First day of school and our glorious opening ceremony. I teared up several times, which is maybe odd for the first day of school, something more reserved for departures than arrivals. But still. When we were singing the song Simple Gifts, I felt these lines more deeply than usual:
“…And when we find ourselves in the place just right
It will be in the valley of love and delight.”
The ceremony began with the school head invoking John Lennon and playing a recording of John Lennon’s Imagine. Nothing of value is ever set in motion without beginning with the dream, with imagining something beyond the norm. I believe we all have lived for a time in the land of dream at some point in our life. First as a child, then a teenager, then a young adult. Our vision so limited because we’re so young, but we can see the horizon and hear the beckoning voices just out of sight and imagine what song they are singing to us, what dance they are asking us to do. And then if things are aligned just right, if we are gifted with the possibility of “coming around to where we ought to be,” we discover that the gift comes with a price—our own efforts to put feet on the wings of vision. As it says in another song in the opening ceremony:
“Gonna build me a day dream, from a little hope
Gonna push that daydream, up the mountain slope…”
To imagine, to dream, is a verb. It requires an active effort and one that defies gravity’s urge to bring us down to a lazy inertia. Anybody can dream, but to actively build the dream is something else, to push it up the mountain slope is the next necessary step.
So in my case, I had a vision all some four decades back of a nurturing school community that would be fun, challenging, artistic, intellectually rigorous, connected, that would wrangle with the difficulties of human beings sharing a time and space and dance through the challenges. I took on the role of creating and sustaining a ceremonial calendar that helped us push that daydream onward “side by side.” Nothing was accomplished by me alone, let me be clear about that. But I was the one who took responsibility to shape it and re-shape it and to learn when to lead ceremonies and when to step aside, when to involve other teachers, how to involve the kids. And that was a slow, arduous process full of small wrong turns, but always moving forward. One of the parents at the ceremony today is an alum who as a Middle Schooler used to call this “candle crap.” She confessed that part of her today remembered that 13-year old cynical self and the rest of her was weeping from the beauty of it all.
As was I. Listening to the voices of my colleagues speaking so eloquently, watching the kids ring gongs, pour water, dance with an Earth Ball, hearing the room filled with voices raised in song, the world stood still for a moment and I knew I had arrived. I was in the place just right, a place of love and delight. A place I helped build brick by brick, a place that in so many ways is stronger and brighter and better than it ever has been. Nothing left for me to do but “to bow and to bend” with deep gratitude, amazement and determination to spread the good news.
It's a good way to start the year.