I wrote about the “small marvelous” last year at this time, wrote about the bell that sits in the bookcase in my office, the bell that was dug up on Proctor grounds by two self-proclaimed “dirt fisherman” Dave Elwell and Dana Newton, the bell that must have jostled off a harness a hundred years ago to sit quiet and silent in the dark for years before the metal detector pinged on it. But it rings again when I pick it off the shelf, the small metal clapper knocking against the nickel sidewalls to send out a warm, wholesome sound. A chuckling ringing, a smiling sound. I imagine it shaking out its winter melody, the sound of sure-footed joy, as a horse-drawn sleigh slips through snow-packed Andover streets. Not hard to conjure after this week’s snow.
On Monday night of this week, I leaned against the door frame in the gym to watch the boys’ varsity basketball team run through shooting drills, conditioning drills, passing drills, defensive drills. I watched the coaches - Gregor and Scott - wave, whistle, and encourage. On Wednesday I sat at a lunch table while the girls’ varsity hockey coaches - Maggie and Doug - discussed the line strategy they would employ against Middlesex, which resulted in a thrilling win in the last seconds of the game. I chatted with Buz about his upcoming trip to Quebec with Nordic skiers and he talked about waxing (always waxing). In mid-afternoon, I watched Junior and Lindsay coach their team to victory against a strong KUA squad. At dinner I saw David Salathé with a radio still clipped in to bib ski pants in the Brown Dining Commons after spending the day with USSA/FIS skiers up at Bretton Woods.
This is not about Black Friday deals or cyber Monday’s 60% off sales. This is not about the blow up Santas or finding the house with the most light-bedazzled, roof-prancing reindeer. It’s not about the 12 days or the advent calendar. This is about an ornament, a gold snowflake found in a fleece jacket, and the 2X tree it hung on. It’s about remembering the joy that seats itself in the heart, sometimes a far corner, and how small objects and strong memories can help guide us forward.
Is November more beginning or more end? Is it the wind up as in the final stages when the last notes of a song are played or the last calculus problem set of the term is completed? Or the wind up like when a baseball pitcher shifts the seams, finds the curve grip, and collects for a single pitch that is simply one of many?
Proctor graduates are collaborative, ethical individuals, ready to contribute productively to their communities. At least that is what we have written in our aspirational Profile of a Proctor Graduate statement. But how do we get them there? Well, part of the answer might be found in last night’s end-of-the term “Innovation Night.”
The quiet, generous help of PAPA (Proctor Academy Parent Association) is everywhere at Proctor when I reflect on the fall term. Winding all the way back to the start of school, even before the start of school, parent volunteers have continuously stepped forward to make a difference. Day Student Picnic. Registration. Open House. Adopt a Team. Adopt a Dorm. Fall Family Weekend. And the most recent example? You only had to pass through the Wise to witness Halloween dance decorations - a term which loosely does justice to the shrieking bats, giants skulls with red eyes, and the drifting, life-sized ghosts - to appreciate their commitment to the community.
Here’s the thing: at some point we all need to tie into something that is a little bigger than we are, a little scary, something evolutionary in nature with a significant time commitment. There are lessons to be learned in these long haul endeavors, lessons that have transferable properties that show up in other areas of life: friendships, marriages, communities, faith, and athletics. The long haul teaches resiliency in a time when so many are conditioned to expect ease of operation, instantaneous answers to online queries, overnight shipping from Amazon, and flawless lives lived seamlessly on social media. One of the constant adolescent illusions we battle today is that something can come from nothing, or in alchemistic fashion lead will turn to gold with the right, easy incantation. And that’s why we need these projects.
My first reaction after reading a NY Times (Oct 10) editorial on climate regulation rollback was to think about Proctor’s land, the care we take in ensuring a productive woodlot that not only produces timber harvests and creates healthy species habitat, but is also managed for future generations. Then I thought - briefly - about ranting for the environment and against all of the regulatory rollbacks on clean air. I thought about the fires in California, the warming oceans that have created a record tying hurricane season, and all of the inconvenient truths we are now living. In the end, I settled for the swinging bridge.