Michaelmas 2018: Embody the Dragon

This year, my younger son’s sixth-grade class got to build and embody the dragon at our school’s Michaelmas festival, which was held on September 28. This is a huge project and several very talented parents in our class took on this work. I’m so very grateful for their time and talents in this endeavor. Huge thank yous to Criss, Nar, David, Mike, and Brian, who sculpted the head; David, who fashioned the wings; to Sandra, who sewed the tail; to Sandra, Tamu, and others who helped the kids glitter the dragon skin; to Melissa and Brian, who helped the children make the hats/dragon spines; I know Neva was there throughout and I’m sure that I’m forgetting to credit others who helped.

This year, the class decided that their dragon would be white. No one could remember a time when the dragon was white. They wanted it to be sparkly and shimmering, so we spent a day painting with with spray glitter and gold and silver paints.

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I think they said we used 40 yards of silk.

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At our school, the traditional Michaelmas festival involves the fearsome dragon interrupting the peaceful village, while the villagers are dancing and singing. With a great booming of drums, the dragon enters the village and the villagers go running.

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These lovely sixth graders are in the belly of the beast, so to speak, dealing with all the social and emotional and intellectual challenges that come with the age. Friendships change, they adapt to more difficult schoolwork, and the difficulties of individuation and finding themselves, and figuring out what matters to them—what side they stand on in all manner of issues great and small.

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A brave knight, George (played by a high school senior), with the help of the Archangel Michael, faces the dragon. Michael imbues George with goodness and strength to tame the dragon.

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Second graders and twelfth graders surround the dragon. With their will and their love, they subdue its threat and make it tame.

When I conquer within me fear and wrath,

Michael in heaven casts the dragon forth.

 

Firmly on the Earth I stand.

Michael’s sword within my hand.

When I conquer fear, the dragon’s chains I tightly bind.

Michael’s light is in my mind.

When I thrust against the monster’s might

Michael is at my side.

 

Harken all, the time has come!

When all the world at last the truth shall hear,

Then the lion shall lie down with the lamb.

Our lances shall be turned to reaping hooks,

Swords and guns be cast as plowshares.

Nations shall live in lasting peace.

All men unite as brothers.

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My dear Asher is always so funny. He is a beacon of light in my life.

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Second graders pose with the dragon that they helped to subdue. (They are studying the saints this year.)

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On the one hand, it’s just a school festival—a bunch of kids, organized by grades, dressed in costume and performing in a pageant. On the other hand, it’s a massive effort full of heart, an event that affirms and builds community, pulling in people whose children have long-ago outgrown the school. It’s a place where innocence and courage are embodied, where we can urge and model stepping out to boldly stand up for our values and confront the things that threaten to make us weaker, fearful, and divided. There is no lack of dragons like that to confront in our world today.

Matthew Barton, writing in the introduction to a reader of Steiner writings and talks touching on Michaelmas, says this moment in which we live is awakening us “to the consequences of our own actions in many different spheres, asking us to exercise moral judgement and take responsibility for ourselves and the planet. To reconnect consciously. And increasingly it is becoming clear, in a way similar to the wider vistas that open up as leaves fall, that a battle is raging between these developing forces of sensitivity, awareness and responsibility and those—really there is not other word—demonic self-interest, social divisiveness and materialism, often, let’s not deceive ourselves, combined within each one of us. So the battle is with and within ourselves.”

I’m very fond of this festival. Here is where I wrote about Lucas’s sixth-grade Michaelmas dragon.

Michaelmas: New Dragons

Yosemite Trip

My little love is off with his class to Yosemite for three days. It the first sixth-grade trip and we’ve been on the edge of our seats as to whether he would go. He’s had a cold for the last five days, and didn’t feel up to going to school. Plus, he suffers from a lot of anxiety about being away from home, without his parents, brother, and fluffy dogs—a lot of anxiety.

Last night though, he was feeling a bit better and started to rally. With gentle, steady pressure we suggested that he go on the trip, that it would be great fun and he would learn a lot. The program the class will participate in is a really cool real-world environmental sciences curriculum. They’ve been studying geology in Main Lesson, and this is a hell of a capstone experience!

We carefully packed his belongings, finding nearly everything on the list. Then I made an after-dinner grocery store run for some special lunch/snack items, a new water bottle, lip balm—anything that would excite him about the trip.

