Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Song in the Air

It's our Alumni Weekend this weekend. The school's 63rd, my 34th (yes, I'm principal of my alma mater!). Here, we have programs all weekend long. This year was special to me because we brought back our music teacher from 10 years ago and had a reunion choir concert to benefit our current music program.

The choir director has actually been a dear friend of mine for about 25 years. Twice, we've taught at the same school together (two four year stints) and have had the best time working with our kids. Together, we've done tours twice to Russia, to England, Puerto Rico, and all over New England and New York. Many of those kids went on to participate in college choirs and on at least two occasions, Laurie and I were on tours (China and South Africa) where a number of our former students were also involved.

Music has been a huge blessing in our lives and it has been our privilege to share it with hundreds of kids. It was such fun to get some of them together for rehearsal last night, performance in a service this morning, and then the concert this afternoon. We raised nearly $1,000 in an hour's worth of music!

The lyrics to one of the songs we sang are in the previous post. If all goes true to form, that song will be running through my head for days to come, as will the memory of the weekend.

Thy Word is Like a Garden

Thy Word is like a garden, Lord,
with flowers bright and fair;
And every one who seeks may pluck
a lovely cluster there.

Thy Word is like a deep, deep mine;
and jewels rich and rare
Are hidden in its mighty depths
for every searcher there.

Thy Word is like a starry host:
a thousand rays of light
Are seen to guide the traveler
and make his pathway bright.

O may I love Thy precious Word,
may I explore the mine,
May I its fragrant flowers glean,
may light upon me shine!

~ Edwin Hodder

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

1/2 Day, Full Moon

So, it's a full moon, and I decided to do something a little crazy today. I gave the kids the afternoon off because I wanted to do something special for the staff. I treated them to lunch at school after all the kids were gone, then got them on our little bus and took them about 1/2 hour away to a legendary (in this area at least) ice creamery and miniature golf place that has literally been around for more than 40 years (not the mini-golf...that's relatively new).

We got into groups of 4, with people we don't always hang out with, and played 18 holes at one of the prettiest mini-golf courses I know of.

It was hot. Over 90 degrees, a record-breaking heat. But we had such fun. I'm pleased to say I got the top score in my foursome, thanks to the only hole-in-one of the group, but that's not the most important thing. What mattered is that we hung out and had a good time together.
After golf, I gave everyone $5 for the ice cream bar, and we treated ourselves to delicious home-made style ice cream. I got a "small kiddy" size, but let me tell you, it was more than big. And quite tasty =)

I was tired when I got home, though. I'm not used to this kind of a workout in such heat! It was worth it, though...definitely did a lot for bringing the staff together in a positive way...which was, of course, the goal.

Meanwhile, the moon was rising in the sky looking like an enormous pumpkin. The trees here hid it from my view, so I couldn't take a picture in the flesh (so to speak), but they showed it hanging low over Fenway Park where the Red Sox were beating the Oakland A's (yay), so I captured it for you via my TV, which of course doesn't do it justice, but gives you an idea of how beautiful it is tonight.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lunar Luna

It's a full moon tonight, and I sure could tell by the way the kids were acting today. If you teach, you know what I mean. You'll be going through the day wondering what in the world is going on, and then someone will say "full moon" and it all makes sense. Yup. It's a full moon tonight. I could feel it coming...

It's nothing really bad that goes on...just kind of squirrelly. No, really squirrelly! Can't-sit-still-for-a moment squirrelly... I'm glad I'm not an elementary teacher on days like this =)

And yet, I had fun with the elementary kids today as I had to watch them out at recess for awhile. It so happened that three classrooms were outside at the same time today. A beautiful day, by the way. Kids were happily playing when one discovered this amazing critter. We didn't know what it was at first, but turns out it's a Luna Moth caterpillar, complete with suction-cup feet, pinpoint eyes, and a funny looking mouth on its underside. Kind of cool, albeit a bit creepy crawly!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Pumpkins and Poetry

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Tonight, I participated in a program at my alma mater called "A Night to Remember." Some 20 participants recited poetry, prose, and parts of plays that had made an impact on their lives at one point or another. Ages ranged between 6 or 7 and nearly 80! I was pleasantly surprised with the evening, as I hadn't expected much, to be honest. More to the point, I didn't really know what to expect, only that I was going to give the opening lines of a play I was in some 30 years ago. Beyond that, I didn't know.

At least 8 of the participants were high school students delivering selections ranging from the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet to The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot. I was quite impressed with their renditions. Two moved me quite deeply. One young man gave an outstanding recitation of Poe's The Raven and his father performed Frost's The Road Not Taken. Performance obviously runs in that family!

