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?
Last Sunday, listening to the Vocal Music ensemble and Bella singing Dolly Parton's Light of Clear Blue Morning in her first solo, November seemed like a beginning. She is stepping into her voice, finding her range, discovering strength. Last Saturday night, when Margaret wound through Sweet Child O’ Mine, culminating Jazz Rock’s night in the Wise it felt the same. Culminating moments? Or more beginnings? Anders Ericsson’s concept of 10,0000 hours and deliberate practice, mainstreamed as a concept by Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, suggests the latter.
We move counter to the calendar of endings. When the sugar maples flare with brilliant reds and yellows in October, scattering the currency of the season across campus, we are just finding community footing, just coming to life. As the grey fall woods emerge, we are in our beginnings: advisories centering down, classes gaining traction, teams finding their stride. Only when the first hard frosts dust the campus, when the first broken bands of snow drop down from Ragged Mountain’s shoulders, only then can we can start to say we are hitting our pace and finding our footing.
As we come to the end of this first term and the beginning of so much more, there is much to be thankful for. It is not just the winning seasons of different teams, not just the art shows, not just the final projects. It is something more diffuse. It is the process, the whole, the mosaic of community that we can step back and be thankful for. Yes, individual moments sparkle. No one is going to forget that winning goal on Friday night in the freezing cold up at Holderness, or the assembly when Jazz Rock performed, or even faculty lip-syncing in assembly. These collective and individual moments etch themselves into our recollection albums of fall.
But it is important to pause and give thanks for the underpinnings, the web strands of support behind these moments: our families, our myriad faiths, our mentors, our teachers, our coaches. And beyond this the ethos of the place providing the platform, the stage for the possible to play out, that, too, needs acknowledgment. It’s not accidental. Yes, it’s Proctor, but it’s also something beyond this school, something in the larger landscape of democracy that’s a bit of a marvel. The tapestry of possibility is woven by many hands and over great spans of time, and this Thanksgiving affords us all the opportunity to practice the art of gratitude.
Enjoy the upcoming week, but know we look forward to seeing everyone back on campus, or off campus, to continue the journey.
Mike Henriques P'11, P'15
Proctor Academy Head of School