This morning he bravely got ready, made an enormous lunch for himself, and marched out the door. I know he is scared. I know he’s worried about the “anxiety train,” which races away with our thoughts and feelings in a whole string of frightening what-ifs. I know that one of the things he worries about it getting sad, lonely, and anxious, and then feeling embarrassed on top of it all. I have so much compassion for him. I was the same kind of kid myself: sensitive, worried, anxious.

Parenting him through this is always tough, but I think we’re getting better at it. The whole time we told him going on the trip was his decision
(given his cold). Honestly, I really wanted him to go on the trip, though, and I’m very happy he decided to.

He was tense and stiff at school, gave me a shy hug and joined his classmates. I’ve briefed the teacher and chaperones, and I know they all have his back. They’ll take care of him and give him extra support if he needs it. It’s wonderful to have a community of people with him who have known him since he was 5. Two mom friends/chaperones sent me photos, and so I’m placing them here, without context.

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I love my boy and his brilliant, sensitive, beautiful soul.

Asher, I hope Yosemite is amazing for you. I hope you can relax and enjoy this glorious place on earth, with these great people. I love you and I believe in you. Way to face your dragons, my love. Blessed be.

Junior

Yesterday was the start of Lucas’s junior year of high school. I am so proud of him. He is a thoughtful, considerate, polite, intelligent, creative, ambitious young man. He is finding his way and moving forward with strength, authenticity, courage, and big dreams. We love him so much.

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He’s been really happy at George Washington School of Arts and Sciences these last two years. He is learning so many important skills there, and while it’s not always easy, I see him stepping up to challenges with courage and an admirable steadfastness.

This year Lucas is thrilled to be taking AP Art with one of his favorite teachers. It will not be an easy class; he knows it will take tons of time to develop his portfolio. He also has US History, American Literature, Physics, Integrated Math 3, and a 3D Art elective. He’s hoping for a study hall instead of that extra art class, but we’ll see. It’s a significant load of work this year, I think. He’s stepping boldly into these classes.

Over the summer, he took Spanish 2 online. I’m so very proud that he used some of his free time to get high school credit, and get that course out of the way. (I wouldn’t say it like that if he really enjoyed learning Spanish, but since he did not … ) I think having Spanish this year in addition to those other courses would have been too much. He took it on and did it all in a matter of weeks, saving himself something close to 250 hours during the school year.

Anyway, I just want to say that my young man delights me and fills me with pride. And he wouldn’t want me saying any of this.

Take Back the Night

I just finished a 2.75-mile walk tonight in the dark. I have been going out to walk at night several times a week for the last 6 weeks or so. I have to admit, every time it’s a bit of a head trip and I spend some time during every nighttime walk wondering if I am being refreshingly brave or really stupid. I take a light and often take a dog, but he hides every time he hears another dog bark and is a black-as-night beta, so he’s not exactly protection. Some neighbors blast their property with blinding bright floodlights, and other neighbors’ homes are completely black. Certain streets are almost totally unlit. Sometimes I feel safer in the dark.

I love the night smells: wet grass, sweet dry oats, ripe figs, oak trees, wildfire smoke. And I like walking my with my light off; it’s a kind of faith. After 19 years, I know these neghborhood streets. But there’s one pothole I trip over every time, even though I know I am right on top of it.

The odds are in my favor; I will probably enjoy many more peaceful nighttime walks, either alone or with my silly little dog. I live in a safe place. Surely there are precautions I can take. But that’s not what I am interested in.

I’m interested in the dialogue that’s happening in my head around the idea of safety, where I’m safe and when, and under what conditions. I find myself feeling safer walking in the dark in places where I’m unlikely to encounter anyone else. Other nights the opposite is true, and I gravitate toward the streets with streetlights. And I wonder why that is, and if I’m safer or wiser now that I am older, or if I’ve just got less time/energy for fear now.

At a college campus famous for partying, I marched in Take Back the Night events in the early ’90s, with hundreds of women at my side. Now it’s just me out there, and I feel up to actually doing it. The night is mine.

2017—A Summary

2017—What can I say? In a lot of ways 2017 kicked my ass. I’ve despaired more times than I can count. I’ve also rolled up my sleeves and done more political activism than ever before. I’ve challenged myself in innumerable ways, through work, personal relationships, and parenting. I’ve also thrown up my hands lots of times, had too much booze, gained weight, watched a ton of TV, curled up and licked my wounds. Staying informed and engaged this year has been a matter of taking a daily barrage of gut-punches.

