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…

The Advent Spiral & the Class of 2021’s Last Walk As a Class

Every December, all the children in our school gather to walk the advent spiral. In the past, this beautiful tradition took place in a hushed and darkened room, accompanied by harp music and candle light.

This year, we went out with our hats and gloves on. The breeze and the blue jays joined us. Rather than candles, children carried apples, bulbs, oranges, and pine cones. And though it looked and felt very different, it was still a gorgeous way to acknowledge the season.

The Class of 2020 walked the Advent Spiral as a class for the last time on Thursday. Some of them had been walking a similar spiral since they were in preschool. Others walked it for the first time. After the ceremony, class teacher Kristine Deason shared her thoughts with 8th grade parents, who, unlike in years past, weren’t able to witness the tradition as usual. We want to share what she wrote, below, as well as some of the beautiful photos our staff took of the day.

Dear Families,

Earlier today, the 8th grade class walked our outdoor Advent Spiral, beautifully built by the Parent Association over the weekend.  Out of respect for fire danger, we carried bright oranges instead of candles — each student carrying the “fruits of their labors” into the center of the spiral. 

We have walked the spiral together every year since First Grade, and this was our last time as a class.  Beforehand, I recapitulated the experience, mindful of those students who would be experiencing it for the first time.  I described how, at this time of year, walking the spiral invites us to bring our own light into the darkness and thereby illuminate it.  It is harder to experience this in the light of day, but I described to the class that this year our walk would be a journey inward.  The students took it up with thoughtfulness and reverence.  It was a gift to take part in this with them.

Please enjoy the photos.  We hope they convey some small measure of the mood we experienced. 

We walked the spiral today mindful of those friends who could not join us.  You were in our hearts and we miss you very much.

Kristine

El Vuelo de los Ancestros

Under the guidance of Spanish teacher Has Pineda, the traditional Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos has become a part of our school’s annual celebrations. Last year, as part of the school’s festivities, our 8th grade class presented a wonderful play in Spanish to the student body, 3rd graders baked the traditional sweet bread pan de muerto, and we all brought mementos and photos to assemble a traditional Día de Muertos altar to remember departed loved ones.

This year, students worked with Maestra Pineda to create a beautiful altar in the Peace Garden (click here for photos). Below, Maestra Has Pineda describes the origins and meaning behind Día de Muertos celebrations.

El vuelo de los Ancestros
Return to the ancient path,
the roadmap of greatness,
the elders call must be obeyed,
thoughts of the ancestors is enough,
everything is hidden within it.
It is the beginning of healing
for all of us and our land.
Put your ears on the ground to listen
to what they have to say.
Tilt your head and look up for
the sky bears witness to this truth.
The air still sings their music,
even the waters also whispers their songs
for they drank from the same well as you.
Emeka Mokeme, The Elders Call
by Morgan Vierheller

Death has been in all cultures and throughout history, an event that invites reflection, rituals, ceremonies, the search for answers, which causes fear, admiration and uncertainty. The festival of the Day of the Dead in Mexico is a tradition that began long before the arrival of the Spanish. About 3,000 years ago, the original Aztecs left a legacy that shows, in the eyes of the world, a culture of great intangible wealth: the spiritual. Through these practices and beliefs they speak to us of respect and love for connections even after physical death.

Pre-Hispanic cultures shared the belief that there is an immortal and soulful entity that gives consciousness to the human being and that after death continues its path in the world of the dead, where it continues to need utensils, tools and food. 

Every year, as the fall season arrives Mexicans and many other people from around the globe turn their hearts and minds  to loved ones that have crossed the threshold and once more  enlighten the bridge between the dead and the living by celebrating “dia de los muertos”. The most representative element of the Day of the Dead festival are the altars with their offerings, a representation of the vision of death, full of allegories and meanings.

This year at Marin Waldorf school we will be honoring with respect, wonder and inclusivity this festival of remembrance. Each class will be offering a gift to the “ofrenda”. First graders cut out pieces of paper to make banners or “papel picado” that will represent the air element. Fifth grade will be making Cempasúchitl  flowers(marigolds). They are a symbol of the impermanence and fragility of life and have many uses in Day of the Dead celebrations. 7th graders learned about the history and the components of an altar while 8th graders will write biographies of a loved one they will be honoring during day of the dead. 

