Feathers

The Takoma Park Cooperative Nursery School co-oping team sets up snack for the children and coffee for the adults. My kind of snack beverage! I wonder when we gave up wearing high heels and dresses on co-op days.

The Takoma Park Cooperative Nursery School co-oping team sets up snack for the children and coffee for the adults. My kind of snack beverage! I wonder when we gave up wearing high heels and dresses on co-op days.

A co-oper listens to children at our old location on New Hampshire Avenue. The playground overlooked Sligo Creek Park. We carried the bits of this sandbox to our new location and used it until it was replaced by our sandpit. We kept two of the boards and the children use these to build slides and platforms.

A co-oper listens to children at our old location on New Hampshire Avenue. The playground overlooked Sligo Creek Park. We carried the bits of this sandbox to our new location and used it until it was replaced by our sandpit. We kept two of the boards and the children use these to build slides and platforms.

This past summer, I found myself thinking about the women who started our cooperative nursery school in 1942. I thought about how they started something that has been carried consistently forward all these many decades. I thought about how they saw a need — creating a special place that would hold play as the thing that children need. The women, and eventually men, who followed took up the thing the founders shaped and have safeguarded this time and space for play.

I thought about these women and the generations of parents, teachers, and most importantly, children who followed when I was visiting the newly-founded Lauko darželis (outdoor kindergartens) in Lithuania. This outdoor kindergarten, with its two sites, was founded through strength of conviction and passion. Where there was nothing, suddenly there was something. I wondered about the early meetings held by the founders of our school. They had to imagine something from nothing much in the same way as Zilvinas Karpas did and then just like he did, they must have then reached out to others, locally, nationally and internationally to find the connections that would make the whole venture soar.

When I returned from my trip I loaded the two photographs from our archives that you see above and there they sat up there “in the cloud” waiting for some kind of inspiration. So great was the pressure that I felt to give these women the grand story they deserved that I couldn’t even start the post!

Then something happened. I got something in the mail.

A few weeks ago, I posted some photographs of the children sketching feathers and one of our Facebook followers, Nancy Erisman, saw the post and sent along a message. She said she had some things to share with us. In short order, I received a box decorated with hand drawn feathers. She had carefully packed a collection of treasures. All I could think as I sat with the children and opened it is that here the children would personally witness a “random act of kindness.” It was filled with so much joy and care. Its contents folded, tucked, and rolled, many little collections of meaning and message. All built around shared traditions, inspiration, and those things that bring us together. It was in this package that I found the story that began with our founders and we are all in this story together. . .

Turkey feathers from Nancy.

Turkey feathers from Nancy.

A collection of dolls. Nancy had noticed early on that we have a collection of dolls that the children play with. Each one is more special than the last. All of them resting on a large piece of feather fabric.

A collection of dolls. Nancy had noticed early on that we have a collection of dolls that the children play with. Each one is more special than the last. All of them resting on a large piece of feather fabric.

A “power stick” that Nancy made from a piece of driftwood that she found. The driftwood appears to have a lovely bird face.

A “power stick” that Nancy made from a piece of driftwood that she found. The driftwood appears to have a lovely bird face.

The feathers and a collection of feather fabrics. The package also included the book, “The Perfect Purple Feather.” The book was an instant hit with the children.

The feathers and a collection of feather fabrics. The package also included the book, “The Perfect Purple Feather.” The book was an instant hit with the children.

The thing about a single feather is that it is lovely to look at. Each feather is unique in its pattern and color. Each serves a specific purpose, from flight to holding direction and lift as well as warmth and resistance to harsh weather and storms. The feathers signal, “here I am find me” and also, “not now, I must have safety.” Feathers, by themselves are bold and even grand yet all are delicate when held alone. A single feather has its own story, but many feathers together hold the story and allow it to take flight.

Any one of our founders could have simply sent their children out to play in the neighborhood or at a friends’, but they decided to band together in a way that would shape and guide future generations of children. Nancy could have simply enjoyed the shared posts on Facebook, but she decided to make us part of her larger story (thank you, Nancy).

Nancy sent along this quote that “was in one of my old classrooms, shared with that lead teacher by someone else…now I pass it on to you.”

Tradition is the handing down orally of stories, beliefs, and customs from generation to generation. Traditions can be adapted from familiar comfortable patterns. Traditions don’t have to be old. Traditions provide stability and help us focus on what is important.

These feather-light flutter of visions that all of us share, from the founders of our school to the parents who gather still gather together each year along with the many others “out there” — all who know the strength of shared vision and shape traditions that hold us all together. We each add our individual feathers and together, we take flight.