Today is Christmas Eve. (Does “eve” really get capitalized?) That translates into, “Oh wow, it is the end of the year”. And while an appropriate response to December 31st could be “so what”, my sense is that most of us will feel some sort of tug towards reminiscing about the past 360 and some odd days. I think it would be strange, given the national tragedy of Newtown, if most people were not caught in reflecting (the glaring exception might be Wayne LaPierre).
I have sought, through this blog, to encourage the use of nature as a way to understand the cycles and patterns in our own lives. Walking hand-in-hand with this encouragement is the notion that our inner patterns and character can be better understood through an appreciation of our connection (or perhaps lack thereof) with nature (however you may define “nature”). As I stand on the threshold of 2013, looking out over the paths I have traveled and those that spread out in front of me, I am acutely aware of the ecology of self and the focus it offers.
On Wednesday of this past week, in the midst of teaching at Manhattan Middle School and still thinking about the 26 individuals murdered in a Connecticut elementary school, our principal came over the intercom. “This is not a drill, all classrooms are directed to go to lockdown”.
This year has been a year of addressing the shackles that have held me back, celebrating my contributions to the present and not shying away from the potential of the future. Partly this is the result of having weathered the past decade with some sort of new experience and perspective. Partly it is the result of wanting to break free from my own constructed constraints and the desire to interact with my potential. Yes, at the age of 47, I have finally discovered a potential, a focus, an inner ecology. It is a 3D hyper-volume (to borrow from Hutchinson) of cycling history, desire, nourishment, creativity, experience and vision. One of its current foci is teaching science to children.
The ability to say this has been slowing developing all year. In the seconds that followed our lockdown order, it became incarnate, a full-fledged mission, expressed in the self-spoken sentence, “I will protect these kids, both body and mind”. I suppose it is similar to those that, in the face of some situation, see and know the presence of a god. So, while I am an atheist, teaching, in that moment, became my god. And I didn’t even have to make any deals. I merely had to let who I was come to the fore. In those few seconds I looked around the classroom, realized this was the niche I filled and the habitat I belonged to.
In the end the whole situation was a necessary overreaction. Yet recent history and the time of the year molded the experience into a personal celebration of what lies ahead. During the past few days I have felt in myself a change, a slightly different way of addressing the marker of time that is December 31st. I have certainly thought back over this past year, been joyful about events and grateful for the people that now populate my life, been sad at those who do not and taken a minute to reflect on the lessons that required effort to survive. The change is that I am not dwelling in that head space as I have in years past. Now I have an appreciation that those were seasons that have come and gone. Instead I see them as the cycling of nutrients, the life and death of an ecosystem, the preparation for the coming Spring. So while we should not forget the past, we must not overlook the present nor dismiss the future. We can take stock, raise our hands in connection and keep moving forward.
The happiest and safest of holidays to everyone. Peace.