We set up an altar in the peace garden to allow all students to walk through and in reverence take part of this beautiful celebration. 

The Rose Ceremony, Reimagined

Our year in the grades always begins with an all-school assembly to celebrate the Rose Ceremony. In this beloved tradition, first graders are called one by one to the stage to receive a red rose from their new eighth grade buddy. Together, our school celebrates the first day of our first graders’ journey through the grades, while also saluting our eighth grade class, who are beginning their last year on campus.

It’s hard to imagine a school year starting without the Rose Ceremony. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a Waldorf school year without a robust calendar of community events, festivals, ceremonies, and gatherings… but reimagining is what we’ve been doing all year. Surely there was a way to mark the day without compromising our commitment to safety.

Working with our school nurse, our first and eighth grade teachers redesigned the Rose Ceremony as a safe, physically distanced event, which connected the two classes through socially distant waves and smiles (and without any intermingling of cohorts!). See below as one of our first graders passes under the rainbow bridge between our School Director Megan Neale and Grades Director Dena Malon, to stand beside her teacher, Mr. Baril. (And of course we had to have live musical accompaniment!)

The ceremony concluded with the very special delivery to the first grade of a basket of handmade gnomes from the eighth grade (pictured at top).

May Flowers: MWS Celebrates May Faire

Last Friday, we would have gathered to celebrate our traditional May Faire in the shade of Grandmother Oak. It’s a favorite event, one we all look forward to, and since we couldn’t be together, we asked our families to celebrate the spring at home and to share their pictures of their May Faire celebrations with us.

The beauty, kindness, and creativity of our community is always astounding! Thank you to everyone who shared their celebrations with us.

Flower crowns are a tradition at our May Faire, and many children made their own with garden flowers, paper, or felt, while others gather wildflowers or roses.

Some of our sweet families dropped off spring baskets for their neighbors.

Others made maypoles for dancing or for their toy gnomes, including a very inventive maypole made from an outdoor umbrella!

Others gathered wildflowers on their hikes or gifted garden flowers to their neighbors.

Did you celebrate the May Faire at home? Let’s keep our celebration growing! Please share your pictures with us.

This Week: May Faire 2020

In the open space around our Lucas Valley campus, the hills are blooming with poppies and buttercups. In our school garden, spring flowers are emerging in brilliant colors. No wonder we choose to celebrate spring at the beginning of May each year!

For our May Faire 2020, we planned to welcome our beloved grandparents to campus to celebrate May Faire as our guests of honor, which would have made the day even more memorable.

While we can’t be together on campus, we can still celebrate spring (and honor our grandparents) as a community. Here’s our plan for May Faire 2020, and, as always, the more MWS families who get involved, the more beautiful it will be.

Create!
MWS families, please take this week to create something at home to celebrate spring: make paper flower garlands, use garden flowers to make a traditional May Faire flower crown, link together a daisy chain, or create a vase full of tissue-paper flowers. Make a collection of beeswax buttercups. Or you might collect wildflowers, scatter wildflower seeds outside, or find a flower in nature and draw it in detail. Use the items you have in your house! Love is the most important ingredient!

If you need some inspiration, we have many tips and tutorials for creating homemade flowers in the post It’s Spring! Flower Projects to Celebrate May Faire.

Spread Joy
Now that you’ve made something at home, let’s share our spring celebration with the people around us. Deliver a paper flower, a bunch of wildflowers, or a note of spring cheer to your neighbors. Or leave a beautiful gift on your mailbox for the mail carrier, at grocery stores, or for anyone else in your community.

Share It Here
Send a photo of your flower creation and your acts of kindness. We’ll create a beautiful collage of images and good cheer right here on Grandmother Oak.

… And we’ll use our images to create a small token to share with our beloved grandparents. Please send them to Julie at grandmotheroak@marinwaldorf.org. (If you’d like to dedicate your flower crown or creation to a grandparent, please let me know!)

Come Together
On Sunday morning, wear your flower crowns, bring your paper flower bouquet, or show up in any other flower trappings to celebrate the May Faire at the Community Coffee on Sunday. We’ll have a special lineup of music that day! Stay tuned for details.