Monday morning we had our morning meeting, and it was the first day in two weeks that Luke was there. He came back from Barcelona, Spain. So the first moment we had him back in our presence, he showed us his Barcelona t-shirt that had a mule on it, and he explained the difference between mules and donkeys because Catalonia’s animal… representative, is the mule.
“When a donkey and a horse hook up, they make a mule; but a Mule can’t reproduce because it doesn’t have any junk. That’s what my mom said!” He explained. We all laughed. (editor’s note: we have a suspicion that this is not exactly how Luke’s mom said it.)
I read a poem, “We are Many” by Pablo Neruda. Here it is:
Of the many men who I am, who we are,
I can’t find a single one;
they disappear among my clothes,
they’ve left for another city.
When everything seems to be set
to show me off as intelligent,
the fool I always keep hidden
takes over all that I say.
At other times, I’m asleep
among distinguished people,
and when I look for my brave self,
a coward unknown to me
rushes to cover my skeleton
with a thousand fine excuses.
When a decent house catches fire,
instead of the fireman I summon,
an arsonist bursts on the scene,
and that’s me. What can I do?
What can I do to distinguish myself?
How can I pull myself together?
All the books I read
are full of dazzling heroes,
always sure of themselves.
I die with envy of them;
and in films full of wind and bullets,
I goggle at the cowboys,
I even admire the horses.
But when I call for a hero,
out comes my lazy old self;
so I never know who I am,
nor how many I am or will be.
I’d love to be able to touch a bell
and summon the real me,
because if I really need myself,
I mustn’t disappear.
While I’m writing, I’m far away;
and when I come back, I’ve gone.
I would like to know if others
go through the same things that I do,
have as many selves as I have,
and see themselves similarly;
and when I’ve exhausted this problem,
I’m going to study so hard
that when I explain myself,
I’ll be talking geography.
In the afternoon, Tim Woos, a composer and a former student of the North Branch School came to show a presentation on music.
“What is music?” he asked us. He then played three songs on the radio/amplifier- A Beethoven symphony, “Master of Puppets” by Metallica, and “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus.
“What is music? These three are so different, but they all are music.” Tim said.
We thought for a minute or two, and we all had trouble coming up with an exact answer.
“It’s a collection of notes put together towards one goal, the one song,” somebody blurted.
“But what makes those songs music, and the sound of the scuffling of these papers not music?” Tal asked.
“It doesn’t have to be notes though, it is any sounds. All sounds are music,” somebody added.
Tim told us that his definition of music is “organized sound.”Other songs that Tim showed us and explained to us were compositions by Jennifer Higden, Tim’s upcoming teacher, who won the Pulitzer Prize two weeks ago, a hyper accordion playing, a composition of cars and trucks driving by, and they all sounded amazing, and made us feel something different.He also played an amazing piece by Schumann that caused us to hear music differently.
At the end of the day we all drew pictures, then split up into groups. Tim then instructed us to compose a simple piece of music based on our pictures. My group, consisting of Luke, Nathan, Sophie, Rose, Rio, Henry, Isabel and I, composed a piece using a wheelbarrow, marbles, a pizza pan, sand, a piece of PVC pipe, and a lawnmower. The other groups used vocal sounds, a poem, beat-boxing, pencils, a Frisbee, 6 orange cones, two pieces of crumpled paper, their hands, and many humming noises
Music is simply organized sound. Why does music, just a certain collection of notes and vibrations in the air, make you feel a certain way? One sound would make you feel happy and peppy, and make you want to dance. Another set of notes would make you feel sadness. Some make you feel scared/frightened, angry, inspired. Why is that?
Tim said effective music is music that makes you feel exactly what the composer or performer was trying to express.
First thing Tuesday Morning Meeting, Tal thoroughly explained the physics of his large hiking backpack as he got ready for the annual ninth-grade hiking/backpacking trip (which I will be participating in this year). He asked everybody if they thought he was cool. We all know the answer.
Henry said that he was thinking about Tim’s project the other day, and he was feeling bad that he didn’t have as broad of view of music. He thought about it from the perspective of a student, and as a fellow musician.
“There is so much to know… There are so many worlds to enter.”
