January 2013


For the last three weeks I’ve been thinking about the Music Corps T-shirt sale at school. First I attended the Music Corps meeting and joined the T-shirt Committee. Then I started gathering kids to work on designs. Then I started to figure out the process of getting shirts printed, of what would sell, of refining the images we could use, researching online, at school, gathering data and understanding. At the same time, we were considering three processes, one a hand made spray painted shirt made with a stencil by one teen, one a professionally printed shirt made by a company, and one a hand screen printed shirt we would make at school. This week we learned more about the last process, refined the art work, gathered a few more images, brought the screen printing setup to school, assembled it, went through the materials, the manual, the steps to making a screen and printing shirts, rethought the timeline, the players, the parameters at school.

I’ve been wanting to write about it. This sort of project is a lot of fun for me, and at the same time, it’s at the core of what makes a place like Sudbury Valley a school. All of the learning I’m doing as a staff I’m doing in the context of SVS, of a democratic, free school, where a project like this is not done as a piece of meeting standards or as curriculum, but as the life of the school. The Music Corps has needs, curtains and rugs for soundproofing, repairs to instruments, upgrading the rehearsal, recording, and performance spaces. They need to raise funds and early in the fall the idea of creating a Music Corps t-shirt to sell came up from discussions within the group, initiated by one of the other new staff, I believe. I didn’t get involved for a long time, in part because the Music Corps often met on Tuesdays when I am in the day care, not at school. I have spent a fair bit of time in the art room, hanging art, prepping shows, and I’ve been getting to know the artists in the school, the other staff who spend time in the art room, and the resources of the school as they relate to making art. I’ve done screen printing three times, once in elementary school and twice as an adult at the side of an artist friend. I’ve never done it myself nor organized the process. When the opportunity to help the Music Corps came up, I first offered to work on concessions, which I’ve also done before. Turns out I have a wedding to attend the day of the show, so the t-shirt work suits me better.

I’m having a whole lot of fun figuring out the t-shirt project. It’s good, as a new staff person, to have a project, to have a reason to get to know staff and students better, to solve problems on my own and together, to dream a little big, to ask others for their thoughts and to share my own. It’s also fun to get to know the school this way, to search the morgue for tools and wood and hardware to help us set up the screen printing machine, to think about the screen printing process and how we can conduct it, to learn who likes to do what, who has which skills, and to work together to pull off something one of us alone couldn’t do. It will also hopefully be an important contribution, if we figure it all out, if the t-shirts turn out well, if they sell, if we perhaps start a tradition which will go on awhile.

The day before yesterday was a hard day. I barely entered the art room. I spent most of the day in the JC (Judicial Committee) and in School Meeting, wrestling with hard issues. I came home exhausted and spent to personal life issues of similar weight. I was tired and worn out, but also eager to return. SVS is like that. It’s hard work. It tests my limits. It’s also a place I love to be. Yesterday, the hard stuff was on the periphery for me. I was immersed in lighter stuff, helping a young friend sort out a problem with friends, setting up the screen printing machine, sifting through supplies, learning about the process, refining designs, making plans, each stage with kids who were curious and had experience to offer and energy to bring.

When I got home and watched the AERO video I shared last night, I wanted to write about the day. What Sir Ken Robinson says in that video is lived every day at school and I wanted to talk about that. I also wanted to be home. I replied to e-mail that piles up when I’m away. The kids and I made dinner and cleaned up. We watched an old Downton Abbey so the kids can catch up. Then I went to bed. Today I am stealing time to write before doing morning chores and errands and heading back to school for an Open House from 1 to 4 pm. You’re invited! Come and see the place we spend our days, making t-shirts, making art and music, playing games, talking, cooking (most of the cookies today are made by students), reading, researching, planning, treating people fairly and with respect and/or learning how, running, climbing, walking, laughing, learning all the time. In the art room where the sewing machine had been you’ll find the screen printer set up and the sewing machine stowed on a shelf beneath the sink. Soon, we hope you’ll be able to wear the t-shirts that have been living in our minds for weeks..What color and size would you like?:)

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Enjoy this video of Sir Ken Robinson speaking at the last AERO conference about the transformation that is needed in education to support the creativity, diversity, and potential of our young people. This guy knows his stuff!