I am frequently exhausted by the mental and physical requirements of my job; it leaves me feeling depleted and out of gas at the end of many days. Nevertheless, and despite the fact that I edit for a living, I embarked on a fun personal challenge to read broader and more challenging categories/genres of books for pleasure. Filling up my mind is always one of my highest priorities, and I’ve stretched into reading fiction and nonfiction about contemporary issues and people who are living lives that are a vastly different from my own. Rock!

I’ve also allowed myself a lot of time to change slowly. I see this as a kind of self-care in a year that by any measure surely required it. Win some, lose some. I barely painted at all, and I miss it every day. I still dream about painting at night. I struggle with finding the perfect cocktail of opportunity, free time, emotional wherewithal to face the complex feelings of ambition/desire/failure/striving/laziness/etc that well up when I approach a canvas. I barely exercise. I barely blog. These are things that have always given me joy or emotional and health benefits, and they have fallen by the wayside. Because I can only exist in this moment, not in all moments at once.

I’ve parented through a few doozies, and advocated for my boys a number of times in assorted settings such as school and health care. I’ve watched my children both maturing beautifully and in sometimes shocking and sudden spurts throughout the year. Learning to let go is a daily lesson, and I believe a quintessential quality of being a parent. As much as I want out of life for myself—and believe me that’s a long and glorious list—I want even more and better for them. But I am not them and they are not me, and ultimately we all walk our own paths. Nevertheless, I often feel like I am not one but three people, because there’s nary a moment when their needs are not at the top of my mind and factored into just about every decision I make. I’ve had to pull back from school activities and volunteering. I have feelings about this, but I’m learning to say no. Saying no can save you. And letting go, in measured increments, with love is the name of this parenting game, from that first Beltane dawn in 2002.

I am blessed to have found meaningful employment in a place I can grow and develop my career. I already said it’s taxing. It’s also truly wonderful to have friends and colleagues again—talented people with passion for what they do and amazingly clever minds solving enormous problems and working from value positions I can respect. My company has a slogan: We make big things possible—in areas that matter for humans and our environment. That I have a part to play, a contribution to make, in projects that will affect our state for the next 50-100 years is somewhat staggering and a source of considerable pride. What’s more, I learn about a dozen new things every day in subjects that were largely previously unknown to me: hydrology, cultural anthropology, historical architecture, air quality, noise and vibration, native California species I’ve never seen before, environmental justice, hazardous materials … the list goes on and on and on. What’s more, I can tell you with great confidence: big infrastructure projects and development are not done cavalierly in California! We live in the best state.

I maintained my freelance business this year, too, working joyfully with Sacramento Magazine monthly and taking on special freelance projects for fun. There’s one project that came to me this year that is very close to my heart because I get to work with two brilliant friends. I’m honored and delighted by this.

This year I’ve proven to myself that I can handle more than I thought. I’ve done a gazillion new things, sometimes clumsily, sometimes with grace. I’m on a board of directors. I’ve worked hard to maintain all my relationships. I try to make contact with three or four people every day. That’s called kin-keeping and I’m a badass at it. My friendships nourish me and fulfill me and I know it’s goofy when I say it on Facebook but I truly love you. I witness your heartaches, your striving. I sit with you when you’re depressed, and I celebrate your accomplishments every day. I am here for you. It’s who I am. Thank you for being in my life. Thank you for loving.

My love, Ian, is my rock and my best friend. We are sometimes gasping for air in the grind of all this work-family stuff, but we’re connected and in it together. He’s my heartbeat, my song. In 2017, we’ve managed to put a new roof on our home and fix it up really nice. It’s water-tight, just right, and the place I love best of all. In. The. Whole. World. And 2018 is going to be grand in a whole bunch of important ways.

My family is good. My parents are well. My brother is doing great. My uncle survived not one but two open heart surgeries in 2017. One cousin had a beautiful baby girl. Another cousin got married to a wonderful woman. My aunt and uncle returned to Sacramento after five years in Geneva. My folks are in my life almost daily, and I feel their love and support as a constant, no matter what.

My Asher is sick. My Lucas has two good friends over tonight, for NYE (ethernet!) gaming. And though Ian and I had the opportunity to spend tonight with shiny friends and loves, cooler (sicker) heads prevailed.

In just about 36 hours we’ll be on a plane all together—Mom, Dad, Jonathan, Ian, the boys and me—heading for Maui where we will celebrate the new year and soak up some rays! Hello, 2018!

