

Frost of the ground at misty dawning shines bright,
Cracking the clod, lining the twigs with white.
Sleepers awake, hark to the word of the frost!
Breaking old summer’s dully drowsy spell,
Show us the way,  go with thy spear before,
Forge us the future, thou Michael.

Myriad stars shine in the frosty clear skies,
Outshining all, the meteor earthward flies,
Sleepers awake, hark to the word of the star!
Breaking old summer’s dully drowsy spell,
Show us the way,  go with thy spear before,
Forge us the future, thou Michael.

With hearts aglow men mark the changing fresh world,
When from the stars Michael’s spear is hurled.
Sleepers awake, hark to the word of the world!
Breaking old summer’s dully drowsy spell,
Show us the way,  go with thy spear before,
Forge us the future, thou Michael.

—A. C. Harwood

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(Drawing by Lucas, age 10)

It’s that time of year again. Michaelmas time. Time for me to reflect a little on courage, on challenges, and on how we face them as the days grow shorter and the nights cooler. This is an election year, so a fair amount of courage is required to keep our heads up, our hearts strong, and our minds clear while we try to sort truth from fiction, lies, and mendacity.

I’ve lived in this Michaelmas mindset for several months now because my friend Eileen and I were writing a book on the topic. I thought I might have said everything I have to say on the subject of Michaelmas. I’ve flirted with metaphorical dragons while finding ways to creatively express the mood of the season and how to explore it with children. In the back of my mind, my real dragons have waited. In the forefront of my mind, they have called me out on the carpet more times than I care to admit.

If they can call me out, then it’s only fair that I call them out. Naming them has always been therapeutic for me.

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Fear

“Who do you think you are?” Do you ever hear this in your mind late at night when the rest of your family is asleep? I do. Another thing I hear is “It will never work,” and “Everyone else does this better than you.” Honestly, I think we face our fears every single day, not just at Michaelmas time. We face fear of rejection, scorn, and exclusion whenever we live out loud and express ourselves, when we make art, when we love whom we love, when we parent in a way that is contrary to how we were raised, when we bravely head for a steady job we dislike, or when we sit down to figure out a problem. We face our fears when we say, “No, no farther,” or when we say, “Yes, you can count on me to help.” We stand up to fear especially when we speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. That’s when we experience the courage of the Archangel Michael.

Boredom

This dragon interests me a lot because I ask myself, “How can you possibly be bored?” The truth is I’m not bored, but I do crave newness. I crave novel experiences and new projects, new people and new adventures. One of the benefits of the life I’ve created with my family is that it is comfortable and safe, happy and healthy. We have a good rhythm for our family and our children thrive in it. The Boredom Dragon would sit there and tell me I should be doing something else, presumably something more exciting. I have no desire to trade my happy life for anything, so I beat back this pest with small personal and professional challenges whenever I can, like trying to learn something altogether new or adopting a new hobby or making a new friend.

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Ill Health

I’ve watched from various distances while several people I care about encountered some pretty serious ill health this year. Some are elders and their problems aren’t unexpected. Some are people in their prime of life, and I’m left thinking this is just not fair. There is a strange negotiation that goes into encountering illness and injury, a series of confrontations and compromises. I stand and witness without judgement. I admire the way they have faced their problems head-on, learning all the information they can, taking steps to mitigate symptoms and care for themselves and the people they love. I’ve watched as they reprioritize and embrace their new paradigms, while ditching those old patterns that no longer apply. It’s another kind of growing up.

Wanting and Lack

This dragon is a familiar companion and a master deceiver. It tells a tale that worms into the heart and I must ferret it out. We confront a significant challenge in our choice of private school education, and this dragon wakes up and rumbles at us at least once a month at bill-paying time. However, I have only to look around me and see abundant evidence that I am surrounded by love and beauty, friendship and plenty, opportunity and understanding. My life is blessed in a million ways and I know it, and so this dragon is ridiculous in its falsehood. The Lack Dragon is a seducer and a liar. There is enough. I am enough. I do not want for anything. And everything will be OK.

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Loss and Death

This is almost too painful to write, but I and my friends and family have experienced all too much of this dragon this year. Our tribe lost two beloved souls this year, one elder and one tiny child. My mother lost her best friend. None of these stories are my stories and I don’t feel I have the right to tell them. I can only say I’ve cried many tears of heartbreak and loss. Many tears of helplessness and sympathy and wishing things were different. I’ve also watched our community gather to witness, to greet reality in the light of day, and to say farewell. We’ve sent our love into the ether and into each other’s hearts. We put one foot in front of the other, day after day, and we do not forget.

