We start the day normally, everyone sitting around the big room table, but there is one difference, Wesley is here. If you didn’t know, Wesley was a fellow classmate of the ninth graders from day one of seventh grade, until he had to move, and could no longer get to school. He lives in Maine, so luckily it’s not too far away. They were packing up today, so he was able to come to school. Wesley is probably one of the best NBS success stories. He started out not doing his homework, and he wasn’t very approachable. But after two years he is now one of the nicest people you will meet, and is one of my favorite people to talk to, he always has something to say, and he’s not your average joe when it comes to likes, opinions, and movie choices, so it makes it even more interesting. I’m glad he’s here because this is still his school, one that he helped build for two years.
We go outside and clean up the shed, after it is done I see a small shape hopping in the grass. Angus yells in a fake excited voice: “Get it!” It is a little toad, so I reach down and pick it up. After holding the little creature for a while Sam walks over.
“You know you can get warts from Toads, right?” He says,
Right away I set down the toad. We walk back inside to start meeting again.
Anouncement: If you are sick, or not coming to school, please tell Tal a reason, so the school knows what’s going on.
Leeya, remembered how her Grandma had a bad day, and Rosemary’s family was there with flowers, even when they didn’t know Leeya’s Grandmother very well. Leeya was very grateful for this and she has a lot of respect for Rosemary’s family.
Rosemary’s Mom has taken up drawing various plants and mushrooms in a notebook, and Rosemary thinks that is cool, because her mom hasn’t done much art in the past, and she is still trying new things. Tal says Kristen seems like an interesting person. I definitely agree. During last year’s clean up she told me about this mushroom that could pretty much work miracles, and it was one of the most informative conversations I’ve had.
Kelsey’s Dad got his motorcycle license, and soon he will be getting one. This sparks everyone to start talking about their family members’ motorcycles, there are a lot more people in our school with motorhead parents and relatives. Griffin says his uncle is in a motorcycle gang, everyone gasps.
“No, not like that kind of gang,” He says.
“They just hang out together and go to the same bar.”
That’s good to hear, because I had the Hells Angels type of gang in my head, and if that was the case, I might start to keep my distance from Griffin.
Wren tells us that Joanna is now a licensed Iyengar yoga instructor (sorry if I spelled it wrong). She has been teaching normal yoga for a long time, but this is a big step up and she has been working hard for it for a long time. She can keep getting higher in the Iyengar yoga ranks, as only two people in the world have reached the highest level.
Jack rode in The Kelly Brush ride that happened over the weekend, to raise money for the Kelly Brush foundation. She is a woman that was paralyzed from her waist down in a skiing accident, and found a way to still bike, using hand pedal bikes. So on this day, people, Paralyzed or not, ride using these special bikes all the way to Bristol and back.
There is a silent spot in meeting, and Tal asks Griffin a question.
“Griffin, How’d the football game go yesterday?”
“We lost,” Griffin says looking down. He starts to give us the details. His team is really bad at blocking, so he has very little protection, and is left open to get sacked , but from what I’ve heard, he played really well, and it sounds like he did as much as he could for what he had.
Tal passes around a carrot that has four limbs, and looks like a little orange man. This was brought in by Rosemary, who gave it a face and a hat.
Rose says that Maxine did a really good job on her notes, she seemed like she worked very hard, and was constantly writing throughout the week. We read some of her notes aloud, she describes the first day perfectly. She wrote notes for everything that happened on one day, put them together, and it became a “Note Poem.” Hopefully I can try and do the same this week.
Tal asked us if we had read the notes, everyone tentatively nods, but as the conversation goes on, we find out the notes were posted at around 10:00 pm, so most of us were lying. Makes you wonder what else we’re not being completely truthful about, O the suspense...
We talk about how simple Maxine wrote the list of notes on the third day, and it was just as good or better than if you described it fully, it’s making our minds do some of the work, instead of having it created in a scene for us. Man, all this talk about Maxine’s notes, I’m sweatin’ bullets!
Tal asks me how I will write my notes. He says I should write it in Haiku, Wesley tells me about the proper pattern pattern, so here goes.