Tonight is the Harry Potter Masquerade Ball at school. Last night after a full day of work and an hour and a half drive home in heavy traffic, my daughter could think of nothing but going to Michael’s to buy  more pearls for her mask. Instead of family dinner, we went to Michael’s, then came home and did our thing. I ate leftover soup while she glued sequins and pearls onto the mask we bought at Michael’s at Christmas time which she has been decorating the last three nights at the kitchen table, much longer elsewhere and in her mind. Our kitchen table has been covered with glitter, sequins, glitter glue, craft glue, pearls, a huge magenta ostrich feather, a glue gun, duct tape, amidst the usual candles, flowers, and clutter, collected from the day care, her dad’s house and mine, three or four trips to Michael’s, one with me at Christmas, one with kids from school gathering dance supplies on Tuesday, one with her brother Thursday, who she begged take her, one with me last night. At school on Wednesday she and a teenage friend designed her mask on paper with colored pencils. That friend decided to buy her own mask, rather than make one. On Wednesday night my gal began covering her mask with glue and glitter and searching the house for sequins, which we never found. On Thursday she and her brother and his gal went to Michael’s again, and to their dad’s house, retrieving not only things they both needed, but also more things for the dance for their other brother, a golden tie and another mask, should the one he was thinking of making out of his Michael’s mask from December, a lesson on paper mache mask making gleened from two weeks of Quaker Meeting conversation in New Hampshire, some torn up paper bags, a pot of corstarch glue made from the Quaker Meeting lessons and an internet mask making site, and a carved foam and taped together snout to simulate the badger, whose image he had in his mind, from years of reading Harry Potter, of thinking about Hufflepuff and their mascot, of knitting a Hufflepuff scarf in his first year of SVS, which lies somewhere in the house unfinished, in all it’s alpaca glory, along with the gift cards to the knitting shop to feed that lost obsession, and also from a small stuffed animal knit for my son that year by a girl who is now an alum, and who pulled my son’s name for Secret Santa, or whatever it was called that year at SVS, and from the internet, where my son and his friend, my son’s gal, and then I, pulled up images of badgers on our computer.

I’ve lost track of this sentence, as I’ve lost track of all the many places from which the masks have drawn their providence. Learning is like that. Projects are like that. The paper mache mask is not to be this round. The glue I made for my son was left on the stove while he and his brother and friend got lost on the computer and in their conversation and laughter and friendship. It got lost at school yesterday where he didn’t find the energy for either it or for eating the lunch I so lovingly made on Thursday while the family was in mask land, dinner we ate at nine, after which they stayed up too late mask making and youtubing and laughing and talking. My girl’s mask happened. It is lovely. It’s what triggered me to want to write last night at midnight, though I was too tired and gave up. It’s the image that was on my mind when I woke up this morning, shadows on the white cotton curtains of the branches dancing outside, as they have been on so many mornings I’ve woken up and written, Saturdays and Sundays when I can lie in bed and think and dream and drift awhile from the everyday, to places I’d like to be.

All the last two days at school I was obsessed with t-shirts. On Wednesday I joined the Music Corps Meeting and we reconfigured the T-Shirt committee and I became a member with a cause. On Thursday I talked up drawing a design all around the school. I opened doors to rooms of kids in conversation. They stopped what they were doing and looked up. I asked them in whatever way I knew them if they would like to make a design for a Music Corps t-shirt which we would print, commercially or by hand, and sell. Some loved the idea and got right to work. Some hated it and told me so. Some declined politely. Some expressed their enthusiasm, or told me their ideas, and are thinking still.

