Monday, June 21, 2010

Winter solstice

One of the things Casuarina Steiner School does really well is the festivals. I'm not sure whether they are consistent across all schools, whether they are proscribed in Steiner's Indications or whether they are unique to each school, but anyway, we celebrate the summer and winter solstices and the arrivals of Autumn and Spring with festivals.

The winter festival is very atmospheric: we start at about 4:30pm with soup and apple crumble, cooked up by parents and brought into school. Parents who aren't cooking help to set up, serve and clean up the food and everyone brings their own mug or bowl and spoon.

Our class is blessed with superb cooks, one of whom (Italian!) threw in a secret tiramisu which the adults "saved" from the children on the basis that it contained both coffee and alcohol...

After we'd eaten and cleaned up it was dark and we followed all the children of the school who carried hand-made lanterns containing tea lights in a grand procession through the campus, class by class, to gather in the sports field.

Looking back up the hill you can see Class One silhouetted against the sky. All these photos, by the way, were taken on my little Nikon 'coolpix' P1 digital camera, using aperture priority and no flash. I have fairly steady hands!

After the lantern parade Sally and Todd gave us a brilliant fire-twirling display and then we made our way back up to the classrooms for the spiral walk. In age order, each child takes an unlit candle inwards around a spiral of greenery to their teacher who lights the candle and the child walks outwards around the spiral, placing their candle in turn amongst the leaves and flowers.

The atmosphere is quiet and contemplative, the classroom dark except for the candles. As the children place their candles around the spiral the level of light in the classroom increases as we move outwards from the darkest day in the year towards the light.

For me, of course, the year here is backwards in contrast to my northern European upbringing. In January Australia is in mid-summer, not mid-winter and so Christmas is uncomfortably warm and bright at a time when my whole body and psyche are attuned to cold and darkness. It is, therefore, slightly odd to be celebrating the winter solstice in June... but in a funny way I feel this uncomfortably upside-down calendar saves me from my northern European winter blues! How can I be miserable when, even in mid-winter, it's sunny? And just as the year passes the halfway mark and slides back down through Autumn to Winter I'm experiencing the joys of Spring, complete with narcissi in my garden tubs and expensive tulips in the shops.

Monday, June 07, 2010

It lives!

Phew - the unfortunate guinea pig baby, dropped not long after birth by darling daughter, has survived! I admit I held my breath because I couldn't quite believe it would live but it is infact suckling, eating, drinking and running around albeit in a slightly crooked fashion. It's not earth-shaking news, but I am relieved. The poor thing may yet regret its survival having been named "Charlotte" regardless of its gender. Meanwhile Squeak, its daddy, is being de-sexed on Thursday! It's all go round here, I can tell you.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Ups and Downs

We've had fun this week with the arrival of three baby guinea pigs, but today the joy turned upside down... darling daughter, eight years old, bubbly, fun, caring and so delighted with her new arrivals, accidentally dropped one of the babies on a concrete floor when it wriggled through her fingers as she admired it. She's never been careless with them, never wanted to hurt them, loves them to pieces and suddenly it all went wrong. I saw it happen and thought the poor little thing had broken its neck although more probably it had gone into shock. A little later on, reunited with its mother, it was a bit perkier but I fear it may not survive and that in the morning a little girl will be crying again because she may have killed one of her pets.

The precariousness of life is one of its greatest lessons. I don't have any religious faith and I'm not sentimental about small furry animals but I feel sad, and in the last few weeks there have been various things to feel sad about: a friend's son has broken his back in his teens and we don't yet know the prognosis, another friend has spent weeks in hospital after an industrial accident and is in an induced coma, and another friend who had a rare allergic reaction has struggled through the illness only to find that their family is almost broke and that they may have to sell up and leave the area.

I guess all we can do is hope and help as much as we can, sending out our love and support and accepting that life doesn't always throw us the things we dream about. I am learning slowly to enjoy what I have right now and not to think about what might happen tomorrow. I have a lovely family, I live on a beautiful piece of land, and I am making a garden and I am, when I bother to think about it, very blessed.


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