The absence of the propane tank.
Jackman’s was no more.
Now I am realizing it takes way too long to do that, so the rest will be old, boring notes. As I was saying, Althea had noticed that her propane tank was gone, it hadn’t affected her directly, but she was so used to having it there, with the name Jackman’s, that she noticed right away when it was gone. We are so used to our little world, that once it changes it is a big deal.
Marina saw her Aunt Maria and her partner Kippy, she said it felt like summer, but it was weird to go back and do homework.
Catherine spent all Sunday writing her speech on the end of the world, which is happening on the 28th, so watch out. She said that she was bored when she couldn’t find what to write, and she spent three hours trying, but on Saturday she babysat her brother with Merry, and her brother, to hold down the fort of energetic toddlers who won’t eat fruit. Tal brings it back to the idea of Boredom. He doesn’t believe in boredom, because something is always happening. He says answering the question “How should you live?” is the most interesting thing in the world and you are doing in every second that you are alive. He then asks Catherine again: “what happened when she wrote?” Then she opens up a little and tells us about her speech, fearing the end, and not wanting to to live her life being afraid of what might happen. Then Tal asks all of us again what we need to do in our life to answer the question of how we want to live our life. We need to constantly be trying to figure it out, so when Catherine spent three hours sitting in front of a blank screen, she was doing the right thing.
Rosemary read the Poem ‘Water’ by Ralph Waldo Emerson
The water understands
It wets my foot, but prettily,
It chills my life, but wittily,
It is not disconcerted,
It is not broken-hearted:
Well used, it decketh joy,
Adorneth, doubleth joy:
Ill used, it will destroy,
In perfect time and measure
With a face of golden pleasure
During science I worked with Sam, Maxine, and Juliette on the cabin we are building for The Burning Man. We managed to make one successful part of a wall, but most of the time was spent watching Sam trying to screw together two boards, as he gave his continuous comedic monologue.
In the afternoon instead of the usual All Tal, we had art. First we looked at some slides of sculptures by Picasso. There were cardboard scraps cut in completely random pieces lying on the table. We are supposed to make human forms out of them, mostly 2D. We are not supposed to make it look exactly human though, more of something that slightly resembles someone, but is also abstract. We did this for a long time, but it didn’t seem like it. This is definitely one of my favorite art projects that we have done, near the end I got into “Flow,” a state where the time, place, noise, or any outside force affects you, and I feel pretty good about my work. I would have continued, but I had to leave early for soccer practice.
We start off morning cleaning up, our new plan to fix the problems we have with cleanliness. It has worked because people have made it a competition, so that when you have finished doing one job, you get another card and then do that job.
In meeting Maxine told us about how she wanted everyone to talk loudly so we could hear. If you wanna talk, say it loud and proud. We need that energy. Rose tells us about how some religions see god as an energy or an agent, not an actual thing. We have this energy in us, and we need to use it, so to convey this we can talk loud, it is a start.
Tal brings us back to the moment when he asked us if we had read the notes, everyone said they had, but turns out, the notes weren’t posted yet, so we all lied because we were afraid, we have to be truthful. He knows it is a lie whenever we say: “I don’t know,” or “It was boring,” or “I don’t have anything for meeting” or “I’m just tired.’ It is the truth that you do know, but you haven’t found a way to express it. It’s impossible to have nothing in your mind.
Tal and Wyatt talk about his speech, Wyatt says he doesn’t know what to write about. Tal asks him what his most important feeling was. He says his love for his family, as they talk it goes to his love for Sam. He was watching a scary movie, and Wyatt was scared, so Sam spent the time talking to him, to divert his intention away from the movie. Sam is the kind of person that will comfort his friend, and that comes before all else. Tal tells Wyatt to write about that.
Tal talks to us about speeches, we need to put work into this, we need to try and make it great. As Tal tells us, “This ship is sailing. If you’re on it will be up to you.” Tal calls out a few students in particular, because they hadn’t done much work on their speech. Some advice for anyone who is still stuck on their speech by the time these notes come out: Just write, get something that remotely looks like a speech, and then you and Tal will work at polishing it, and that’s when you really get to make it great. But to get there you have to start.
