Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How do weeks just disappear in the summer?  I guess last week had a Tuesday in it but I completely lost track of time and never posted.  I’d like to think that is a good thing, if you will.  Let summer just take over.

I am so lucky to be able to spend this particular week at the Chautauqua Institute in New York.   I get to fill my cup in a way that is hard to explain.  Here’s a peek into just today:

A walk to the Farmer’s Market only to find out that yesterday’s rains had prevented any blueberry picking.  I’ll have to go back tomorrow.

A walk/run/jog along the lakefront, past the kid’s camp area and the marina, beyond the little forest, down the hill, up the hill, past the fire house, and through the streets of waking Chautauquans on their way to the first morning lecture.

A cushioned seat in the amphitheater to listen to Nalini Nadkami, a biologist at the University of Utah and a tree lover.  It’s National Geographic Week and the topic is People and the Environment.  I took notes through the entire lecture as she share ways that she is encouraging others to be stewards of the earth.  I kept finding ways of doing similar things with my 5th graders.

Lunch on our 3rd floor deck while reading my book club book.

A 2 hour tour of the museum featuring the 35 resident student artists.  The docent shared story after story of how each one arrived here or where they were hoping to go with their art or funny anecdotes of their stay here.  We finished the tour by doing what we always do after a museum tour – choose the ‘lottery piece’.  If you could take one work home to put on your wall, what would it be and where would you put it?  I decided to spruce up our living room with an abstract this time.

Follow that with a homemade cookie at the cafe, a short walk across campus and then class for 2 hours.  We meet each day this week with 5 of us to read several plays aloud, each taking a role or two.  We have been reading the play “The Mound Builders” by Landford Wilson aloud.  I read the part of Jean.  We learned about Native American Mounds that are scattered around the US.  Who knew??  We start a comedy tomorrow.

Dinner on the porch with my mother in law’s good friend, Doloras, and her caregiver.  We shared stories of traveling in Slovenia, Moose in Alaska and unhelpful rabbis in Israel.

Then finish the day with Tchaikovsky – a little pas de duex from Swan Lake, a little operatic romance and then Piano Concerto #1 in B-flat minor, opus 23.  So beautiful, in spite of two siren interruptions from the volunteer fire department.  We all laughed and cheered through them both.  And were treated to an encore by the pianist.

Stars in the clear sky led us the few blocks home.IMG_5066

Can you tell me, what would have made this day any better?



Tuesday, July 12, 2016

It’s not really Tuesday anymore.  Even though yesterday was over 32 hours long, I am just now, in the wee hours of Wednesday, starting to write.  It’s jet lag.  I flew home from Europe yesterday, making that amazing journey of 16 hours that transports you from one world to another.  I am still in a different time zone but I am secretly loving these quiet and sleepless hours of the night/morning to reenter slowly.

I just spent 10 days biking around the mountains and countryside of Slovenia.  What a gift that I have a group of women who invite me to adventure with them.  With hours of biking everyday, there was plenty of time to soak up the surroundings.

There were plenty of take aways from this trips but what struck the deepest chord with me was how quiet and how simple life seemed to be as I viewed it from my bike.  It didn’t take long to notice the sounds – the wind, the church bells, the cows and their bells, the birds, rushing water,  and the hum of a tractor cutting hay.  The word bucolic kept coming to mind, immediately followed by peaceful.

While I won’t claim to have any deep understanding of Slovenians and their culture, what I saw and felt in the countryside was a connection to the earth and her rhythms.  Every house we passed, every single farmhouse – and there were countless – had an amazing and abundant garden.  Most of the time we saw someone tending the garden, watering each plant from watering cans – not preprogrammed drip lines – and picking weeds by hand.  The garden tenders ranged from young mothers with children playing nearby to old men who looked like the might not be able to get back to their feet.

Every single farmhouse had overflowing window boxes of thriving flowers.  We wondered if it was similar to a US housing development covenant rule – if your farmhouse did not have the requisite flower boxes, you would be heavily fined or asked to move out of the village.  We made a point to find any rose bush that needed dead heading which took threIMG_0384e days and 100 miles of country villages to locate.  We could feel the pride in those flowers and gardens.  Not a haughty show offy pride, but the pride that comes from hard work.  We saw people working in their gardens and fields because that was simply what you did.  People seemed to be enjoying their work and that simplicity of it.  We didn’t see anxious hurried faces, or preoccupied weed pulling, and definitely did not see a single ear bud attached to a box of entertainment.

So, what of this can I bring to a classroom?  Take away the noise.  Not just the actual noise but the noise of excess.  Boil it down to what is essential and don’t let the busyness of the rest of the world change our focus.  Keep the expectations simple yet high.  Tend our own gardens daily by hand.