On Thursday another enthusiastic girl and I cleared a piece of the art room bulletin board to hang the entries. I hung out while kids did drawings. I learned to play chess again, won my first game, stupidly I realized, as I watched a bit of excitement drain from my eight year old teacher, who I hope will play again, as he is not only a patient and caring teacher, but a lot of fun. Between the t-shirts and school meeting the day was nearly done. On Friday I came with my laptop and two t-shirts from my cupboard, ready to figure out what next. The art room was full of kids working on decorations and games for the Harry Potter Masquerade Ball. “It’s going to be the best dance ever,”  is what I overheard my daughter say last night to my son’s gal, SVS alum who visited school with my son yesterday, and did her share of helping there and at home with the decorations and the mask. I was not needed there in the kitchen or in the art room yesterday where kids were making dance things, nor really welcome, until closing time at school, when I helped wash palettes of paint so my fellow bulletin board clearer and I could go home on time. The kids worked that long, and the results were stunning. I left school with ideas for the t-shirts, having spent the day outside the art room talking with all kinds of people about the t-shirt project and doing other things, and also with regrets for saying awhile back that I wouldn’t chaperone this dance, as I had expected my kids to be with their dad and to be away myself.

This afternoon I’ll drop my kids off at the school at 4 to begin the setting up. Doors will open at 7:30. I’ll be home working on my own, doing house chores, tax prep, day care scheduling and enrollment, groceries, packing up, whatever is left from the morning and yet to do for the weeks ahead. I’ll pick the kids up early if I can, listen to the live music if the trio of talented teens are still playing that late, see whose been sorted into which houses by my middle son, the Sorting Hat, figure out who has got the most points in the large jars lovingly painted by my gal and her friends for each of the houses, points themselves lovely in sticker backed felt and glitter glue, drink a cup of butter beer if there is any left, labelled by hand also lovingly by my kids and their friends, hand drawn labels photocopied on sticker paper in the office, cut on the new paper cutter at school, stuck to cups the kids, including my gal, bought on their outing this week, maybe eat a cookie or a brownie a whole crew of bakers baked in the kitchen yesterday, which smelled delicious then and will surely go quickly at the dance, admire the decorations and the setup, the costumes and the masks, and if my daughter’s lucky, the prize she hopes to win for the one she’s created, photographed by me last night to her mixed feelings of my interfering in and capturing her life. It’s intertwined with mine, and I find myself thinking these thoughts, wondering these things, observing as I always have, and wanting to make a story in my mind, to share the thoughts and images here so others will know or be reminded how rich is life, how complex is learning, how many, many ways there are to be, how school can be both open-ended and free and also deep and wide and different, how kids can make homework of a mask, a project of a dance, how many pieces there are to capture which could never, ever, in a million years be captured as standards, as benchmarks, as curriculum, as assignments, as homework, as classes, as extracurricular activities, as tests or scores or data. It is just life, lived by kids who live it fully and the adults in their midst as well. I love this way of being with and for kids enough to want it to last and grow and I’m learning how to write and show and tell about it so the rest of the world will know. That is another topic for another day. Today is Saturday and my kids would like mac and cheese for lunch, the laundry needs folding, the bills and checks must be handled, recorded, deposited, the groceries are still at the store, the contracts need to be created and sent, the suitcases must be packed, the kids must be driven to school. Life is full and rich and wide at middle age on days like these.  Other days, when I am not a mother or a day care provider or a staffer or a partner, only a business owner, a friend, a housekeeper, it feels quieter, maybe just different. The busier, kid-filled world is where I come alive. The time with just one other is what I’m learning to love, after years of rarely having that. The time on my own, still not so sure. I try to love that, too.

