"I was, in fact, homesick for wildness, and when I found it I knew how intimately - how resonantly - I belonged there. We are charged with this - all of us. For the human spirit has a primal allegiance to wildness, to really live, to snatch the fruit and suck it, to spill the juice." - Jay Griffiths, Wild: an Elemental Journey

Friday, June 8, 2012

And the Gypsy Gardener Moves On

In September of 2005, I walked in to Friends Community School to teach my first day in my own, 5th/6th grade classroom.  My first "real" job.  One of my students threw up on the computer keyboard that day.  I figured, hey, it can only get better, right?

And it did.

On June 8th, 2012, I said goodbye to my students on the last day of school, for the last time.  I have been the Head of the Middle School for two years now, so I had the pleasure of deepening my relationships with all 90 of the 5th-8th grade students, not just one classroom like before.  That meant more teary goodbyes to make today.

This morning was filled with cards, flowers, gift cards, money, poems, hugs, and many tears.  It was beautiful, and quite difficult.  Difficult to leave, to say goodbye, but also to take in all of the love that was coming my way.  I was overwhelmed, to say the least, with the display of gratitude, appreciation, and love that was shown to me by my students and their families.  I expected some goodbye cards and hugs, but nothing like this.

A large group of parents came in to my room this morning to present the giant card, flowers, and money to me on behalf of the whole middle school.  At the end of her humbling and beautiful speech, one of the mother's asked that everyone rise and give me a standing ovation.  The whole room of students and parents stood, clapped, hooted, and hollered for me.  I stood, rooted to the ground, tears running down my face, smiling, allowing my whole body to fill with the sweetness of the moment.  I will never forget it.

I have enough fond memories from that place to keep me warm on every cold, mountain night I may face on my journey.  Here is a sampling:

(I'm not entirely sure if it's legal for me to post these. . . let's see)

Backpacking on the AT

Cutting firewood

Just hangin' around with some kids

Cleaning a hiking wound

Meeting for Worship at the fire circle

Playing cards with the boys at a hostel

About to go whitewater rafting

Cheering on some students on the climbing wall

Silliness with my class

Headed to the Solar Decathlon on the National Mall

One of my proud graduates - now almost a 10th-grader!

More class silliness

Teaching warm-up yoga before Language Arts begins

Girl talk

Today, I received one especially meaningful gift among the many.  One of my 6th grade girls wrote this poem for me.  I'll end with it here, because there are no words to follow it.

The Gypsy Gardener
I once knew a gypsy gardener
Who wore cool boots.

A nurturer of all life;
Plants, animals, and students

I wandered into her garden
And found her planting seeds,
Peace, focus and compassion
To name a few.

Her sprouts grew on a diet of
Organic brainstorming, practice, and all natural meditation.
She shone on them,
Giving light and warmth

When the seedlings were strong,
Off went the gypsy gardener
To find another sunny spot
To sow her seeds
And hike the hills
In her cool boots


  1. Illegal or not, it was awesome to see such genuine images of happiness, community and life. The tears are falling.

  2. Thanks so much for telling me that. Yes, my tears have been falling a lot these days, too! They are such beautiful, intelligent, insightful, compassionate students. I am overwhelmed by the privilege to have been with them for all these years.

    And welcome to my blog! Thanks for reading. :)

  3. I couldn't finish reading the poem because I already had some moisture collecting from the rest of it and I am working right now.

    Woman. Love love love! I'm gonna re-read this later when I can let it flow :).

  4. Oh believe me I know exactly what you mean. I burst into tears pretty much every half hour or so at this point.