GO,NATHAN!

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April 29,  2014

We are full of pride and joy this week with the accomplishments of our sixteen year old grandson, Nathan.  He not only won second in mountain biking for all the high school teams in Northern California, but also just won the second round of the area Rotary Clubs’ Young Musicians competition with a beautifully played Vivaldi piece on his violin and will go to the finals in Reno soon.  He is also a good student and a fine young man currently attending a large public school after graduating from Cedar Springs Waldorf School where my destiny called me to be the founding teacher in 1989.

I have to smile.  In my many years in Waldorf education I have seen skeptics come and see our beautiful kindergartens, the nurturing teachers, the children in self directed play and lack of media equipment in the classrooms and ask, “Nice, but how will they do in the ‘real’ world?”

It is hard for some to comprehend that an unhurried education that is developmentally age appropriate, does not push and stress the young child with testing, that allows hours of creative empowering free play in kindergarten, that engages the young person in imaginative work and hands on real life practical experience and effort, can actually prepare them for today’s world.  But it does indeed prepare them -for life.  In Waldorf education we honor their individuality, their right to a full childhood, give them support to be a fully ‘human’ being and the deep values that go with that, and watch them thrive in awakening in natural time to the world and their destiny in it.  As one graduate declared, “Our education gives us courage to make wise choices in the ‘real’ world.

The education does not guarantee results, for every young person and their families have different life stories.  But so many do so well, we have to say when asked, “How do they do in the ‘real’ world?”  Just fine, folks.    Highly valued for their social skills, love of learning, capacity for self directed thinking and feeling a natural right to engage in life at all levels of achievement: academics, sports, music, beautiful literature and writing and all the arts, more often than not, they choose to dedicate themselves to making this world a better place with their gifts.  We owe so much to Rudolf Steiner whose profound wisdom in human development and  spiritual view of life lies behind this powerful education for our time.

 

WE OWE SO MUCH TO SO MANY

WE OWE SO MUCH TO SO MANY

 

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On Good Friday, April 18, 2014, the worst loss of life on Mt. Everest in known history occurred with the deaths of sixteen Sherpa guides and porters in an avalanche. They were moving supplies up to a higher base camp for the climbers. I sense this could be a timely special call to the wider world, a kind of sacrifice to help wake our world up to higher consciousness and deeper human values.

It is close in my thoughts, for at the same time, our daughter Mary was flying home after having summited a great high mountain close by Everest, Island Peak, in honor of her brother who has passed on. I look at these faces today of the mother and daughter of one who died there and know their grief. I too, in sorrow that can unite us all, know the loss of a good son and a devoted father. I ponder our mutual lives. I rejoice that my daughter has returned safely – they mourn. I have tears of joy and pride in my child’s accomplishment -they weep as their beloved one leaves them here alone on earth. So the great pendulum swings in our lives and destinies. We owe so much to so many, to those who labor that we all can benefit; build edifices and roads, defend the country, grow the food, and clean the commons. Countess occupations, many of risk, to create a modern civilization. Yet for all who labor, and receive the gifts of the labor, the same feelings and passions live in the human soul, the hurts, fears, longing and hope, sorrows and love.

It was one of the countrymen of this mother and daughter and all the sad families, who cared for our Mary as she made the summit. Pema and Robyn charted her course, and one time they stopped and rubbed her near frozen hands with a broad kind smile. She knew all their names, she called them “my buddies”. Two of them hiked over a half an hour on their own time just to meet her when she came down the mountain, hugging her with pride and congratulations for her achievement. Everywhere, she gives such wholesome love to people and receives it back.

Because of the capable guide who looked out for her, Mary has achieved a beautiful new connection to her brother on the other side, she has strengthened the mystical indestructible bridge of hearts and love across the threshold. May that grace come to the families of those who died on the mountain. We can only stand in awe before the mysteries of life and human destiny.

Easter Blessings to all

FLYING STORY RESPONSE

 

IMG_4028FLYING STORY RESPONSE

 

 

 

As my daughter Mary, was climbing the great mountain in Nepal to honor her brother, our son, Gary, who passed to the other side last year, I worked on this picture to help keep before me the ever present miracle that Christ went through and transformed the deepest depths of human death so that the power of resurrection of the spirit may live and inspire love in every human heart. I share it with you with warmest wishes for a beautiful Easter.