I’ve written all this about the dance, and yet, there is always more. I didn’t write about the Dance Corporation or School Meetings needed to organize it, or the last dance or the Responsible Resident my son has become in order to help with dances and other things, or the big or little kids or adults other than my kids and I and a few who happened to come up, who make it happen, or who bowed out this round. I didn’t write about the intersections of the traditions and the future of the school, about the stories I heard of Dance posters which I might consider when thinking about t-shirt designs and quality and sales and art and souvenir. I didn’t write about being chaperone, as a new staff or as a veteran. I didn’t write about the barn, home to dances and shows and formerly goats and rabbits and before that horses and carriages. I didn’t write about the girl who asked me last time to help her figure out how to buy a ticket dance, or her sister who’ll she’ll host this round, who interviewed and will visit school soon. I didn’t write about much of what happened, not only what I saw and heard and felt and did, but what all the others experienced in some relation to the dance. You get the picture, though, and does it blow your mind?  No one is talking standards or tests for dances, but they are real, and if you believe my daughter, “This is going to be the best dance ever.” At least for her in her twelfth year, when she has bought a dress without straps on her own in a store, which she brought to her grandma’s for Christmas, left in the closet of my room there with dresses I wore for dances when I was a girl, and which my mom mailed back to her the day after her own cataract surgery, so my girl could wear it tonight. Life is not only complex, it also unfolds in moments, impossible to fully capture as the most elusive eel. You can, though, see my daughter’s mask, captured in a moment of her generosity on my iphone, which according to her, is not as good a picture as the ones she sent to her friends on her iPhone, step-by-step, as the dance outfit was created. Modern times.

I miss writing here. For a long time I wrote daily or close to that. Now I’m lucky to write weekly. I work two jobs. I’m a single mom. I barely read books. I hardly talk on the phone. I have a new laptop, a new phone. My kids are old enough to help. I think now of all the reasons it might be that things have shifted. As my good friend told me when I was first immersed in writing the blog and photographing with my new digital camera (now replaced by another, then an iPhone), sometimes life feels exciting and then sometimes it just is, or something like that. Big changes, big thoughts, big need to create a new story, visually and in words. Perhaps that is it. Perhaps not.

I do miss writing. But. I find myself doing other things. I drive a lot. My job at my kids’ school is an hour away. In the car we sometimes talk or listen to music. Often I just drive and think. My boyfriend and his kids are an hour away.  I listen to music, make phone calls, and think on that drive, too. In the early morning, I used to wake up so early I would have time to think and write. Now I sleep a bit longer, often til the alarm goes off, and find when I wake up, I need time to transition from active dreams to active life. When I have a night or a morning alone, not with kids, not working, I often get the urge to write. Some days I do. Other days the outward feels more pressing. Paying bills, keeping books, going to the bank, running errands, making meals, cleaning house, washing clothes, shoveling snow, showering, dressing for the day, appointments, shopping, all the tasks of daily living, of mothering, of running a small business, of caring for a home, can easily fill the time I stole the last few years for writing.

Also there is other stuff to do on the computer. E-mail correspondence takes huge amounts of time. Facebook draws me in, keeps me curious for news of others’ lives, attentive to messages and notifications I might need to check. I went to a talk at SVS this week by Daniel Greenberg, who let us know, in his talk about Transforming the Mind, that he doesn’t have a facebook account because he knows it would suck him in, not a direct quote, but the sentiment he shared made me less embarrassed of the time I spend online, when I often feel I should be doing other things. Its a new world, one all our children are exploring, and it compels me, too.

There is also time with those I love, of which there is never enough. This past weekend my beau and I were in the country skiing in the woods, eating breakfast in the coffee shop, sleeping in, talking by the fire. It was less than forty eight hours, but boy I needed it. We arrived near midnight on Friday after a long day of work and kids, left mid-afternoon on Sunday, returning in time to collect the day care and home groceries, take down the Christmas Tree, pull the trash and recycling to the curb, make dinner, clean up, answer more e-mails and watch that first episode of Downton Abbey, a week and an hour after it first came out.