Probably all of this should be on my blog instead of here. But it’s down again for an unknown reason. I’ll deal with that later. One thing at a time.

Anyway, I love you. May this coming year be gentler, more peaceful and just, and more connected. May we find our courage and stand together. May we hold close our values and loved ones, extend a hand to a stranger, shine out our brilliance, and let our resilience be our strength. Happy New Year!

2017 Read Harder Challenge Results

My 2017 Read Harder Challenge Results: 20/24

1. Read a book about sports. 0
2. Read a debut novel. “The Strangler Vine” by M.J. Carter
3. Read a book about books. “The Bookseller (first Hugo Marston Novel)” by Mark Pryor 
4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author. 0
5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. (1) “Unaccustomed Earth” by Jhumpa Lahiri; (2) “The Sun is Also a Star” by Nicola Yoon
6. Read an all-ages comic. “Cleopatra in Space #3: Secret of the Time Tablets”
7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950. (1) “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley; (2) “The Great Gatsby” F. Scott Fitzgerald
8. Read a travel memoir. “The Olive Grove” by Katherine Kizilos
9. Read a book you’ve read before. (1) “The Name of This Book Is Secret” by Pseudonymous Bosch; (2) “The Great Gatsby” F. Scott Fitzgerald
10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location. “Walking After Midnight” by Kate Abbott
11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location. “The Strangler Vine” by M.J. Carter
12. Read a fantasy novel. (1) “Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler; (2) “The Magicians” by Lev; (3) Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark Is Rising #1) by Susan Cooper
13. Read a nonfiction book about technology. “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” by Neil DeGrass Tyson
14. Read a book about war. “City of Theives” by David Benioff
15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. 0
16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country. “Native Son” by Richard Wright
17. Read a classic by an author of color. “Native Son” by Richard Wright
18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead. (1) “Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 (Wires and Nerves, #1)” by Marissa Meyer; (2) “Cleopatra in Space #3: Secret of the Time Tablets”
19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey. “By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept” Paolo Coelho
20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel. “What’s in a Name” by Pat Henshaw
21. Read a book published by a micropress. 0
22. Read a collection of stories by a woman. “Unaccustomed Earth” by Jhumpa Lahiri
23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. “Rose” by Li-Young Lee
24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. “Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler

November 29 Walk

I’m past caring about work, and I’m sitting in the dark, drinking a glass of cheap white wine and staring at Facebook. Ian walks through the room and I realize I look a sight.
I put on a coat and hat, kiss my family and walk out into the dusk. I’ve been on the computer since early morning, except for a surprise lunch out with friends, and I know it’ll do me some good to get moving. I usually turn left on Eagle Road, but this time I turn right and walk toward the school playfield because the sunset pulls me on. I always want to fall into the colors. The school is empty, quiet. On the blacktop I see the only other pair of souls enjoying this space away from cars and lights: a man and what appears to be a small German shepherd. I have a choice—speak and be friendly or conspicuously ignore them. As I think it’s safer to engage with people, even in the dark and when alone, I called out.
“Hello! Your dog is very handsome. Is he or she quite young?”
“She is almost 3, actually.”
“She’s petite then. Very pretty. Have a nice evening.”
I walk on through the upper field, and stop to take some pictures of the sky. It’s mostly clear, except for some obliging wispy clouds on the western horizon, which provide some drama as the colors deepen and twilight falls.
Emerging onto the street where Ian lived as a boy, I take in my surroundings. Giddy birds chirp from within palms and hedges. Some homes are dark; some have cheerful porch lights shining, or Christmas lights running along the eaves. Lawns are blanketed with fresh gold and wilting brown leaves, a thick carpet, especially those yards with a mulberry tree in their center. Other yards are fastidious; someone has been along with a blower. The orangey-pink light reflects off cars parked along the road.
It’s chilly. I’m glad I have my hat, and my phone in my hand reminds me that I’m not really alone. The sky is darkening above me, the horizon now approaching claret. I wish I could find a vantage to take a sunset shot without cars in view, but this is the suburbs.
It feels good to stretch my legs, but I kind of wish I had my sneakers on instead of my street shoes. No matter. I know that if I had taken the time to change them, I might have lost my momentum and not walked out the door.
I reflect that I am never buying any of the inflatable Christmas characters that stand guard in front of some homes in my neighborhood. Then I reflect that I’m a snob. Suddenly the neighborhood smells overpoweringly of someone’s laundry detergent.
It’s dark now, and I’m heading homeward along a black street without sidewalks. Cardinal is a street that goes through, and people often speed here on their way through the usually sleepy neighborhood streets. Each time the occasional cars and trucks approach me from behind, I hop across the gutter into peoples’ yards. I’m invisible in my jeans, black coat, and a black hat.
I think about Dedra, my friend I used to walk with regularly. It’s been over a year since I saw her, and we haven’t walked in forever. I miss her, so I send her a text. I figure the light of my phone makes me more visible.
When I arrive home, my cheeks are cold and Ian’s got dinner on the table.

