Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure not this thing not that but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.
~William B. Yeats
I was filled with gratitude- and simple joy-yesterday morning as I filled my trusted old blue mason jars with water and flowers (and a bit of Sadia’s sage from the garden we all share). The 800 Buena kitchen door was propped open and I could see the black squirrel from the garden snooping around the entrance to the coach house. The beautiful table runners Hiu had sewn for our first big GCE event lay spread out on the big wooden table. Peace in work. When they wondered in, I chatted with Melissa and Carolyn from Smart Love about books and building schools and social change. My reading list keeps growing as does my admiration for all the positive work that goes on in quiet places we don’t hear about on the news. Hopeful.
With the heavy prep work done, this quiet morning time doing small tasks before most of the other staff arrived, preparing for a gathering of people who want to come together, made me reflective-and nostalgic. For the theater-those hours before performing, when I could wonder on stage, out of costume, and just be, imagining how it might be when those we had prepared for arrive with all of their unpredictable humanity, when all the hard work transforms into something else, something created by the act of sharing and experience. And for celebrations in other big houses. The one built by my great-grandfather, who left his parents on an island in northern Norway at 17 ended up in Miami planting citrus tress and building houses and churches. I spent almost every Christmas running around those houses at huge parties full of people I knew and didn’t know, eating a mix of butter laden Scandinavian sweets and spicy tropical dishes from all the Latin American islands where my grandparents had lived and worked for Pam Am in the 1940’s and 50’s. Houses in London and Brooklyn where meetings, play readings and rehearsals and endless conversations around tables of food, were as valuable a any college seminar in my professional and personal formation. The house in Italy where my daughter was born-on a farm full of fruit, nut and olive trees-a house where the line between indoor and outdoor living was blurry.
Big joyous blends of people and flavors have always been formative experiences. I have always loved to prepare for visitors; to bring people together; make events rather than things. Helping school communities is not so different somehow; and the table has no meaning, or joy, if no one comes. I like organizing too, but how much lovelier and healthier to work in an environment where an administrative task might occasionally include cutting sage.
And so many came last night! With intent and excitement for this journey we are on with GCE. Big gratitude-for this opportunity, my colleagues, our students and their families trusting us, our incredible advisory board who have given us so much this month of professional development, , our lovely co-tenants from Menominee Club, China Kids, Smart Love and Smarty Pants are Leaders. Specifically- Hiu’s calm attention to the jammed printer at the 11th hour, Eliot’s fabulous soundtrack and PA set up, my dad picking up my daughter from her school and coming all the away across town.
Big breath-we are leaving our scrappy, dynamic,and cozy Basecamp of preparation and ready to start heading up the beautiful, steep mountain together with our students. Last night seeing the students and faculty gathered together introducing themselves to the big and enthusiastic crowd that came to help us launch the year made our quickly sprouting school feel real. Maintaining our balance and intention and energy while allowing the natural surge this project seems to be inspiring in so many folks will be a challenge. This group is good at asking for help, and as long as we are clear with our intentions and reflective along the way, I think we can leverage this fantastic font of good will, hope, and wisdom to build the networks and resources we need to realize a model learning community that so many seem to have been waiting for.
So I am happy and we are growing.