By Monday morning, the time away felt especially luxurious. Work is heavy this time of year. Families are interviewing for spaces in the day care. Current families are making plans for next year, too. Tax and financial aid deadlines loom. All the numbers from the year need to be be in the computer, in Moneydance, in the coming year’s budget, coordinated with current and projected enrollments, staffing, fees, and wages. This means lots of time for meetings, for e-mail correspondence, for data entry, for creating spreadsheets, for conversation, for dreaming and thinking in free spaces, for letting things sort out. Which brings me back to writing, another place for all these things.

At the talk this week at SVS, Danny described the transformations of the mind we humans have gone through from early history until now. In the school kitchen yesterday a group of teens and I discussed the talk, the key terms and ideas with which they are more familiar than I am due to their participation in Danny’s weekly seminars, words, frameworks, transformations of the mind, writing, printing, computing, cyber world. Each of us humans goes through the whole span of human development in one lifetime these days, learning who we are, how to talk, how our body works, who is out there in the world, what they do, think, how we interact, and now what the whole world thinks and does, and how we might contribute. Blogging and sharing photos has been that for me for awhile, my way of figuring out who I am, what I think, how I can proceed, entering the larger world when I was shifting in all kinds of ways, personal, political, work, love. I found it essential to create a story, to ask questions out loud, if silently here in print/text/cyberspace, to have my thoughts outside my head. I also found it essential to read books, to attend conferences and workshops, to put myself in context with the larger world again. It’s a big deal to leave the places one knows and to try to find someplace new. Each of us does it every day. Some days, weeks, months, years, we find ourselves unmoored, at sea as Danny said this week, unable to get our bearings for all the change. Some of us, when we have time, and energy, urge and motivation, conviction and follow through, or perhaps no choice, write our way through the storm.

I’d like to say I’m here on the shore recalling the journey. Most likely, though, I’m still on it. Right now I need to think inside my head more than I need to write here. I don’t know why. Maybe more writing will help me figure that out, or maybe more thinking, or maybe I’ll never know. It is true for me that the older I get the more I don’t know.

I drink the dregs of the hot cocoa left on the stove, nibble on the last bit of egg from the bagel sandwich. All the lights are on. It’s 6:53 in the morning and all my children are gone. The house feels deserted, a little disastrous. In two hours I’ll invite prospective day care families into my living room. First I have to clean the counters, tidy the house, wash the dishes, shower, dress for the day.

My son left for his girlfriend’s place near ten last night, loaded with clothing and snowboarding gear for a birthday trip to her family’s place in VT. He’s gone for awhile, a chunk of his winter break has passed, last conversation between us was about ordering his books, sending him home (to school).

My second son and daughter left at dawn with a teenager from school, on their way to the first Wachusett trip of the year, also loaded with snowboarding gear, lunch and breakfast, the traditional cocoa in a paper travel cup with bagel, egg, cheese, bacon for the boy, a carnivore, not for the girl, the veggie, this year one for the driver, too, bacon for her as well. As my girl was sitting at the table waking up while I bustled around the kitchen, she thanked me for the breakfast, for getting up so early to see them off. “Sure,” I said, “I enjoy it.”

“You enjoy it?,” she smiled, wondering.

“Yep, it’s part of your life and I want to be part of it, too, right?” Sounds hokey but it’s true. Last year I missed these early mornings on snowboarding days when my kids were in their new home across town with their dad and he had this early morning pleasure of rising in the dark, making hot breakfast and cocoa, seeing them off in the snow.

My house is quiet and the first thing I think is not relief, as some might, but mild despair. They’re gone. I think of my colleague at SVS who said to me this fall, “You’re a mother, aren’t you?”

