The First Light of Advent
Today, already, it crept up so fast.
My table has hardly been cleared of the festivities from last week.
The visiting Tribes and Pilgrims have gone home.
In the garage, orange storage boxes compete for space with the red and green.
Unprepared and scrambling my Advent candle wreath is yet unmade, and thrown together.
School resumes tomorrow. Gifts to buy, packages to wrap, lists to cross, so giddy, so busy, so festive. Hurry, do, fix.
It would be easy to become lost in the flurry. Effortless to allow oneself to be caught in the current swirling past. Simple to detach and coast along the surface of the season.
“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” John Augustus Shedd
For me, and I might only speak for myself, lost is not what the Advent season is for; instead, it is a chance to seek. Oneself, humankind, light, introspection, personal spiritual beliefs and understandings, the God in all things if you will, the impulse of the Christ.
Meaning. Preparing. Waiting. Quietude.
While joyous and celebratory it is also the silence in the cheer.
Like a glass bottomed boat, this season offers views to wonders beneath the surface.
Last year I wrote this : The First Light of Advent
Today I found new to me version of the 4 Waldorf Advent verses to add to our candle lighting. (in italics)
Each night this week as we sit for dinner we will light the center candle and I will say the verses below as a blessing. Each Sunday another smaller candle will be lit and a new verse added.
The first light of advent
It is the light of stones
The light that lives in crystals
seashells and bones.
Beneath night’s dark blanket
a white candle is lit.
A warm Advent gift,
the flame of human spirit.
With this first light of Advent,
we give thanks to the stones.
To the shells and the sand,
to the crystals and bones.
Bless the strength
and support they provide,
holding us steady
on our foundation outside.
Bless their beauty
and inner light.
Illuminating our lives
in the darkest of nights.
The week before Halloween I traveled to Denver Colorado. While there I was stunned by the vibrancy of the trees. Now, as some know, I was quite a traveler before husband and children, but I must have missed the sheer glow that autumn brings. After all, we all know that fall’s colors are red, yellow and orange. We know that leaves turn colors, we know that the sky gets a cold blue and that Brother Wind blows in. That weekend during lunch I watched as Grey Tail the squirrel chattered and stomped his foot at me for being too close to his tree, running back and forth to scold. I heard for the first time how loud leaves are when falling en-mass. I stood beneath towering trees that made my heart skip with their hues and became foolish with a camera. Jack Frost nipped my nose and Brother Wind blew my scarf.
My plane lifted off in the early morning and as the ether of the light reflected back in the sunrise the palette of colors, I comprehended then that I internally understood autumn. It was no longer an idea or a concept that I knew and clearly could explain or speak to but a seed inside me that would bloom each time I told a story of autumn, or read it in a book or someone spoke of it. It had become alive within me, an experience upon which to draw upon.
I felt I hoped as my children did in their classrooms that morning. I had experienced the knowing of an idea and now knew the experience. This is in its simplest of terms is what we as Waldorf teachers strive to do.
“When the goldenrod is yellow,
And leaves are turning brown –
Reluctantly the summer goes
In a cloud of thistledown.
When squirrels are harvesting
And birds in flight appear –
By these autumn signs we know
September days are here.”
– Beverly Ashour, September
How do I know September is here?
Because I wake to smug chuckling and self-congratulatory posturing. There are occasional wails of intense pain “no, no, no” along with dumbfounded “why would you do that?”
I know it’s September because Coach is doing the annual Fantasy Football Draft. (do you even capitalize that?)
This is year 14 with this group of men and by now, one might think I’d be immune.
With the rising of the sun, Coach is downstairs, command central setup. Coffee, cell phone electronic devices.
My only job is to remember to not answer when he talks to the screen.
I can remember many hours spent in my grandmother’s pool during the summer when I was a girl. My mother had been a hairdresser before my siblings and I were born. Once a week we would drive to Baba’s so mom could give her a wash and curler set. It was your typical post-war house and had a pool, big and deep and cold. I would float on rafts we’d pull from the dusty shed’s creaky hinge door. Buoyed by the raft, toes on the edge of the pool deck I’d drift off in daydreams only to ‘wake’ drifting in the center of the pool.
Summer’s transition into fall seems that way to me. One moment you have a foothold on the wide expanse of summer and the next it has drifted away and you’re suddenly in fall paddling to re-anchor. One of the anchors that I’ve used over the years and that is also used in Waldorf classrooms is the Seasonal or Nature Table. While I’ve written a bit about Nature Tables and given workshops on them, in each of these I’ve specifically oriented the Nature Tables to the young child.
There is another type that I also create and it is specifically for ME and ancillary for my children, family or guests. These are the seasonal notes that I write to myself. They are written all over my home large and small, vignettes on night stands, entry table, centerpieces, chalkboard, bathroom counters… Living in Southern California it is hard to remember that there are seasons besides, Summer and cooler weather than Summer.