 

 

 

ON DANGER AND FREEDOM

 

GOOD FRIDAY, APRIL 18, 2014

 When Mary first told us she would go climb a mountain by Mt Everest I didn’t know if I could go through it. With our son’s transition a year ago, and all I have endured this last year with heart surgery and nearly bleeding to death, the thought that another beloved child might perish seemed unbearable. But then I knew I would have to face this too.

I have championed Waldorf education all my life and the ideals of Rudolf Steiner that ““Our highest endeavor is to support free individuals who can give purpose and direction to their lives.” Direction out of their own free spirit. Mary’s freedom to do what she was called to do could not be held back entangled in the net of my fear. I resolved to support her all the way. Life on earth can never be totally ‘safe’ and our world now SO GREATLY depends on individuals being able to bring their unique gifts and fulfill their missions out of their own highest and spiritually truthful destinies. Every human being has a contribution to make to this earth and this critical time in history and all that we can do to support our children to unfold their capacities, whatever they may be, be they gifts of quiet ways of social concern, bringing art and song, caring for  Mother Earth, excelling as someone among those who bring good business, moral science, healing arts and right living in all areas of life.

We raised our children to not fear death by taking care of our family elders at home to die with us. There is no one I trust more than Mary for strength, clear headed decisions, and capacities to manage the physical world. It was the unknown beyond that where my concerns lay. Mary might have been on Mt. Everest instead of a nearby mountain this past week, but only the wealthy can pay the very high fees for the privilege to make the attempt. When we heard the news of the avalanche on Everest today that took many lives, Gordon and I could only hold each other and weep.  

MARY’S REPORT ON CLIMBING THE MOUNTAINS

MARY’S REPORT ON HER MOUNTAIN CLIMBING!

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Mary called at dawn. I awakened to her Dad’s excited voice booming in the living room, his words rushed and tumbled together lest he lose the connection (as often happens) and be cut off from her at any moment.

“Mary!! I LOVE YOU! Where are you!”

Gordon’s tones were several decibels louder than usual, near shouting in his eager excitement to hear, at last, from our daughter who has just summited some of the world’s highest mountains in Nepal. These are high tension calls with the words of our eager questioning sentences traveling clear around the world. One could never know in the nerve fraught gaps of silence if she was still on the line.

Rejoicing in her call, I got on another phone and I told her, “You sound happy!”
Her voice resounded strong and resonant, she replied, “I’m good.”

Gordon and I both later remarked her voice was different, a deeper timber, exuding a new earned sureness, a newly burnished confidence. I was reminded of the words that came after her twin sister, Vivian, completed the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon when she was a young woman.

The Ironman, one of the first triathlons, was then considered one of the most grueling athletic challenges in the world. Vivian made the 3 mile ocean swim, 110 mile bike ride and 26 mile marathon run in 10 hours:43 minutes finishing 318 in a field of 2000 men and women.. not shabby. When asking her and other young women athletes,”Why have you made such an intense effort to do this?” The answer came, “Because you are never the same again.”

It seems there is something about having our wondrous physical bodies experience a full testing of their capacities that goes bone deep, supporting a grounded confidence that no one can take away. To be sure there are trade offs that need balance, but it is strong stuff.

Mary and Vivian’s brother, Cameron, recently met his goal, (though he certainly questioned the sanity of the whole thing half way through it!) by running an arduous 50 miles in an uphill cross country race to celebrate his 50th birthday. With his wacky sense of humor he dropped to his knees and crawled over the finish line then emerged standing again, albeit on somewhat shaky legs, and beaming his great Tom Sawyer grin as he shared hugs with his admiring sons and family.

All our children grew up in the reign of the Nike running shoes branding slogan, “If you don’t go, you won’t know.” that seemed to egg them on in their all ready inherent zest for experiencing life head on and in full measure. Now a grand daughter has done ultra marathons and climbed Kilimanjaro too, another excels in swimming, a third triumphs on mountain bikes.

But on this day, the fates had granted us a phone call we could actually complete from Nepal and Gordon and I eagerly hung on Mary’s every word. The very first thing Mary told us was about flying out of dangerous Lukla airport.