I have referred to this year as the Year of the Big and Scary—and for good reasons. Ultimately, all I can conclude from this year’s many lessons is that courage is born out of love. Darkness is best faced with our beloveds at our sides and at our backs. And, as I wrote in our book,

“Michaelmas is also a community celebration, in which we are reminded that we succeed when we work together to overcome hunger, want, and disease, and the less visible dangers of loneliness and fear. It is our chance to come together on the good, green earth and declare to one another: We are alive. We are together. Together we are strong. Together and with pure hearts, we can overcome.

 

Care

Morning Light at Grandma's House

I spent some time caring for my grandmother today. It’s a long story, but her usual caregivers were temporarily unavailable and my dad asked me to step in and help. At first I was annoyed. I’m very busy with work right now and I’m facing multiple deadlines. I agreed to do it because—obviously—it is the right thing to do; nevertheless I was feeling put out. Even though I am never asked to do this.

Now I am so glad I did.

Beloved Grandma

This is my beautiful grandmother. She is 93 years old. I love her very much.

It is hard to see people you love changing as they age, changing noticeably each time you see them. I don’t like it. I am inexperienced when it comes to being around and caring for elderly people. I was scared to be in charge of her well-being.

It was fine. It was easy, thanks to my dad and others who have this territory all mapped out already. I just had to follow some simple instructions and all the difficult stuff was done when I arrived. I am grateful that grandma took her medications so easily at my request—that was part of what I was worried about.

I wandered a little while I was there, trying hard to notice things about her—about her home, about her likes and loves, her collections, her style.

Treasures

There are careful touches in every nook, beloved items placed with intention.

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The marks of her hand and her sister’s hand, Nana, with whom my grandmother lived for most of her life, are everywhere.

Just So

Photographs of family members cover walls, bookshelves, and tabletops. Paintings and prints, delicate wallpaper, rich drapes decorate the space. Beautiful light is everywhere. Everything is just so.

But that’s not all I noticed, while I was there. It’s not only my grandmother’s careful hand I see. I see my father’s, my uncle’s, and my aunt’s—they are part of her world every day, ensuring that she is OK, makes it to doctor appointments, and has company. They stay with her when her caregivers are away, do the shopping, and much more.

I see it in a hundred gifts given with love over the years.

Carnations at Grandma's House

The evidence of caring is all around, especially in the fact that my grandmother is still living in her home, despite her age and infirmities. It’s in the American flag that’s hanging on the house, just as it has done every July of my grandmother’s life. Someone put it there for her. It’s in the tiny china dish, fashioned in the shape of a teapot and painted with flowers, that holds her daily medications for after breakfast. It’s in the coffee, water, and orange juice that are served to her in the morning, and in the fact that they let her put syrup on her frosted danish. It’s in the special, mechanical chair that she sits in to watch her game shows. It’s in the living orchids and other houseplants that someone carefully waters. Fresh carnations sit in a vase on the dining table. Her pale yellow socks matched her pale yellow outfit, even though she cannot dress herself. I see it in her hairdo, which is set faithfully every week, and in her manicured nails.

None of this is easy, this maintenance that is done to keep her well and comfortable. I am full of wonder and gratitude, and not a little sadness.

Life is full of mighty lessons these days. I am trying hard to learn them.

Letting Go: A Life Skill

Butterfly Garden Habitat

“We need in love to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily–we do not need to learn it.” —Rainer Maria Rilke

Sometimes letting go isn’t easy, especially if what you need to let go of is something you treasure. In many ways, parenting is one long process of letting go; every day we parents and caregivers are challenged to give a little more space, a little more trust, and a little more independence to these growing beings in our care.

Letting go of hurts, mistakes, expectations, and even our loved ones is, at times, part of life, and finding healthy ways to do so without struggle or stubborn holding on is a valuable life skill. Letting go can make way for new ideas, new opportunities, and new knowledge. It‘s also an excellent reminder to live in the present moment, and not in the past.

It‘s a good idea to find opportunities for your children to practice this skill of letting go. Here are two simple ideas that are perfect for children in the summertime.

Rescued Ladybugs

Buy a container of ladybugs at your local nursery. Watch them, hold them, admire them, perhaps compare their colors and count their spots. Wait until evening, when the beetles are less likely to fly away, and then release them in your garden. Gently sprinkle them onto your roses and other plants that attract aphids. The ladybugs will be your garden protectors, and your children will be doing the right thing by letting them go free.

Order a butterfly garden and live painted lady caterpillars from a company such as Insect Lore. When your caterpillars arrive, watch them eat, grow, and transform into chrysalides. Then carefully place them into your mesh butterfly garden. After approximately seven to ten days, your painted lady butterflies will emerge. You can keep them for a while; they will eat sugar water or fruit juice in captivity. After a few days or a week pass, release the butterflies into the wild. Keep your eyes open because they move surprisingly fast! Whenever you see butterflies fluttering among the summer flowers, you’ll fondly remember the ones you set free.

Fly away, butterfly! Fly up so high. Fly away, butterfly, fly up in the sky!

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  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I'm Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2017 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    "Love doesn't just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new." —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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