Gonna Try to Post More

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It’s not like nothing is happening. Life is busy, rich, full of intense logistical and emotional challenges—lots of striving and attempts at recovery before more striving begins. It seems like with all that’s going on, it’s hard to find the moments and energy to write.

I’d like to change that, because I have a sense that time is slipping away. I have guilt that I’m somehow shortchanging us all by not chronicling our days here in this virtual space.

I’ve also found that when my life is challenging or I have thoughts and feelings that are, say, less than charitable, I clam up. Who wants to air their dirty laundry on the Internet? Not me. Now that sounds really dramatic, and like I have a huge beef with someone. I don’t. I just don’t always know how or whether to acknowledge the uncomfortable stuff. In a way, the culture of “positive thinking,” or whatever bullshit they’re calling it these days, has poisoned us, making us unable to tell our truths for fear of appearing a failure. I mean, if you’re blessed (by God), you’re successful—if you’re unsuccessful in any way, you must therefore not be blessed. See the problem? I don’t believe that; I think it’s totally toxic.

So, a tiny picture of what’s going on now:

We’ve just shipped Lucas off to Camp Winthers for his second week of work as a counselor in training (CIT). He worked the week of July 3, too, and unfortunately had a really tough time because of one extremely ill-behaved camper. From what Lucas described, this boy was recalcitrant, obstinate, and rude. He whined, threw rocks, ran away, and generally was as disruptive and uncooperative as he could be the entire time. Counselors and program managers talked to this kid, but they stopped short of booting him home, which is what I think they should have done. Unfortunately, Lucas was charged with dealing with this monster while the other counselors and instructors led the rest of the group and carried on with the art summer camp adgenda. Lucas is a great guy, and he did his very best, but it was extremely frustrating and stressful and more than he was trained to handle. He came home on 7/7 wiped out and angry.

In the intervening ten days, he has been home recovering, and taking a great week-long course in forensics at CSU Sacramento. He seems to have enjoyed it and learned a lot. The class got to analyze a crime scene, isolate DNA, do paternity tests—cool stuff like that. I think it was worthwhile and worth the cost. The program is Summer Academies and it’s just for high school kids.

I’m hoping that this week is wonderful and easier and that he comes home tired but happy and relieved.

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Asher is doing his second week at Effie Yeaw Nature Center this week. The camp is wonderful, but as he has done the same program the last two summers, he’s feeling kind of bored. This is especially so because he doesn’t have his posse with him. (I swear, I tried!) Fortunately for him, camp is only in the mornings. Tomorrow is the big, exciting day of rafting on the American River. (That’s really why we signed him up!)

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Feminism Is A Social Justice Movement

I Stand with Planned Parenthood

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Last week I attended a Planned Parenthood “Pink out” rally at the California State Capitol during my lunch hour. I’d estimate there were about 400 people there in the middle of the day on a Tuesday. California lawmakers wore pink scarves and blazers and pink boxing gloves.

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Athena, the goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare, presided over the rally at the west steps of the Capitol, just as she stands on seal of the state of California. (May she be with us these next four years because we need both wisdom and strategic resistance in the face of Trump’s attack on our democracy.)

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I’ve been a supporter of Planned Parenthood for years, however yesterday I initiated a monthly donation. I’m proud of this. I support every woman’s right to choose. And firmly believe that women’s rights are human rights—Thank you, Hillary Rodham Clinton for saying this in 1995 in your speech at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Clinton took this idea to a global stage as First Lady, and it is now prominent in feminist discourse and was everywhere at the Women’s March on the 21st of this month.

The First Lady Hillary Clinton during her speech in Beijing, China.
By Sharon Farmer/White House Photograph Office – National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, Link

With the ACA under attack, women, men and teens will need Planned Parenthood more than ever for basic health care screenings and all sorts of essential services. I am happy to help.

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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.

    © 2003–2018 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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