She described arriving at the airport sweaty from the long hike, essentially unwashed for days, boots covered with yak and donkey dust and dung from the frequent traffic jams with people and animals that share the same mountain paths with the tourists, though with very different agendas.
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“You would have loved it Dad!” she giggled about the plane rides. “They pack you in, Just, “Get in and Get out!” The pilot revs up the engines full bore and the brakes are full on. Then he lets the brake off and you go shooting out of there like a sling shot or a catapult off an aircraft carrier. Way cool! And when they land, they hit the runway “Boom!” and a full brake screech to a stop. It was awesome!” Again her fun filled free flowing laughter cascades around the world to calm her anxious and doting aged parents.

Then with business like crispness, she ticked off the accomplishments, “ I climbed Everest base camp, and summited Kala Pathar, 18,000 some feet, and Island peak 20,300.”

She went on,”Climbing Island was the hardest thing I have ever done. It was a much harder route than anything the internet showed, much more ice wall climbing, gripping your toes, twisting your feet and legs for different angles to get into the ice with the crampons till your shins just ached. There were seven danger fraught rope changes to make.(She realized in talking to sherpas later that less than 50% of those attempting the Mt. Island climb complete it. Some climbers look at the treacherous blue ice glimmering around the deep crevices and stop right there.)

“When I came down I had to push off a glacie wall and rappel over a huge crevice of blue ice to land on the other side. I put my faith in my sherpa. He climbed Everest three times. He was great.” It was bitterly cold on the mountain (though she was used to cold but had lost ten pounds after two weeks at altitude.) “I was exhausted.”. she reported, and told us her summit picture shows her with a pale face and gritty expression. True grit, I would have to say.

But at the summit she scattered her sacred tobacco into the winds of that far off mountain peak. Mary has been mentored in the past by a tribal elder from a Native American tribe in Wisconsin and took his teachings with deep earnestness. She has been part of the native teams in harvesting the sacred wild rice, quietly gliding in the still lake shore waters using flails, as the Indians had done for millennia, to shatter the precious grains into the canoe. A rare privilege accorded a white woman.

On that far away magnificent razor edged mountain peak, she also offered our gifts to honor our son, her brother, into the rarified air; three snowy white feathers from our flock of doves here at White Feather ranch, and a small handful of flat prickly needles from incense cedar that grew here and became our candle lit Christmas tree in 2012, its fragrance filling our home for the Holy nights.

A sudden impulse came on that New Year’s day, to make the sweet smelling tree branches into bundles and dry them for purifying, cleansing smudges, which we wove around with some antique thread from my mother’s old sewing basket.

It was an odd preparation as we had no specific use for them at the time.Yet the heart seems to know things are coming before we come into ultimate knowing of the destiny events that await us.Two months later our son suddenly died and we put these cedar offerings into the fire here in California at the exact moment he was cremated far away in Norway, with Mary and Cameron there at the site as family guardians for the process. (more on blog)

We chatted some more with Mary. Just then her most immediate desire was for a shower, a real shower hopefully one with hot water. When I asked her if the great adventure had been all she hoped for.

“Oh, yes, and way more.” she replied.

“And the biggest thing?”

Her voice was resonant with sureness, closure, and fulfillment..

“ Peace with Gary….it is a big step…a fresh new stage…for both us…. Peace with Gary.”

And that, the honoring of her brother, was why she went.

A LAST SCARY AIRPORT, MARY’S CLIMB

 

A LAST SCARY AIRPORT

April 11, 2014

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After the Solo Flight!