Nathan then read some quotes from Neimueller and the Tao Te Ching instead of a regular poem.
During All-Tal, Ollie gave us his project on Eugenics. The first thing he did, was tell us (this isn’t actually true, what he says. It wa just an experiment.) that there will be no romantic relationships between any kids who have divorced parents, because their relationships will be more liable to fail. He also said that next year the soccer team will have tryouts and only the top 12 kids will make the team, to save money on the socks and jerseys the school has to buy. He named all the “bad note-takers” in the school and said that they must give their notebooks to the good note-takers. They have been deemed “un-improveable.” In the new Perfect NBS, there will be no resources or time spent on the “weaker ones.”
Everyone knew that this was just an experiment, but we were mad anyway. We argued about the changes, and wanted to know who got to decide, and rebelled. As clever as young Oliver is, that is what he wanted to happen, for people to understand what Eugenics was like to the people involved, to see what it might be like to have one group of deciding who is fit and who is not.
He gave us loads of information about various people who were for eugenics, different examples from the past, information about genetic engineering, and at the end we watched a clip of the original Frankenstein movie and we responded to questions.
I think nothing on earth, nothing even in the mind, would make something like eugenics OK. The idea is a great idea; to make the human race perfect. But the way they thought they could obtain the goal is completely unacceptable and disgusting. Hitler killed 6 million Jewish people in the search of this goal, but it is an awful and disgusting thing to think about.
During science class, we had two beakers, one on top of the other. One contained very hot water, while the other one was very cold and had ice in it. The two created fog/a small cloud in the space between. We then tried dropping a lit match into the water to create more of a cloud, and tried the same with aerosol. All of the ninth grade boys, including myself, shouted like monkeys when the cloud appeared. (editor’s note: what is this monkey shouting by ninth grade boys?) It was very fun.
On Wednesday morning Lydia read “Returning” by Wendell Berry. Here it is:
I was walking in a dark valley
And above me the tops of the hills
had caught the morning light.
I heard the light singing as it went
among the grass blades and the leaves.
I waded upward through the shadow
until my head emerged,
my shoulders were mantled with light,
and my whole body came up
out of the darkness, and stood
on the new shore of the day.
Where I had come was home,
for my own house stood white
where the dark river wore the earth.
The sheen of bounty was on the grass,
And the spring of the year has come.
Wednesday afternoon we continued on our self-portraits. So far we have done non-dominant hand drawing, a closed eyes drawing, a complete pencil drawing, a charcoal drawing, a collage for thank-you cards, and we are currently working on a complete, big collage. We have worked in silence, to keep everyone completely focused, and making their best work (because, well, everyone will shout like monkeys and baboons if given the opportunity)
Thursday morning Edgar said he shadowed at the high school yesterday, and he sat in during a literature class. “It was completely different than what we did here. It wasn’t worse necessarily, It was different questions, and the teacher just talked, and here we all talk, and… I don’t know. It was just totally different.
Simon also said that on the way to school today there was somebody new on the bus, an adult, and he didn’t know whether to talk to them or not. But they got off the bus before he could say anything. He said that you should take every chance you have, even if it is about something miniscule before it is too late. He said if you are going to do something, do it. Don’t just sit there thinking about it.
On Thursday morning Miles read “Hate Blows a Bubble of Despair” by E.E. Cummings:
Hate blows a bubble of despair into
hugeness world system universe and bang
fear buries tomorrow under woe
and up comes yesterday most green and young
pleasure and pain are merely surface
(one itself showing, itself hiding one)
Life’s only and true value neither is
Love makes the little thickness of the coin
Comes here a man would have from madame death
nevertheless now and without winter spring?
She’ll spin that spirit her own fingers with
And give him nothing (if he should not sing)
How much more than enough for both of us
darling. And if I sing you are my voice.
Reed Martin presented her project on the Koinonia. For those of you who do not know what that is, it is a farm community started by Clarence Jordan in 1942, in Georgia, that is still going on today. At first it was a utopia containing both African-Americans and whites living together, being paid equal wages, in the south, before the civil rights movement. Compared to all the racism around it, it was such a revolutionary idea. They were antagonized and shot at and even bombed by the KKK; Tal’s grandfather’s feed store was even bombed by the local people because Tal’s Grandfather refused to participate in the boycott against Koininia. A lot of people were scared. away. But in the 70’s the hippies came on over and gave them more residents again.