I was one of those mothers who worked at home to be with my kids when they were born, who nursed a long time, never introduced a bottle, who held my babies a lot, who rarely hired a sitter, who provided after school care for other families so I could be with my own. Saying good-bye to my tween and teens still feels like separation, and I think about this as I walk back through the house after the car pulls away. I can relate to these new families coming to visit today, thinking about dropping their kids off with us for the day, maybe for years. It’s a big deal to say good-bye to our kids, to anyone we love. We do it again and again and again. For some of us, I think it’s harder. Maybe not, maybe so. Still learning not to judge others’ experiences, to figure out my own.

Last night I went to bed on the early side, aiming for a good sleep before the early rising, only to find on facebook that a helicopter was circling the neighborhood, searching for an armed suspect. I hadn’t heard the loud whirring until I read the post. Once I heard it I could hear nothing else. I wondered, nonsensically, if my older son was really on his way, though he’d been gone an hour, or if he might be out front loading the car, vulnerable to attack. I wondered if the doors were locked, front, back, front back, basement. There are lots of doors. I wondered if my children could hear the roaring, if they, like me, lay fearful in their beds. I wondered if the suspect had been caught, or where he might be hiding with his gun, how close to my home the investigation was moving. It was hard to go to sleep. I was up too late. I wasn’t alone. The kids were in the house. The friends and neighbors posted updates on Facebook. The covers were warm and heavy. Eventually, I fell asleep, only to rise in the morning in deep dark, to a dream in which I was trying, against all odds, to shepherd my daughter, my mom, and her two oldest (elderly) siblings, one who has been dead awhile, through London, from a plane to a train, ending up on a ferry, and then separated again and again from the ones I loved, trying to carry my daughter, who was an infant at points, to grab hold of my mom, to get her to grab hold of her siblings, to guide them with my voice, with gestures, with panic. My cousin, closest to me in age, had gone off on a different train. Intermittently, we’d talk by iPhone, struggling to keep the connection, strategizing about what next.

The alarm woke me up before we were all back together and on our way. In the dream, as in the night with the helicopters whirring, and in the morning, with the dark rising and the day ahead of snowboarding, when I want to say, “Don’t crack your head open!” each time they go off for the day to the mountain without me, as they always do, since I haven’t skied for over twenty years, I feel responsible for the safety of the ones I love, and often, unable to assure it. As long as I’m feeding, or holding, or talking with, or in sight of them, or even when I know they’re in their beds sleeping soundly, life is almost always good. Beyond that, I nearly always wonder.

My neighbor the alderman made a post on facebook sometime after I fell asleep, and I read it this morning after saying good-bye to the kids. The armed suspect has been caught. He was found without his jacket by the K9 squad, hiding on the ground. I picture him cowering in someone’s yard, helicopters overhead, lights searching the city, with dogs rushing at him. I’ll include the suspect in the group of those for whom I worry. Knowing the dogs got their target doesn’t feel great when I picture the scene up close, though I hope the gun is gone from our streets, and that the and his buddies from who he was separated when they were all caught stealing a car, and the car they stole and the one they stole it from and the dog that found him are all as right as they can be, and that their mothers are, too.

Yesterday was our first day back from vacation in the day care. I was there because I traded with another teacher so she could stay an extra day in Vermont and I could have an extra day for parent interviews next week. I was happy to be back. So were the kids and Liana.

Over breakfast my newly four, who had hugged me and almost everyone else tight in the early morning, exclaiming, “I missed you!”, brought up a disagreement. “A– thinks it’s almost summer.” In fact, we had just spent awhile in our morning meeting talking about the first real snow and all the warm clothes we’d need to put on and all of us who had gone sledding over vacation and our hope to sled at the park.

I asked my recently four what he thought. “I think it’s not,” he said.

“I wonder why A– does,” I wondered aloud.

“There aren’t any flowers.” my recently four explained. “Flowers come in summer.”

“Also in the fall,” added his friend, the more established four, best friend to A–, also a well established four, now being questioned by her younger friend.

