Come up from the fields, father, here’s a letter from our Pete;
And come to the front door, mother-here’s a letter from thy dear son.
Lo, ‘tis autumn;
Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder,
Cool and sweeten Ohio’s villages, with leaves fluttering in the moderate wind;
Where apples ripe n the orchards hang, and grapes on the trellis’d vines;
(Smell you the smell of the grapes on the vines?
Smell you the buckwheat, where the bees were lately buzzing?)
Above all, lo, the sky, so calm, so transparent after the rain, and with wondrous clouds;
Below, too, all calm, all vital and beautiful – and the farm prospers well.
Walt Whitman (1819-1892) Leaves of Grass. 1900
This term in Kindergarten we’ve been learning about The Weather. We’ve walked through the school ovals, watched the leaves change colour, we’ve stamped on them as they fell to the ground enjoying the crispness of their texture under our feet. We’ve done experiments with rocks that are white and black, positioning them in the Autumn sun, we’ve predicted which would hold the heat and then we’ve had long discussions about what clothes we should wear considering the discoveries we’ve made.
We’ve collected rain in an old coke bottle that we transformed into a weather catcher, we’ve learned “Happiness” by A.A. Milne as we’ve coloured cut out dolls in crayons and dressed them in a yellow mackintosh and great big waterproof boots. Our classroom is alive with laughter and primary colours while the rain comes down from black clouds outside where all looks bleak.
We’ve studied the clouds and I’ve validated all the suggestions they’ve given me for what they are made of. Some children say they are wool, or fluff, others say rain, still others know that the water rises off the rivers and streams in tiny droplets that you can’t see. They tell me they gather together going up and up until they become the clouds and they are so heavy they just have to rain.
We’ve tried to create word connections to help us remember the names of the clouds. The stratus is kind of straight, the cirrus is high like a circus tent, the nimbus sounds like a bus, so it could be full (of rain) but we fail to come up with an image to lock the names of the other clouds into our memory. Instead we move on and they want to tell me about the rainbow.
Great joy is encountered when working with children. It’s impossible to be sad for long around their contagious, wide-eyed wonder that convinces me that all is well with the world. The other day we read a book about thunder and lightning and the author wrote that ‘thunder and lightning showed the power of the weather…’ and ‘the power of God’ said a boy on the floor without even raising his hand. ‘It’s true,’ I told him, not reprimanding him for calling out and in that moment I remembered again that nothing is impossible with God.
Sometimes the rain falls so hard against our house we fail to remember the warmth of the sun. Grief chills us, fear rattles us and the despair of unresolved circumstances fill our rooms with darkness. Sometimes the dark cloud just hangs over our house while over the fence we notice sunshine. It was this way for Mr Wintergarten before he met Rose. He lived in a magnificent old house but he was alone. No one had visited him in years. Rumour had it, he was mean, and horrible, and had a dog like a wolf and a saltwater crocodile. So if your ball went over his fence you just had to forget it.
Apart from the weather we’ve been reading Bob Graham this week and if you are not familiar with his writing perhaps now is the time to acquaint yourself. Much truth is discovered in children’s literature and I have found myself in Mr Wintergarten’s house in the cool of the night when my rational thoughts are missing. I have entered the sadness zone, wondering at times where everybody went, what happened to my life and my daughter and our dreams.
Bad things happen to good people but we don’t like to admit that. We want things to go well for us, we want miracles, we want it to be over yet God in His sovereignty allows us to be right were we are. We find ourselves again in the season of changing colours transferring into the dark of yet another winter and we wonder how long?
Sometimes God doesn’t send healing, or strategy, or answers. Sometimes he sends a girl who is brave and doesn’t believe that you should give up on your ball. She leans on the gate that hangs on rusty hinges until it opens, she is determined, she comes knocking at the enormous door and though she nervously twists her fingers in her handkerchief she tells you she’s brought some flowers, and hot fairy cakes. She brings friendship and with it there is new hope.
An illness like cancer has so many complications attached to it and as a mum there are times when you forget how to breathe. Like the Walt Whitman poem at the beginning of this post I often find myself running to the door constantly on edge. The letter (or the phone call) does not always bring good news but as I step outside I find myself looking up.
Like Abraham, I count the stars. I remember the promises. In class I hear faith in the voices of the children, I remember the rainbow and the power of God. I read Bob Graham and I see that I have a Rose and I remember I am not alone. I open the curtains and the sun comes in.