Mary is not afraid of flying and that is a good thing. As she concludes her mountain climbing in the Himalayas she still has one more ‘known to be risky’ aspect of the grand adventure; flying back to Kathmundu from Lukla airport, listed among the ten most dangerous airports in the world. Lying at the foot of huge mountains, its reputation is well earned with its stunningly formidable approaches and the changeable wind and weather that is always capriciously swirling through the deep canyons that border the airstrip. Flying is my husband’s greatest love in this life, exceeded only by his devotion to his family. Seeing his passion as a young wife, I took up flying to be his companion. Little did I know I would come to love it as much as he. As a mother of three young children, time was as scarce as money then, but flying is a quick sport, one could be at the airport and aloft, literally above it all and back home in an hour. Instant perspective! This became my escape from household chaos when we purchased part interest in a little broad winged, 65 horsepower, vintage Taylorcraft. A perfect balance for my life ‘on earth’. Mary’s ease with flying came naturally, you can even say prenatally. I soloed when I was five months pregnant with her and her twin sister, Vivian, who both became lively adventuresome girls and awesome athletes. The long faced, dour flying instructor I had, certainly unaware of my gravid condition, unexpectedly got out the plane after I had made some nice landings, and shortly after I had painstakingly recorded my fourteen hours of dual instruction into my log book. I sat somewhat stunned at his abrupt exit, glancing at the right seat grown huge and formidable with emptiness, a spot usually emanating with his gravelly voice droning instructions. No one there. But then I pushed the throttle forward and took off for two more landings alone. The plane was lighter by 190 pounds and lifted off like a joyful bird and my soul with it. What a thrill it was to be in command of my own flying machine powering it skyward to soar, bank and turn and survey, from that lofty vantage point, all things earthbound below! In truth I was not solo but accompanied by my daughter’s spirits there in tiny forms snuggled in the womb. They, too, must have exulted in their mother’s thrill of freedom and independence. Hardly an activity I recommend to expectant mothers now but it filled a big place in my life then. The birth of twins, making five children in five years for us, certainly clipped my wings and I didn’t attempt more flying until they were two. Then I took it up again and they were my first passengers when I was licensed, along with my proud father. They took it all in stride as did our oldest daughter, Lauren. Fishing for acknowledgment with some somewhat forgivable pride, I asked her if she had shared at school that her mommy just got a pilot’s license. She shrugged with indifference and laconically replied, “No, it wasn’t sharing day.” Once when the twins were eight we were driving back from my parents wonderful mountain home and I was with them in the back seat. Those were the pre-seat belt days, and I had my arms, like a mother hen’s sheltering wings, around my two girls snuggled cosily to my sides. As we drove a stretch of mountain highway, I was suddenly washed with a wave of utterly fulfilled contentment. I looked out at the mountains on the far horizon, soft violet in the fading day, and I remember my thoughts as clear as yesterday. “I shall guide and accompany these girls to the top of those mountains, but that will be as far as I go. They will go beyond on their own, on to valleys and other mountains and other lands and adventures that I cannot even imagine and will not be mine to know. They shall forge their destinies and ascend mountains I have never dreamed of, live experiences and accomplishments uniquely and wonderfully their own.” It has come to pass, our courageous Mary (and Vivian who has also climbed Kilimanjaro) have done just that.

 

WORDS BEFORE THE FINAL CLIMB

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This is the panoramic view she Mary could see from Kalapattar.This is Mary’s email, the last she could get to us before attempting to climb Mt. Island on Friday, April 11th

Dear Mom and LDF School,
I am so far in the Himalayas that even g-mail will not auto fill
addresses. Please forward this to all that you feel need to know. I am
one day ahead of schedule. phones do not work, with the exception I
was able to sneak a call out from base camp. This morning starting at
5 am climbed Kalapattar. !8,00plus feet. Beautiful location with 360
views of Everest and surrounding mountains. Back to Dingboche which is actually near Periche. I am at the base of Amma Dablam meaning mother dablm beautiful mountain. Looking east I see Island Peak. Tomorrow
head to Chuckung where I meet my sherpa guide for this peak. He is
very experienced Everest 3 times as well as many other summits of more technical mountains here. I started with another gal from Texas but she already dropped out. My guide is very kind and good. This one on one experience is even better. I gave a ritual ceremony to Jeremy Ritchie at base camp yesterday, and a ritual ceremony for brother Gary today atop Kallapattar. When done two little birdies were hopping around at my feet, even at that altitiude. I feeel really good. I have found that you must stay ahead of your breathing and heart rate. I if  you cant catch your breath, slow down, no matter how slow. I admit this is physically very hard. But no book or google app will ever replace the real experience of seeing, feeling, engaging in what I am doing. The people are amazing and warm. There is camaraderie. and warmth. I appreciate all the support. I n reality I probably will not have a way to get a message out until I return to Kathmandu. Remember I am a day ahead of schedule, but that is good as Lukla airport can be tricky with weather shutdowns. Sorryabout the bad writing it is cold and the key boards are different. MY heartfelt love to all Best wishes
Namaste Mary