On Monday eleven of us hiked Old Rag Mountain in the Shenandoah National Forest – two staff and nine students.
Otto and I sat on the porch and talked about the Mastodon molar that a former student found in 2008, and of the replica in the showcase in the upstairs hallway. Otto wanted to see the spot where the molar was found. We ventured down the wooden steps to the path in the woods. He asked me questions, adding and subtracting the answers in his head, and he took me on a journey to the earth’s past. By the walk’s end I had newfound reverence for the present moment.
As I ambled toward the Fairy Tree on a sunny fall Friday, I noticed more students than usual milling about, socially distanced, gathering twigs, acorns, flowers and other autumn loot from the lightly-forested area. It was the day of what students dubbed our first Fall Festival, replete with a Deity of Good Vibes and a well-thought-out economy using an acorn currency they call “chips”.
As so often happens here, the ordinary became the extraordinary, simply because we had the time and the mutual respect to practice the ancient art of conversation, of speaking and listening. Fairhaven is, among many other things, teeming with conversations, and this one was both typical and noteworthy, an especially lively portion of Ruefle’s lifelong sentence. Isn’t the spoken word perhaps the most important distinction of the human species? We recognize and honor this distinction here. Instead of sit down, be quiet, and do you work, our instruction is: do what excites you and talk!
We all think our kids are special and brilliant and couldn’t possibly do the bone-headed things other kids do. As a staff member with two kids at school, I was able to see that my kids—although, of course, brilliant and special—were among peers who were equally brilliant and special, and that my kids were just as capable of spinning tales at the dinner table about why they’d been hauled into JC through no fault of their own.
Although I can’t believe it now, looking out at all this rain, a couple of days ago the weather was very hot and humid. One of the younger girls invited me to go to the stream with her, so we walked together down the winding, forest stairs. The leaves on the trees are now toughened up, and the sun is almost completely covered, except for the occasional diamond of light shining down. She got in the water, I stayed on the shore.
The one thing that makes my job as a staff member at Fairhaven School interesting and challenging is that it offers an ever-changing kaleidoscope of experiences. No day is ever quite the same as the one before, because the infinite potential of human creativity is unfolding before me on a daily basis. I have observed that when students are given the chance to create what they want, many unexpected and rich experiences evolve.
Last week in between cases in Fairhaven School’s JC (Judicial Committee), a student restated Stephen Hawking’s theory that time stands still inside a black hole. “Although a watch would probably explode in there, if it didn’t, he thinks it would