The man who organized the evening also arranged the stage decorations, somehow "growing" the college letters "AUC" into one of the pumpkins. He said he carved them into the pumpkin several weeks ago and it grew a callous in the shape of the letters. I thought that was quite cool. I've never heard of, never mind seen, such a thing before.

The program was exactly 90 minutes, and the audience left wanting more, which is the way it should be. It was indeed a night to remember.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Hint of Fall

It's beginning to look like fall around here. The tree in front of the school has taken on a half-and-half look, red and green. I heard on the news this afternoon that we should have a "good" fall this year which made me happy, as one of the things I love about living in New England is its beautiful fall pallet.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

by Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold,
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Visit to Stone Zoo

I took my nephew to the local small zoo that's about 1/4 mile from the school where I work and he attends (8th grade). It was a cloudy day and we didn't have anything better to do, so we thought we'd go see what was new at the zoo.

It really is a small zoo, but it's well kept and is interesting enough to keep you busy for an hour or more. There are snow leopards, jaguars, a couger, wolves (the same wolves I heard howling at the moon a few weeks ago), meerkats (recent additions), and other creatures.

We enjoyed seeing all the exhibits, but the funniest, and therefore the most fun, were two river otters who got playful with us and decided to come closer to see us and pose for us. They were so cute and funny!

This zoo has long been a favorite place for me. My mother took me to it when I was a baby, and she, my sisters and I have brought their children here as well. When I came back to teach in this town I always chose the group that went to the zoo for community service. I have mucked out the duck pond, raked leaves in the flamingo house, rolled pennies from the old seal exhibit, worked in the gift shop, and served as a guide in the aviary (that no longer exists). It's my all-time favorite place to serve in this town.

Friday, September 14, 2007

True Friends...

I'm lucky, and I know it. My sisters are my dearest friends, something that has been true most of our lives. Of course when we were younger we had occasional tiffs, but it's been rare as we've gotten older that we disagree. Both sisters are younger than I am (although people often think I'm the youngest!). One is 2 years younger, the other is six years young. Both are in education. The youngest is a 5th-8th grade social studies teacher, the other is a volunteer art teacher here in my school. She's also one of the major fund-raisers for us.

Every morning on our ways to work, my youngest sister and I talk. It takes us about the same amount of time to get to our schools, so we talk each other to work. I miss it if for some reason one or the other of us cannot make the call. Even if we talk later in the day, the morning feels a little off if we don't talk.

I actually see my other sister every day, as she is either teaching or otherwise working around the school (today she was painting the bathrooms, other times she's working in the flower gardens). We talk many times throughout the day as she's out and about the school.

One year all three of us worked together. That was the best. The youngest was our computer teacher for a year. Many times she and I would do cross-curricular assignments and even take joint field trips together.

When we were in college (I went for 5 years and the youngest did high school in three years, so there was a year when we were there at the same time), we played in the college orchestra together, along with our father, and one sister's future husband, sister-in-law, and mother-in-law. Now that was a blast!

We share many of the same interests--including the kind of books we like to read. We are constantly sharing them with each other (OK, so I'm the one who buys the most, but they do their share). We also like gardening and camping and biking and quilting and spending time with our family as a whole.

Yes indeed, I am lucky in my sisters. And I thank God every day for both of them.

Pictures from A Source of Joy

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Mist

I am the mist. I am the stuff of illusion, filtering light and bending it to the mind's own purposes. I am the stuff of both ghosts and of dreams. In me men see the figures of their own hopes and fears. I veil the real. I make palpable the imaginary.

I am the mist. I spread the morning sun in generous fairy clouds so that to the brown and angular man who rounds his corn crib in spring it seems his farm rests within the very center of the sun's golden sphere, casting its richness to the world. In me he sees his dreams. Wife and children barefoot frolic in summer. His cracked fingers curl comfortably about the traces of his plow as he begins to break his land free in spring.

I am the mist. I span an ocean in gray confusion, parting to let pass the hulls of merchantmen-- tea, spice, rum, tobacco, hemp-- I part before and close behind these heaving wooden merchant men. And here passes a ship of soldiers only--red velvet, tailor cuffed, and ruffled. Here a soldier stands against the rail to peer westward across the bow. In the roiled mist he sees what I show him, and I show him his own dreams. He sees a crude, ungrateful people in need of his own velvet touch, plunging there in scarlet, westward haste.

I am the mist. I rise above a river on an April morning. The huddled men do not clearly see the men upon the farther bank. I make all a shadow. I muffle the feet and shroud the faces. I roll from the lungs which shout order and anguish in bedlam. I tumble on the laughter of victory. I slip along the ground, over the eyelids of the dead.

