Yesterday the Waldorf School held its annual Michaelmus celebration at the local state park. The day was warm and sunny, and the children all had a wonderful time. (See last year’s post for more on the story behind the seasonal celebration.) With a large-scale enactment of Saint Michael (pronounced Mike ay El) slaying a dragon put on by the twelfth grade, a morning-long quest in the woods for the children in the Lower School led by the eighth grade, hearty autumnal stew for lunch followed by a round of games in the field, the day was full and satisfying for all. In the morning, while the kids were hiking about in the surrounding forest completing their challenges, the eleventh graders helped prepare vegetables while a few members of the faculty worked in the shelter at portable stoves to cook the soup. Elihu was in such high spirits afterward, that he and three of his happy classmates talked me into an impromptu after-school gathering at our house, where in spite of the incredibly beautiful weather, they preferred to spend the better part of their time playing rounds of Pokemon. They’d had such a good day of outdoor activity, I easily acquiesced. It made my heart so happy to see them having such fun together. My son went to bed that night a very contented boy.
Earlier in the week we’d had a few small adventures; catching a beautifully colored turtle by the local pond, relocating a few of our frogs to a safer wintering spot, getting some trees to plant in front of the new construction house at the end of the driveway plus other various and sundry pleasantries that come with an unscheduled life in the country. Like finding odd-looking, misshapen eggs in the nesting boxes, or dining on squash that emerged from our compost pile, or taking a walk in the woods to discover a trash pile from well over a half century ago languishing in the leaves, filled with the bulbous forms of antique car parts and other, more mysterious unidentified objects rusting away… And still more surprises – finding a praying mantis, getting to rumble down the road in a neighbor’s borrowed truck, learning how to play a chromatic pattern on the piano complete with a left hand part and visiting with two grandmas in one day.
When Elihu was five, we stumbled upon the Rosh Hashanah celebration taking place in Saratoga’s city park, and since then we’ve made it an annual part of our own family tradition. We’re not Jewish, but we love the idea of tashlich. It’s the act of casting the crumbs from one’s pockets into living, moving water, that the sins and transgressions they represent be washed away, giving one a chance to start the new year with a fresh, clean slate. This is personal business, as those casting the crumbs are mindful of what those pieces represent, and they do so with somber introspection. (And after the casting they then read from the book of the prophet Micha about repentance. Micha? Michaeal? Hmm…) In the Jewish tradition, it is G-d who sits in judgement of these sins, and who at week’s end – Yom Kippur – will offer forgiveness as He sees fit. Elihu and I like to believe that all people are always forgiven, as we would always endeavor to forgive others (successful or not, at least it’s our goal!). Furthermore, I do not believe in a Creator that condemns or forgives; a parent loves her children no matter what they do, good, bad – or even very bad. (I realize some of you may well feel differently.)
It’s a lovely practice to cast away ones sins and recommit to living in the world with a renewed sense of love and respect. And Fall feels a perfect time for this sort of inventorying of the self. After having shed the things that no longer serve us, be they leaves or sins, we can now turn inward and give our full attention to the big changes ahead.
The slaying of dragons, the falling of leaves and the casting of crumbs tells us that fall is now fully underway.
The colors are here.
Early in the morning the teams assemble for their treks in the woods.
Preparations are being made…
Lots of soup…
…for lots of kids.
It takes a lot of help…
…and a little decoration, too.
The dragon has rehearsed its part…
…which is now acted out on the enormous playing field.
My foley station – sound effects for a rural village (cows, sheep, cowbells and birds) plus the battle and slaying of a mighty dragon (timpani and cymbals) and finally a happy recessional (tambourine with voices). Lots of fun to do this little bit.
Soup’s on! The tenth graders help serve the younger kids.
Elihu and pal Roger.
The teams added a colored band to their staff for each challenge they met.
Somehow, there was enough for everyone. No one left hungry.
Our friend Cally, a talented young horsewoman and singer, too.
Time for games!
The girls, adjusting their pony tails in unison as they head back to the bus.
Driving back to school on the Spa State Park’s iconic Avenue of the Pines.
And after school, a pickup game of Pokemon. Perfect!
Sweet little eggs from our youngest hens.
I love my mod duvet cover. Got it a while ago, but happily just rediscovered it. It refreshes the spirit to have something new around, doesn’t it?
Something else that refreshes my spirit: trees to provide a natural barrier between us and the new house at the end of our driveway.
And this is how we got em there… thanks to Stephanie and Zac for lending us their truck. Ah, the feel of a diesel!
The praying mantis we found on the new trees.
This guy’s lived in our plastic pond all summer, now we need to move him to the muddy creek bank where he can hunker down for winter.
And the beautiful Eastern Red Belly turtle I found trying to cross the road. Apparently they’re not terribly common, so we were really lucky to have seen her up close. Look at those striking markings! And the red was so very vibrant. Her eyes had lines that ran right through them – altogether a stunning creature.
In an instant, the turtle slips away into the pond.
We like to visit this lovely pond in Congress Park on Rosh Hashanah.
I don’t know why, but I like to know there’s a local Orthodox Jewish community here in Saratoga. Maybe it’s nostalgia for my old home near West Rogers Park in Chicago.
While some cast crumbs for their sins, some cast em more for the ducks. !
This one is pretty young…
She’ll need to migrate soon – but how can she with these tiny pin feathers? Hurry up and grow!
Elihu meets Esther.
And shares his duck with her.
Now we’re enjoying an evening at home with the emerging colors of fall outside our window.
Some lovely hydrangeas I picked from the cemetery on the hill.
The maple’s beginning to glow… see how the ripples in the window tint look almost like rain…
I love the shifting moods that the changing colors create. There’s a melancholic feeling in the air, and yet there’s also a bright little spark of hope for what lies on the other side. For now we’ll savor the scented air and enjoy listening to the final evening choruses of crickets before the world slows down to its long, cold sleep.