Over the next week as we prepare for the first days of school, clean out closets, look for misplaced notebooks and supplies and prep for much earlier mornings, I will being to transition the house from summer sun, and shells to the beginning of autumn. Each season as I shift the tableaux . Inspired, creating moments of beauty and seasonal rhythm.
Went camping .
This came to visit.
Said good-bye to these hooligans.
Helped a friend move (but not pack, can’t own that one) to Sacramento, followed her up there by car then flew home.
Purged the closets.
Turned around and drove up to Sacramento again for Hybrid Teacher Training Summer Session at Rudolf Steiner College.
Stalked one of these in the backyard of my host house.
It really was this hot, and I can prove it.
Ate one of these.
Danced with these to a great Motown band for the 4th.
Spent a lot of time in here prepping for my MA.
Wore a fancy mortar board. Doin’ it Waldorf Style.
My bulletin board sports one of these now.
Missed this one’s Sweet 16. And her Silver Medal at Nationals.
Made up for it later and set a cake on fire.
Made these as a thank you to mom for caring for the girls while I was gone.
Went to the beach, the park, the pool, the mall.
Remodeled for additional bedroom space.
Taught the girls how to use a pastry bag.
Now you’re all caught up.
The car pulled up next to me yesterday as I walked to my front porch. Loaded down with lunch boxes, kindergarten gear, half-made marionettes for our show next week and still wearing my apron. As my foot reaches the first step the car slowed down.
And then stopped in the middle of our street and the window rolled down.
Great, was my first thought, where is the blasted dog, surely he is going to tell me Hoover is again on the prowl. And I am too tired to chase that infernal animal.
But the dog tripped me running into the house. I turned around and mustered a neighborly smile.
The car door opened and an older gentleman got out, leaving the car idling mid-street and door open. Slightly stooped with a Pan-Asian logo baseball cap he walked over. Oh dear, where is this going? I put my load down and walk down the steps.
Hello, I live behind you. You are the one with the gray dog and the big vine in the backyard?
Dang, it’s the dog barking, I hate the dog. This is Coach’s fault, he plays tag with the dog at 6am and makes him bark. Maybe I hate Coach.
I drive by and see your kumquats every day, they are nice trees.
Yes, they are, would you like to pick some? It’s the end of the season for them. They’re organic, I just water them.
It would be nice to take them and make preserves. I preserve them like how do you say….. Oh, jam jelly? I make preserves as well, marmalade or chutney. Sometimes they are sour, though.
Oh, that sounds very good, I preserve them for health. I mix onions and herbs and they are good for lungs and chest to keep you healthy.
He is from Taiwan, like many of my neighbors he is a second or third homeowner to of his house. Over the past 15 years, our particular housing tract has become popular to the various Asian communities. I’m not sure why probably the local school and someone once told me the houses had good Feng Shui; any case not many of my new neighbors speak English but they usually wave and are lovely neighbors. And I keep hoping for a Filipino family to move in so I could learn to cook my mother-in-law’s dishes.
He and I chat for a little.
I can pick them from your tree? Tomorrow I will come. I am Peter. Sure please do, the tree is too heavy with the fruit. Goodbye, nice to meet you Peter.
Last night I stood in the backyard of a beautiful house high up on a hill overlooking Newport Beach and Irvine. Nibbling cheese and sipping fine wine I chatted with the homeowner, a parent of Waldorf graduates and owner of a large organic CSA farm outside of Los Angeles. Our children are finishing up their freshman year together and the parents had gathered to collectively breathe sighs of completed 9th grade relief. He and I chatted about Waldorf and how unexpected it was to find another parent at this non-Waldorf high school who followed the Steiner philosophy. Funny where you find alignment. He took Coach and I on a walk around his backyard, admiring beautiful waist-high, rough-hewn planter boxes of herbs and lettuces, raised mounded beds of 3 sister plantings, a compost pile, volunteer avocado trees, garden beds of salad greens and vegetables with herb borders.
Coach smiled a me later in the car home and said I know what you’re thinking.
Yes, that was like my dream yard, the one in the book, I want to host get-togethers like that, share food I’ve grown and have a garden like that. Why don’t you? Have you seen our yard, it’s a patio, where would we put people, in the alley? And the yard has no sun anyway to grow stuff. Our house is too little to host and not at that level anyway.
And then these were on the table, in a bag with a letter when we got home.
Please accept these loquats……
Community is where you decide to find it said a little voice. How you foster it and encourage it to grow. You give kumquats and receive loquats. They don’t come to see the house or the puny back yard. Quit wishing it and you were something different, or better or grander or whatever. Love where you are, love who you are, it’s what you tell your daughters. Take where you are and make it lovely, grass is greener where you water it the song says.
The loquats are delicious. Have you ever looked at the seeds, like tiny polished gems, ready to grow.