I am the mist. I roll across the long arched footbridge of time so that you upon the farther shore see but imperfectly. I drape recollection in legend. Look now with the eyes of your own dreams. What images shall you find? What ghosts step forward and recede? Peer through the mist across the bridge of time. Look upon Concord of an April evening. It is the river. Always Concord is her river. Wide-sliding, trout deep, pewter hued. It has trickled from snowbanks, fallen from marshes, lingered in ponds, until joining and joining in natural confluence, it comes and becomes the river....

These are the opening lines of A Flurry of Birds, a play commissioned for the Bicentennial 31 years ago. We performed it at my college, and I played the part of "The Mist," the narrator of the play about Concord in the hours surrounding the infamous day the "shot heard round the world" was fired. I dug up my lines (typed on a regular PCs back then you know) in a box in my classroom this morning. I've been asked to participate in a special program a week from Saturday night where people will recite/perform selections of things they learned in college. I chose this because it is one of my favorite roles in all the plays I've been involved with (quite a few over the years). I love how the words feel in my mouth and how easily they roll off my tongue. The playwright has such a great sense of the language!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

"How do I Love Thee?"

I'm not a huge fan of racing, but I was looking for the news tonight as caught this commercial at the end of today's race. I thought it was a cool take-off of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's famous "How do I Love Thee" poem.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Burning Bright

I'm reading Tracy Chevalier's new book about William Blake called Burning Bright (it takes its title from his poem The Tyger: Tyger, tyger burning bright...). I've enjoyed the insight into the often bizarre world of this visionary poet and artist. Chevalier does what I'd love to do some day: write novels about artists and authors, making them and their works come alive in ways plain biographies can't. Her first book, Girl with the Pearl Earring, was a huge success and is among my favorites of this genre. She does her homework, so you are immersed in quality and interesting information throughout the reading experience. This book takes the perspective of Blake's neighbors, so you see him from a totally different viewpoint from any other. Here, the neighbors are young teenagers on top of it, so the picture of this man is unique on that score as well.

Here are some of Tracy's favorite Blake quotes that I liked:

"…the moment I have written I see the words fly about the room in all directions."

"What is the price of Experience? Do men buy it for a song
Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No, it is bought with the price
Of all that a man hath, his house his wife his children."

" The man who never alters his opinions is like standing water,
and breeds reptiles of the mind."

Ruskin quote from Snapshots of Joy

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Summer in the Garden

I spent a couple of days at my parents' in Maine. As usual, I wandered the backyard taking pictures of the gardens. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Two Less at the Table

I'm not afraid of growing old, or of dying. But there is something unsettling about the fact that it happens, regardless of who we are, what we do. It's not so much about it happening to me as to others. This week, Tuesday, was an unsettling day for me with regards to age and mortality, as I experienced first hand the effects of both.

As principal of the local church school, I am also the Educational minister of our church, which automatically made me a member of the church board. I've been attending this predominantly male board for two years, now, and am only just now beginning to feel comfortable with the group. For these two years, there have been three other women meeting around the table along with me: two who serve as elders, and the church clerk (the science teacher at school, and my VP for the past two years).

This past Tuesday, for the first time, I was the only woman at the table (one of the elders came 1/2 hour late). No big deal, really, except that two are permanently gone. Our science teacher retired last year and has moved to Maine. She won't be coming back to serve on the board, although I expect that someone will fill her shoes soon. But one of the two female elders passed away suddenly on Monday afternoon. She, too, had just retired and was preparing to move. She was just waiting for her house to sell, when she experienced sustained stomach pains and went into to the hospital for tests. Seven weeks later she was dead. The quickness of it all was shocking.

The absence of these two ladies, friends of many years now, got me to thinking about the aging process. About how you work hard to get to the place where you can comfortably retire and enjoy a slower, less hectic pace of life. You get to that point, and it can go either really well, or horribly awry. And the quality of the life you led to get there really has nothing to do with it. Both these ladies were good, deeply spiritual, faithful servants. Both these ladies were thoughtful and generous with their time and energies. Both lived alone, one widowed, the other never married. Both were widely recognized for their cheerful and willing attitudes. Both were looking forward to enjoying retirement. One made it, the other did not. One, even though she's gone from the community she was born into, is now finding a new niche, another place in which to make a difference. That was the plan of the other, but instead, she is resting quietly and passively, awaiting the Resurrection.

So...the question comes, which one has the better retirement? You can hardly feel sorry for the one who has escaped the miseries of this world and only has a short sleep until she sees her Savior face to face. And the life the other now has is certainly not to be disdained for its peaceful pace. Why is it, then, that I feel only sorrow for the one and envy of the other? Maybe it's not really sorrow for her so much as it is sorrow for the rest of us who will miss her. It definitely is envy of other, though =)