Michaelmas














Today is Michaelmas and I am giving a tea for new parents at our school. I'm a little bit intimidated at the idea of talking about festivals from a Waldorf perspective. But, sometimes, I know, it's good to hear a parent's perspective. Since I'm intimidated to talk about it to new parents, I thought "why not go all the way and be really intimidated--put it on the blog." So, here are my thoughts. A long, post with few photos--just what I don't like :)

Every Friday the children in our school gather for an assembly. Right now, one of the songs they are singing is a round:

Round and round the earth is turning
turning always into morning
and from morning round to night.

I've been thinking about this song--the movement and circling of the earth that it reveals. It's simple to see how the seasons move round and round, but there's another way to look at it as well--as a rhythm of inbreath and outbreath.

The teachers (and I in the summer anyway) work hard at helping children through the day to have activities that allow the children to expand out, and move back inward in a rhythmic way. So, too, one could say do the seasons and the earth.

At the Spring Equinox, or Easter, one could say that there is the beginning of an outbreath, a lightening--a time when the earth expands and the soul expands, breaths, lightens. The Fall Equinox, at Michaelmas, the opposite happens--there is a turning, a coming back (almost a dying in nature), an anticipation of the inward work that will spiral in through the Advent season. Often, in order for the best inner work to happen, there has to be an obstacle, an encounter that can help us define what our inner work needs to be. It takes courage and strength to truly meet that obstacle.

For me, that's the picture of the Michaelmas festival--courage, strength, will. Will--a term that I define as the almost unconscious energy it takes to make yourself do something you don't want to do.

So, at our school right now, I see this season coming forth in verses such as one the Kindergarten is doing right now: "I am a blacksmith, strong and true. Best of work I always do. All day long my hammers go, slinging, clanging, clanging, so,.." In first grade: "We will work, with our will. With our strength. And our skill til the sword shines bright!" In 6th grade: "Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!" Many classes are also working on a math block--a subject where you have to work things through.

A picture of Michaelmas can be seen in "St. George and the Dragon." The children are performing this play today. St. George encounters and tames the dragon with the help of the Angel Michael.

After the play is our Harvest Festival--also a season of celebrating strength. At the Harvest Festival we not only celebrate with foods and harvest activities such as pressing cider, but we also play games of strength and skill such as obstacle courses and relay races.

How to bring this important season home to children? I personally think that a strong connection to the seasons as they both turn and move inward/outward is important for our own inner work. Making a nature table is a way to reflect what is going on outside, inside. My nature table actually resides on my dining table and is constantly changing as the world outside our door changes. We're making these little nut people at our tea today.

In addition to having a nature table that reflects change, I think that engaging children in outdoor chores that celebrates their strength is another way to connect them to this season. Learning to chop wood, or build a bird feeder, or rake leaves all provide that energetic engagement with nature that will somehow leave a space inside them for the quiet, almost unconscious soul-work of the darker days.

It's a big day. My children are very excited. They wonder if the dragon will blow smoke this year (a fire extinguisher in his nose). They look forward to racing and running hard. And, they look forward to a big glass of cider they have pressed themselves.

Enjoy the season.

Susan  – (September 28, 2007 at 8:47 AM)  

Sarah, what a wonderful little talk you have prepared! I wish I could be at your tea for new parents--I'm sure it was a huge success and the parents were all encouraged to enjoy the seasons with their children. I especially like the way the Waldorf philosophy emphasizes rhythm and breathing-in and breathing-out times. It is easy to observe how this lack of balance has adversely affected our culture.

Tomtemama  – (September 28, 2007 at 9:15 PM)  

Wow!!

I hope your tea went well. I imagine that it did as you were so obviously well prepared and you were making such lovely little nut people.

Aurora  – (September 30, 2007 at 8:04 PM)  

Thank you for the gift of yourself. I have read with great reverence for the gift you give those parents...may they be ever able to pass the gift along to their children!

I will be using your theory in my own public Kindergarten here in California. I am looking to integrate these ideas into public education...accessible to all...so important to follow the seasons and honor those ideas within and without...

And the breathing? Well that's just pure yoga!

Especially poignant was the reminder of the song Reclaiming Collective recorded many years ago...I look forward to teaching it to my class. "Round and round" is so wonderful! I can only wonder if you all sing it to the same tune as I?

Blessings.

Aurora

Simmy –   – (October 1, 2007 at 5:13 AM)  

Sarah, you said that so beautifully. I wish I was going to be at that talk - I'm so proud of you for taking it on and putting so much into it. I'm going to make myself a cup of tea and re-read it .....

big mama  – (October 4, 2007 at 6:18 PM)  

I think your Michaelmas talk says it perfectly! I can feel in my classroom right now how the children are struggling a bit against the inbreath, they want to still be out there. And who can blame them when it's 85 degrees out?

Grace  – (October 8, 2007 at 8:43 PM)  

Sarah, how did I miss this post of yours? It's so thoughtful. I especially liked where you said, "Learning to chop wood, or build a bird feeder, or rake leaves all provide that energetic engagement with nature that will somehow leave a space inside them for the quiet, almost unconscious soul-work of the darker days." Sop beautifully said!

Dawn  – (September 24, 2008 at 5:47 PM)  

I'm so glad that I was able to read this post. You explained this in such a beautiful way. My daughter is struggling through some difficult math work lately and I appreciated what you said about the will in regards to doing things we don't necessarily want to do- like math. ;)

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