Thursday, December 20, 2012


I am grateful for many, many things about Liam's little Waldorf-inspired school community, but I think most of all I am grateful for how it ties me every day to the wonder and magic of childhood.  I tend towards seriousness, and lists, and tasks, and thinking about the next thing.  I need these reminders to be joyful in and present to what is all around.     

Today was the winter spiral at school.   The spiral takes its impulse from labyrinth traditions and representations of growing along a thoughtful or spiritual path or journey.  The spiraling represents going inward — during the darkest time of the year — and kindling your own inner light. In Christian faiths spirals are associated with Advent and anticipating the arrival of Christ.   The apples remind us of the bounty of the harvest; the candles represent our individual and collective lights along the path.
Each child, one at a time with their teacher's help, takes an apple, walks the spiral, lights their candle, places their light along the path, and goes to sit down again.   They sing this verse.
The first light of winter is the light of stone–.
Stones that live in crystals, seashells, and bones.
The second light of winter is the light of plants–
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.
The third light of winter is the light of beasts–
All await the birth, from the greatest to the least.
The fourth light of winter is the light of humankind–
The light of hope that we may learn to love and understand.
A reminder of the beauty of all creation.  At the light of the "beasts" they make claw hands and sing the word extra short and loud.  They wiggle; they can't help it.  They threaten to fall off the benches because they're just not paying attention.  They glow in the candle light and reflexively hold hands with one another. 

These children, these little children are 4, 5, and 6. 

We are all knocked over this week; confronted by so much evil, pain, senselessness.  I have nothing to say about that.  No words.  I was driving home from a long meeting far north that day; listened with horror to the hours of news coverage.  Looked at the photos on the computer when I got home, and since then I have pretty much stopped.  It doesn't get any more understandable in the re-telling;  no amount of attention I pay to the details lessens anyone's pain.  I'm not saying forget -- as if anyone could.  I hope and pray that real gun reform comes from this.  But no matter what comes, it won't be worth it.  It is not near strong enough to say that the idea that we would measure the price of long-overdue policy reform in the lives of small children and teachers is completely and totally bankrupt.

For those of you struggling, and particularly for those struggling to be with small children in the face of this, I recommend this story.  The moral for me is that we cannot understand why; we aren't helped by trying to.  We can and must be with the sadness and pain.  We can and must offer our solidarity with those who are suffering.  And we, we grownups for God's sake, can and must make the world safer. 

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