Will talks about his dog, who died the day before. His dog was 13, older than him and had been there his whole life. Tal asks him:
“How much did you love your dog?”
“A lot,” Will says.
“Give us an amount,” Tal asks,
“100%.” He says.
Tal says Will should love everything 100%, even if you know that you might feel the pain when you lose it. Like last year, at the end we all cried, because it was so great and now it’s over. Will nods as, tears in his eyes.
Tal asks Will if he knew how sad he would be when his dog died, would he have loved him less
“I would have loved him the same.”
I respect Will a lot for showing emotion this early. If you stay bottled up and try to act like a tough guy all the time, you will be living a lie. So that shows me that Will is going to do well here, if he can already do that. Marina says that she would rather risk losing something, than go through life only loving people a little bit, because then it’s a life wasted. Angus signed that contract when he got Russell, but he will still love him to the fullest.
When Tal asks Aidan about his speech, he wants Aidan to talk to him about it because,Tal says “I’m getting paid to do this, I think…”
Kelsey said that when Wesley was here, it was strange to think that this was how it would be if nothing had changed. I can definitely relate to that. When we were outside, I was talking to Wesley like we had last year, and it didn’t feel different. Only after he left did I realize it was. It made Tal realize that he really wasn’t here, and it hadn’t really sunk in yet.
Leeya read a nameless poem by Rumi.
“Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again , come , come.”
We had our first lit class this afternoon, we are reading a book called “The Red Pony” When asked about it Tal jokingly yells out:
“We’re reading The Dead Pony!”
Everyone rolls their eyes as Tal goes far off into the weeds yelling about “The Dead Pony” The book is about a boy living on a farm in the early 1920’s, named Jody. His life seems pretty boring and stagnant, until a Pony, which his father bought, comes into his life. We haven’t read much yet, so we don’t really know what will happen.
In science we worked on our thorough cabin we are building for the Burning School festival we have at the Alumni BBQ, where we attach work and writing from the year, this can be work that you want to burn, because it is bad, or work that is great and you want to send it out into the world. It’s all about letting go, people at the party are also welcome to put their own stuff on there. We have started making a frame for the building out of scrap wood, which is taking us pretty long because a lot of us don’t have very good carpentry skills.
And then I left very early for a soccer game, again.
Tal, Rose, and Eric aren’t here this morning because they are having a meeting so we do cleanup and meeting by ourselves.
Leeya starts the meeting talking about Will and his dog yesterday, she thought it was really brave of him to talk about it, unlike Jody in the Red Pony, who covers things with dirt if he doesn’t want them to be there.
Marina had a lot of fun talking with Althea while they cut rafters for the thorough cabin. I think the best thing about projects like these, is not the finished project, but the work, and the building of it, because it is like a team building exercise, but less cheesy, like “Say your name and pass the ball” activities.
Maxine talks about how it felt weird being home alone, and how silent it was. So she turned on the TV to a baseball channel to drown out the silence, it reminded her of when she is at her dad’s and there is a baseball game on tv, which adds background noise.
Eden tells us about how she will be in Mexico for a week, and they have been planning this for a while, so she is really excited it is happening. She will also be doing some sort of energy healing thing that involves massaging the energy, not the person, and apparently it seems weird but it really works. Aidan tries to do it to me, pretending to grab the energy around me and control it.
The music kids talk about having a lot of fun writing their own songs about Angus getting the light to turn on, and jamming to the song ‘Let Her Go” by Passenger.
We have a new cocoon in our classroom, brought to us by the gracious underwriting support of Alyssa Rittendale, who walked around the field in front of our house until she found one. So hopefully this cocoon will turn out better than the last two. long story short, they’re stories ended a little sooner than we would have liked.
Wyatt has made some improvements on his speech. Last night he worked hard on his speech, and he’s happy about how it turned out.
Henry tells us about a corn festival that will be happening in Ripton.