“Yes, this year there were flowers in the fall. That was unusual. At least for this part of the world.”

My recently four added that it might be different in Florida and I confirmed that I had been with friends from Florida over my vacation who had showed me pictures of the tomatoes growing in their garden. “Yeah, in Florida,” my four confirmed, with enthusiasm for our shared understanding of the complexity of the world. “Tomatoes?” and he smiled.

“Yep, tomatoes, and carrots and other things, too. This is when things grow in Florida.” And we talked about Florida and how warm it is there, but got fuzzy soon in that conversation, too. So much to know and think about and wonder in the world, it’s hard for any of us to keep up, even with the help of friends.

Later, on the walk home from the park, my newly four wished with his friend the well-established four, that she could come to his home that day, that she could have a sleepover, that she might come and stay forever. She didn’t say no, but was sure yesterday was not the day for a playdate or a sleepover, as much as the two were enjoying their post vacation reunion. My assurances that families would need to be involved went unheard. The children were in their world. They didn’t need me.

This morning when I wake up thinking about the day ahead, I stop to read the poem in Writer’s Almanac. It could have been written by my fours, if they could write adult poems. The sentiments of the poem resonated enough to remind me of our conversation and to motivate me to share both here. Enjoy. In many ways, we are all thinking the same thoughts.

The day care itself was full of flowers when we all left for vacation, following the families’ tradition of each child coming one day of the last week of care in December with a flower for each teacher, resulting in five bouquets this year, one for each of us, now we are five. The last of the wilting buds rest in vases on the counter in the day care kitchen, on the dining room table of my house upstairs, maybe in the other teachers’ homes. According to my son, who took out the compost last night on a challenge to toughen up before his eighteenth birthday this weekend, it was too cold for worms. They weren’t crawling all over the bin last night as they had been the last time he took out the compost and was turned off for years, creeped out by their mobility and greed. My bet is the worms will enjoy the flowers, winter pleasure for those eating out of season in New England nearly all year long.

Now I think of it, the challenge was made bolder by my mention of my recently four and his love of the compost and the worms. My younger son, the newly sixteen couldn’t drop that one easily, nor take me up on my suggestion that he accompany his older brother to the bin, to offer support and enthusiasm for the chore that’s been his, courage for worms that he and I and the four all share.

 LISTEN

Flowers

by Linda Pastan

The deep strangeness
of flowers in winter—

the orange of clivia,
or this creamy white rose

in its stoneware
vase, while outside

another white
like petals drifting down.

Is it real?
a visitor asks,

meaning the odd magenta
orchid on our sill

unnatural
as makeup on a child.

It’s freezing all around us—
salt cold on the lips,

the flinty blacks and grays
of January in any northern city,

and flowers
everywhere:

in the supermarket
by cans of juice,

filling the heated stalls
near the river—

secular lilies engorged
with scent,

notched tulips, crimson
and pink, ablaze

in the icy
corridors of winter.

“Flowers” by Linda Pastan, from Traveling Light. © Norton, 2010. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

This is my first entry on my new computer, a brand new Macbook Pro 13 inch wonder to replace my dying black 2007 Macbook, steady companion for all those years since it’s arrival, dead battery the last straw in its gradual transition to retirement. It’s taken me years to replace it. I’m that kind of gal. New computers don’t come easy. Big purchases take time to accept. Modern technology figures it’s way into my life bit by bit.

On this new computer, there are still many years of e-mail records, many years of music and photos documenting things I’ve seen and heard and said and done. The Pro was the choice for me over the Air primarily because of my need for storage. Even in the world of computers I’m not much for letting go. If you wrote to me in 2007, I still hope to find the message, reread it when it’s relevant or I find the time. If I took a photo of a child working playdough in the day care or one of my own on a vacation or a flower in a garden or dishes in my sink in the years I’ve had a digital camera or an iphone, starting in 2008 with our trip to Disney World, I can most likely find that photo, go back in time that way, too. This week while I’ve got the time and inclination, I’ll finish putting all the CDs from my old life pre-itunes on the new computer, borrow the collection from my ex, slip the discs into the computer’s drive, another reason for the Pro versus the Air, watch the circle spin, eventually listen to all those songs I used to love.

