Seasonal Greetings From Our College Chair

Sarah Whitmore, the lead Manzanita kindergarten teacher, is also our college chairperson for the 2020-2021 school year. In a beautiful letter to families that was sent out last week, Sarah shares thoughts on the season, the solstice, and togetherness. We are delighted to share it again here.

I write to you with a heart full of pictures from our campus. 6th graders playing “Silent Night” on recorders in the Peace Garden—filling the EC outdoor classes with song. Preschool children trailing behind their teacher singing about their little lanterns shining bright. A 4th grade boy offering, with arm very outstretched for social distance, a crown-sized evergreen wreath to our 8th grade teacher, Ms. Deason. “It’s for you. We are making holiday wreaths.” She places it on her head, a solstice queen.
The campus is alive with a warm, festive mood. Though it’s cold outside, we couldn’t be warmer as we unveil a multitude of Festivals of Light with our classes. School is a sanctuary during this difficult time—a balm. How can we share this light?

Most of us have an understanding that the word solstice refers to the sun. We know that the summer solstice (~June 21) is the longest day of the year, with the sun sharing peak amounts of light and warmth. In contrast, the winter solstice (~Dec. 21) is the shortest day of the year—offering the least amount of the sun’s warmth and light. This astronomical phenomena is easily observable. We have all sensed it. We recognize this seasonal moment in our bones.

The word solstice translates to something like, when the sun stands still. The winter solstice is a reflection point, opposite to the summer solstice. We are approaching this still point—when the sun shares minimal light and warmth. In response, I invite you to cultivate and kindle your own human warmth, your inner light, and share it generously. It’s no wonder so many holidays that involve gift giving, sharing, gratitude and actual light/candles arise during this time of year.

Covid brought a unique challenge to us during the summer solstice—but we could comfortably be outdoors, take walks, drink in the sunlight even if our group of friends or family was smaller. My husband and I walked late into the evening that June night—greeting strangers and neighbors who were eating outdoors on their porches. Connecting.

The winter solstice—in this time of Covid—will present us with new lessons. How can we say yes, share, give, encounter others in a meaningful way this year? How will we express our love to those close to us and to our would-be friends and neighbors without being physically together?

It seems so important to reach out to others during the coldest and darkest time of year. Interesting that the sun gives us the most usable form of vitamin D—so essential to immune health. Could it be that our inner warmth and light, shared with others, could offer some immune support?

I want to share with you that even behind masks and with many feet between u, we are radiating light and we are reaching each other. We hope you will find ways to share your light with family and friends—safely but truly—the way we have been able to at school.

As we say to each other in kindergarten each morning, with a bow to each friend:

Golden Sun in heaven blue
Come and warm us through and through
Come and bring us of your goldThat the blossom may unfold
That my heart’s blossom may unfold:
to you, to you, to you and to you…

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