Springtime in the Soul

When I first began to embrace the seasonal celebrations embodied in Waldorf festivals, I was a very ambitious little mama. Armed with my copy of All Year Round and a host of inspiring blogs, I dreamed of making every wonderful project I got wind of. I wanted to do all the crafts and projects at once, to sit down and industriously—but peacefully! Don’t forget the peaceful part—whip out what I felt were the requisite adornments for whatever season we happened to be in.

If it was spring, well, that meant a bevy of flower fairies, wheat grass growing in a basket, eggs died with baths of cabbage and beets and onion skins. Spring meant knitted bunnies, paper windmills and kites, crowns with streaming ribbons in pastel colors, and bright new dresses to sew.

In addition to all this stuff to do there was the songs and fingerplays I wanted to learn, new recipes to try out, Easter and may-day parties to host or attend, and birthday presents to make. Oh, and garden beds to prepare for planting and seeds to start. It all seemed so good, so beautiful and fanciful. With so many possibilities laid out before me I felt compelled, nay, driven, to give it my all.

We live in a world so concerned with productivity and material achievement that it is easy to give myself over to how important and urgent all this feels.

Indeed, all of these things on my to-do list are well and good. Each has its place in bringing beauty and richness to life, to the slowly unfolding days. But to really feel the season moving in my soul, I have to slow way down. Almost to a stop.

When I release myself from that expectation of constant doing, I am able to connect more fully with the inner gesture of the season. From that stillness, I have found that the impulse we all have towards celebration and creativity comes bubbling up naturally enough. Things will get done. Not every thing, but the right things.

And so I’ve learned to chuck the springtime to-do list. Indeed, the natural world is busily taking care of the details—providing the perfect back drop of returning bird song, flowers poking up from the snow, rain bringing thaw and trees bursting into bloom. My dear friend scoffs at the idea of dying eggs. “Our goose just started laying again,” she says. “What could be more magical than that?”

Don’t get me wrong—we will be dying a few eggs. You bet we’ve got a nature table up with a basket of wheat grass and apple branches that refuse to bloom hung with Easter egg ornaments. And this was the year I finally got around to making a flower fairy. These are the small rituals that manifest my inner experience of renewal and beauty. Sometimes they even lead the way, nudging me like any good symbol does, towards the truth that is sometimes unseen.

I am learning, though, that the simpler, the better. That less is so much more. That I can save things for future years. That sometimes, what seems like a lovely idea, is really a big stress. And that my to-do list, no matter how Waldorfy, rushes me through the days, not just of Spring, but this brief season of life with my tiny children. And so I am reminding myself that it’s not simply what I do or make that brings meaning to anything. It is what lives in my heart and fills our days with grace. Attending to that is all I really need to do.

Our very small children are inherently reverent, in awe of the world they have so newly entered, and still connected to the divine place they come from. We can join them in that grace with our presence.

No knitted bunnies required.

Waldorf 101: Notes from Parent Night

Here are some impressions and notes from a parent night at  Cora’s preschool this month. Yes, I’m the dork that takes notes at parent night. What can I say, I’ve been studying Waldorf early years stuff so intensely on my own, and finding such wisdom and inspiration in it, and also so much to be baffled by, that it is a huge relief to just sit back and have someone (our dear, wise teacher) who has been doing it for years give the straight dope. It went something like this:

In early childhood, two pairs of things are most important for educating the child.

The first pair is Rhythm and Repetition. These are the primary tools for teaching children under seven. I love to think of rhythm as pattern. The repeated rituals and acts of daily life that connect us to ourselves and the larger world.

The second pair is Imagination and Imitation. Healthy play springs from what children have seen and experienced, the impressions they take in from the world around them.

Our work as parents is to be worthy of this imitation, to be the best role models we can be. This is where parenting becomes a spiritual act, as we tend to our inner self in order to embody beauty, goodness, and truth. We can do this in part through our own self-education, by asking ourselves what we are doing to grow alongside our child. I can honestly say that I got hooked on Waldorf the moment I realized the extent to which it hinged on my own inner work.

The gestures of gratitude and thankfulness are the well from which all of this—rhythm, imitation, imagination—springs. The virtue of gratitude is instilled in the first 7 years of life, and lays the foundation for the later development of love and duty. Our expressions of gratitude in daily life at home are deeply nurturing to our young children. And ourselves.

That’s the gist of it, folks. Short, sweet, simple. And kind of deep, if you think about it.

I think whether you are into Waldorf or not, there’s a good chance this will seem like common sense. It’s kind of natural and intuitive for us to strive towards this in our mothering, isn’t it?