Last night and this morning I opened various applications, testing to see what would happen, finding the music in the itunes, the photos in iPhoto, the schedule in word, the budget in excel, the emails in their place, or most of them. So far there have been a few needs for updates and my financial records are still inaccessible on the new machine, happy tax time for the old computer or the new will depend upon my ability to access some sort of Java thing which for some reason was not accessible this morning but may be soon.

As much as the technology is here in my hands, much more of it remains mystery, as do the future and the past. So little of any of it is within my grasp, attempts to photograph or write about it all quite weak in the face of the reality and the mystery.

It’s just past three and already I am sitting in the dark. It seems early for lights and candles, but that is where we are, midwinter afternoon.

All afternoon I’ve been contemplating the upcoming February school vacation week, and summer, and fall, thinking of schedules and enrollment and budgets, and all the things I try each new year to figure out with more certainty than I’m able. I’ve been communicating with families, setting up interviews and visits to the day care, getting my financial records in order in anticipation of knowing enough to make a budget projection for the coming school year. My goal for the week included putting my tax information together, beginning the process of applying for financial aid for my son. I haven’t gotten very far. The new computer may help. One more reason for the purchase, made January 31st, as one tax year ended and the next was about to begin.

My kids are with their dad. It’s been nearly four years since our family came apart. As my mom said when we were together last week, it takes about that long to begin to feel normal again. You wouldn’t think so unless you experienced it yourself. Friends were tired of hearing about it year one. So much of the work is internal, days like today, alone in near dark, have come to be working days for me, not only for business, but for the personal as well.

Last week on a walk with my beau down a snowy road in New Hampshire, where he’s walked his whole life, outside the home of an old friend who’s been in the hospital since mid-November, I was hatching an idea of the book I’d like to write. My beau is good at helping me with that, a gift I don’t take lightly. The misunderstandings between us are as helpful as the times he understands completely. They give me a chance to be clearer in my mind, to articulate what is only barely germinating, which until then didn’t have form or words known even to me. We were talking about my fascination with education and my wish to write a book about the early years of progressive education, about the twenties and the sixties, about the people who were part of those periods and those who continue now to be true to some ideal which I am trying to identify..some mix of democracy, of respect for the individual and care for the community, of the holy innate in each individual and our duty and obligation to create places where the whole person can flourish and belong..and I find myself trying to make connections between John Dewey and Reggio Emilia, between the progressive educators and Sudbury Valley, between the early creation of science materials by David Hawkens and his colleagues and the meaning those works have for those who treasure them now in the privacy of their homes and the world of educators now who may or may not know anything of that way of thinking and being in schools..And as we talk, I get clearer, and as I write I get clearer, but it is all still thoughts, and in the busy life of the day to day, I don’t yet know how it will take shape. Keep thinking and talking and wondering and dreaming, and I suppose that it will, in a form I can’t yet imagine, but that’s beginning to take shape inside..

More to do today that write and wonder. This is one of my hermit days..for which I always have higher hopes than I’m able to fulfill..the laundry and dishes and vacuuming and desk work still await, as well as a pot of stew and who knows what else..I have to be to work at 8:15 tomorrow, but until then, I’ll take it as it comes, luxury of a single mom whose kids are away on a bank holiday and whose beau is also in need of a hermit day of his own.

Watched a good movie last night..as an aside..you might like it, inspired me to listen to Leonard Cohen as I work, as the title is from one of his songs..a Canadian film about the complexity of life and love which somehow struck a chord, Take This Waltz. Been too long since I have written here. Sorry if it’s a rambler. Sometimes getting back in the swing of things is that way.