One of our eighth-graders last year wrote a poem, Rain, that touches on the way in which we might choose to embrace a reality like waiting, rather than doubting, worrying, or railing at it:
"...But one man
Opens up his arms.
He embraces the wet,
He turns his face toward the sky,
Closes his eyes,
What would it be like
To take a look at what life gives you
And embrace it
All of it...."
We spent a good deal of last year embracing various realities beyond our control -- from snowy weather to malfunctioning sprinkler systems to bureaucratic delays -- taking from each the opportunities that we otherwise would have missed. Through it all, goodwill and consideration for one another and for the community as a whole prevailed, and our momentum carried us forward.
GATHER: from Middle English gaderen, "gather," and Middle High German gater, "together."
CENTER : from Latin centrum and Greek kentron, "to prick," hence any sharp point, hence any point, hence a geometric center.
Moving in and gathering together in the new center of our campus -- these will be the watchwords of the year to come. The long awaiting will make the final move into the building more rewarding than if we hadn't had to wait, just as hunger makes a delicious meal more toothsome.
This coming year follows several years of living comfortably in the patterns we established when we moved nine classrooms in the Fall of 2008, after the purchase of another five acres of land, a major remodel of buildings, and a reconfiguration of campus circulation. With Music moving to the Gathering Center before the Fall is out, the Arena then being devoted exclusively to PE and Recess, and the Stables rooms becoming available for use, the re-centering of our campus will continue, and a host of promising possibilities will become real.
We will soon be ready to mark a whole new series of joyful firsts in the Gathering Center: first Winter Solstice, first "A Midsummer Night's Dream," first Graduation. And as we do, we will continue to lift our arms and embrace what comes.
One promise that will become a reality is the arrival of Arbor's good friend, Naomi Shihab Nye on February 20, 2018. While her time with us will not be a first, as she came in the spring of 1999, to help us celebrate our Tenth Anniversary, and again in 2005, her visit this year will be a kind of inauguration and dedication for the Gathering Center. Reading and discussing poetry, and thinking and writing it together with her are ways we hope to invest the Gathering Center with her devotion to:
- the power of the word ( "Paul Robeson stood/on the northern border/of the USA/and sang into Canada.../when his body was not allowed to cross that line.../ What lines should we all/ be crossing?..." from “Cross that Line,”);
- the vibrancy of small things ("I am partial to poems about/ little ruinations, explosions of minor joy.../ People with the patience for origami-- well,/ I am not one,/ but I like to see what they fold..." from “Fold,”);
- remaining humble ("I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,/ or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular/ but because it never forgot what it could do." from “Famous,”)
- the centrality of generosity ("The Arabs used to say,/ when a stranger appears at your door,/ feed him for three days/ before asking who he is.../ Let's go back to that./ Rice? Pine nuts?/ Here, take the red brocade pillow...." from “Red Brocade,”)
- the lessons to be learned from difficulties ("...And then we waited. For someone to come measure. For substances to arrive from different directions. For things not to be broken. For them to be re-ordered. For someone to be able to put them in...." from “Renovation,”).
Through all of her poetry and through her very presence, Naomi displays a kind of alert openness that makes people reading her feel at once embraced and enlarged. It is our hope that our students' experiences in the Gathering Center will have a similar effect, that the wisdom and grace that Naomi brings will remain with us by virtue of our seeking always to embody it.
Of course the Fall will be punctuated with firsts -- welcoming new families into the school and New Hands into each new class level, both made sweeter by the intention and graciousness of the Old Hands, who know the ropes and can offer a helping hand. We particularly look to our Senior Seniors, the eighth-graders, whose work ethic, generosity, and consideration make all the difference in how the year begins.
Looking forward to beginning again with all of you.