For an activity, Reed broke us up into groups of twos that don’t usually talk to other. We then had to come up with three things that we both believed in and have in common. We needed a sacred belief, some sacred activities, and a sacred hope (for humanity). After we wrote them down we shared them to the class.
On Friday morning, Aylee told us that Reed and Bryn’s grandfather had died. We talked about what their love must have been like for seventy years. Sophie came in late so Luke read a poem called “Last Days” by Mary Oliver.
After that, Eric generously set out into the woods about two miles away a treasure hunt/orienteering test. We were given a paper that had three GPS points. We had to enter them in, and go to each one. My group was the orange group. I was with Tal, Isabel, Hannah, Aylee, Luke, Rio, Claire and Evan. Evan was absent, so we were a man down. There were Orange, Yellow, and Pink groups. The first point our group went to was up about a half of a mile into the woods. We had to climb a little cliff, but there was no danger involved. There were three markers- one for the orange team, one for the yellow and so on. The clue then said go 100 meters at 30 degrees. We used the compass then Tal took the paces. We found the markers and it said “bread” on it. At first we thought the bread oven, but then we remembered that Eric said the three code words you find scramble out to be “crappy hippy poetry.” We would then use that “poem” as the password to the computer, which had the last clue on it. So we set off onto the second clue, which was almost a mile away from where we were. So we walked until we got to the spring, then we met up with the yellow group at the clue. Easy. This clue said “Earth.” Bread and Earth. Hmm….We immediately got away from the yellow group because we had already passed one group who was coming back from the clue we were getting, on the way there. When we got to the coordinates of the third clue we were at the cemetery in Ripton. We found the Gravestone the clue on the paper Eric gave to us led us to. The women’s last name was Lovett. So we immediately thought that love-it was the final clue. We quickly got back to the school then we got the computer. We saw nobody there, so we assumed we were the first group back. We were very happy. I started typing in all the combinations in random order until I got something. No luck. Isabel then said that she remembered something about the some of the lady on the gravestone’s life who was a man whose last name was “cook.” I tried the combination “cookearthbread,” then I got in. That was some crappy hippy poetry. We all cheered. We ran out into the woods to were the clue told us to go, and the yellow group closely followed us. It was a race at the finish. After about 10 minutes of searching, somebody in my group finally found it. We all were happy. The yellow group followed and got second place. Then the pink group closely followed after the yellow and took the third place prize. We all got some of Eric’s homemade cookies! And lay around in the sun for lunch.
All and all, after everyone getting wet and bit by bugs, getting attacked by swamp monsters, a day with all the jolly people, all the mellow people and all the leader-y people, confusion and impatient-ness, following other teams before us’ footprints, it was an awesome time.
After lunch we talked about Ollie, and how he really is a great student under his sometimes outward appearance of not paying attention.
Rider said,“When we have a conference about you, you are just being involved, it is so hard to be mad at you, or even think that you are doing something wrong when you are so “right on” to the conversation. You know?”
After we talked about Ollie, Henry, the headmaster’s son and ninth grader, announced that he wasn’t going to go to the high school next year, he was going to a private school called Buxton in Williamstown MA. He said he is really excited about it. Hannah was really sad that she wasn’t going to see him as often anymore and she had a lot of tears because she has known Henry since he was three. Everyone tried to cheer her up, and it eventually worked. Tal told a story about him and his friends when they went off to college, and then he explained how, whenever Henry came into town, he would only have to call up his friends, get a couple of guitars together, and they could have a hootenanny. Everyone thought this word “hootenanny” was funny, and so Tal told them another funny word for a wild good time, “wing-ding.” Nathan also said he is going to miss him, and said that every time he comes back, they have to go biking together. I will also miss him dearly, but I know it is what he wants to do and where he wants to go, and nobody should even think about denying him that.
I have enjoyed writing this, as it had made me so much more aware of how much we learn every week and how much goes on. So much happens that it is impossible to collect everything to show you, but this is a lot of it. I hope you enjoyed reading it.