Light a Candle. Keep It Alive.

Mt. Mansfield, Vermont

My daughters’ preschools had a sweet November festival called the Lantern Walk. The little kids each made their own lantern, from a mason jar or metal or wax, and strung it through with a wire. On a dark November evening, always right about now, the families arrived, and everyone took a walk through the woods with these candlelit lanterns, singing. The metaphor was, and is, immensely appealing.

In all my daughters’ lantern walks, the route often changed. One year, the teacher led the families down a steep hill. Rural Vermont is dark, dark, dark, on these November nights. The parents whispered to each other, fence here, and watch the big root.

These November days and nights, the wood stove is again glowing in our house and the wind blows over our hillside. Like Shakespeare’s play within a play, I remember those walks as Lantern Walk within a Long Lantern Walk.

On another note, State 14 ran an excerpt of Unstitched. It’s always such a pleasure to appear in this Vermont publication.

Capitalism and Commodification

Everyone’s late to dinner last night, except the cats, who are never late to dinner, so I lie on the floor and finish reading Edward E. Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. Spoiler alert: there’s no laugh-aloud sections in this lengthy book.

Although I consider myself at least mediocrely educated, the book was a revelation to me — a enormous swathe of history, like Hemingway’s submerged iceberg, still mightily driving along our society.

Here’s a two-line excerpt.

The idea that the commodification and suffering and forced labor of African Americans is what made the United States powerful and rich is not an idea that people necessarily are happy to hear. Yet it is the truth.

Meanwhile, little pumpkins in Vermont.


A Little Bit of Sweetness….

My sixth-grader and her class visited the middle and high school yesterday, dipping in their 12-year-old toes for next year’s migration from the crayon-scented world of elementary school to the locker-walled hallways.

Her sister, hanging out in art class, gave her a glazed blueberry donut.

Later that night, walking through the halls with the kids and my friend, I remember my own adolescent claustrophobic years, calling my high school “the cannery” as I felt like a fish parched for wild waters.

As a sprig of forsythia in a vase greets visitors into my kitchen these days, that donut likely welcomed my daughter into the next phase of schooling. Sweet….

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me…..

From “Instructions on Not Giving Up” By Ada Limón


Another Brick in the Wall….

Today I visited a high school that reminded me of the high school I attended, and I remembered just how badly I wanted to dismantle that building, brick by brick. I wanted windows. I wanted to lie beneath leafy trees. I wanted to hike up behind the athletic fields and wander into woods I hadn’t explored.

So at 18 when I enrolled in a tiny Vermont college at the end of a paved road, where an old farmhouse housed the administrative offices and classrooms were in a former hay barn, I knew I was in the right place. The first night I slept there, I fell asleep staring through the window at the crystalline stars.

I’ve tried many paths with my own daughters, from private school to homeschooling to public school, and perhaps the one thing I learned is not follow what your own adult peer group is doing – that initial impulses are sometimes dead-on – and that if you’re feeling penned in, look for the egress, or at least a window sash to open.

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

William Butler Yeats

February garden, Vermont

Words, Words, Words

Driving back from an education meeting tonight, I rounded a bend, and suddenly there was the sunset, crimson and azure and black at the edges.

The Poet wrote, Words, words, words, summing up this evening.  So many adult words, so much smokescreen, and underneath all that, the schoolhouse without children, the laughing — sometimes crying — heart of the building.  All those words, so precisely and precariously constructed, will lead to more words, and yet more words.

Reveal or obscure?  At the end of the day, will your words lead you to the sky eternally above your head, or to your own shallow and flimsy self?

My daughter’s friend walked into this adult-packed room and bee-lined for the strawberries.  This child knows what is what.