The Treasure in Front of You

The wrapped composition book won't close. Its accordian-like pages hint at the treasures too big to be contained within its covers. Even the paper that wraps it hints at the treasures within...drawings of gems, crystals, and amber with still insects. Each of these is numbered and the title of the journal, "Beauty" sings out from the center of its cover. A second journal, "Joy" with its curled letters, purple cover, and the cut-out of the poem, Come, Happiness, nestled on the inside glitter-saturated cover sits next to "Beauty." Beauty and Joy. Hand in hand.

A parent from each class curates these journals as a gift for me most years. Inside them are drawings, photos, and journal entries from the children. Some years there are also entries from the parents as well.

I look at the journal entry from the child who did not talk for most of her first two years at the school. She talked at home all the time and now she talks at school all of the time as well, but it is not just the talking I think of now while looking at the story she shares in this journal entry. It is the connective thread between the way she expresses herself through words, to be sure, along with drawing and painting, but in also how she owns every bit of what we have going on at the school in a full body, full heart way. Her journal entry shows that she has been listening, she was incorporating, she was expanding. Her world radiates out. It is her story and it is our story. It is Beauty. 

Once upon a time, there was a sea witch. She had prickles on her mouth, eyes, and nose. They poke people accidentally. She wore a crown made out of bones and metal. And there was octopus legs and a tail which was zig-zags. Everyone thought she was mean because she was Baba Yaga's friend and she had eyes that were shaped like Baba Yaga and she looked scary like Baba Yaga, but she was a nice witch. All of the mermaids in the kingdom were scared of her except two, a big sister mermaid and a baby mermaid. The big sister was named Pearl and the baby was named Ariel. They were beautiful outside and inside because they were kind. They saw that she had rainbow hair and they thought, "Oh she is beautiful because she has a smile under her prickles. Maybe she's not mean." So they hugged her. And the sea witch was happy because they did a kindness for her."

Once upon a time, there was a sea witch. She had prickles on her mouth, eyes, and nose. They poke people accidentally. She wore a crown made out of bones and metal. And there was octopus legs and a tail which was zig-zags. Everyone thought she was mean because she was Baba Yaga's friend and she had eyes that were shaped like Baba Yaga and she looked scary like Baba Yaga, but she was a nice witch. All of the mermaids in the kingdom were scared of her except two, a big sister mermaid and a baby mermaid. The big sister was named Pearl and the baby was named Ariel. They were beautiful outside and inside because they were kind. They saw that she had rainbow hair and they thought, "Oh she is beautiful because she has a smile under her prickles. Maybe she's not mean." So they hugged her. And the sea witch was happy because they did a kindness for her."

Well, that is a story of an ally! That is a story of getting past the thing in front of you that scares you. That is a story from a person that knows herself. Someone who sees the walls she has to get past and finds the ladder to get over or the door to get through those walls to the other side! She has the tools to bust on through if she needs to!

Then there is the entry from the child who has worked hard to shape every word he shares, for every line he draws, and as a younger brother of a super capable older brother, he works hard to stake his claim. His family is there for him every step of the way and I have had the gift of watching him grow. It is with his entry that I could really enjoy how the journal was put together and the contributions each family made.

The journal features stories and poems about beauty and there are reflections of what the children themselves treasure about the program. There are photos of each child. Children share that they like the art, the painting, and the going into the forest. They like the stories we read and tell. They even talk about the meetings we have, as one child shares, "when we have a chat and a story." They like the play they engage in. They name their favorite places to play. They describe play arcs and themes.

His entry is short and ends with this sentence, "In drama, I like going on the big blocks." I know that here these few words say so, so much. It is on the big blocks, stacked tower-like halfway to the ceiling, that he is able to own the room, own the space, and own the play. He IS the rescuer, the pilot, the knight. He learned that he is an expert in play. He has learned that he has something meaningful to share and shape with his peers at school. He can be relied upon to back people up when they need it and can steer them to new ideas when they need new ideas.

His journal entries and watercolor drawing are mounted on a painting made with his favorite color. His photograph shows him confidently striding along a brick path, smiling from ear to ear.

That brings beauty.

We have been planning for our 75th Anniversary of the Cooperative School. How do we mark the passing of years in a meaningful way? One way is with these journals, collected year after year...they are the treasures right in front of us.

I leave you with this poem...

Poem
The girl is walking through the path,
Flowers about her heels.
As she walks, her steps turn into flowers.
Through the path, she goes.
To this day you can see her on the path.
She is the bird mother.