“What exactly do you do at corn festivals?” Tal asks,
“Uh, eat corn I guess,” Henry says, we all laugh. I’m glad Henry was brave enough to talk in meeting, because I still have trouble doing it.
Sam has been hanging out with the seventh grade boys a lot lately, and he’s had a lot of fun doing it, they seem like really interesting people.
Maxine’s brother Jordan got into some trouble while walking around in the nude in New Jersey, but this actually made Maxine happy. She is happy that he is such a free spirit, and nothing that other people say really affects him.
Wren Read “Longed to move Away” By Dylan Thomas
I have longed to move away
From the hissing of the spent lie
And the old terrors' continual cry
Growing more terrible as the day
Goes over the hill into the deep sea;
I have longed to move away
From the repetition of salutes,
For there are ghosts in the air
And ghostly echoes on paper,
And the thunder of calls and notes.
I have longed to move away but am afraid;
Some life, yet unspent, might explode
Out of the old lie burning on the ground,
And, crackling into the air, leave me half-blind.
Neither by night's ancient fear,
The parting of hat from hair,
Pursed lips at the receiver,
Shall I fall to death's feather.
By these I would not care to die,
Half convention and half lie.
In all Tal we read speeches, Rosemary, Marina, and I read.
Rosemary read first, she read a speech about fearing of being too small, not being good enough, that others were better. So she would never turn in her work, she had to make it amazing, or else she was worried that it would be bad compared to others. She was a perfectionist. Her speech revolved around one time she was at the Lincoln family ultimate game, and everyone out there seemed big, scary, and really good. She first decided that she was going to to sit out, but by the end, she went out and played. It’s hard to do it justice in describing it, because it was an incredible speech.
Marina talked about how she used to think she lived a cursed life, many family members had passed away, including her mother. She started to be afraid of loving things, because she might lose them, and the pain would be too great. When she came here, she didn’t want to talk about her mother with us, because she almost wanted to be safe from going back to that time. But now she has learned to embrace it, her mother is a part of her, and she can choose to try and forget what happened, or accept it, and she has chosen to accept it, she will talk with us about her mother, tell stories and remember her life.
In my speech I talked about not wanting to do this year halfway. The last two years, I wasn’t fully in this school, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to be here, so I just kind of did everything good enough and went with it. But this year I want to do things right. I want to actually try to be great. The question of how I want to live my life needs to be answered by me everyday.
But yet I again, I left for soccer, so I don’t really know what else happened.
Before anything starts, Tal asks us to close our eyes. He starts to read some quotes from the speeches yesterday, he tells us to think of which one was not read, or written by a North Brancher. He reads.
“The way you do anything, is the way you do everything,”
“In this moment I was strong,”
“Did I care? Did I really come to school everyday wanting to be great?”
“Just type, don’t delete.”
I wasn’t able to write the other ones, because Tal talked kind of fast, and it’s hard to type with your eyes closed. But he read one more, that didn’t fit with the themes of the other ones. Everyone guessed that this was the quote not read or written by a North Brancher. This was a quote by MLK. This was to show us that our writing could be just as good as someone like him.
Leeya tells us about how she has never really been in the “Lincoln community”, because she went to school in Middlebury when she was younger. But lately every time she has gone into the Lincoln General Store, this old man, who she doesn’t really know, always greets her when she comes in. And that makes her feel more involved, more welcomed, and more a part of the community,
Rosemary talks about reading the speech responses, and how it made her feel loved. I can definitely relate to that, last night I did the exact same thing. And I was very impressed, they were all sincere, and I can’t say that about the notes last year, and that shows me that we have a great group of people in this school this year.
Tal and Eric start telling stories about how the school started. Tal had ran around Ripton, and talked to parents and kids about what they wanted in a school. Tal says they sat there doing nothing, so the only way he could find out about the kid, was to look at their room.
“You can tell a lot about someone by their room,” Tal says.
One kid had wires, springs, and jumbles of stuff everywhere, so he knew that he had a lot going on in his head. Another one had a perfectly clean room, and really simple room.
“So I knew she was weird,” he says, and everyone laughs.
Yesterday, Griffin stayed after science class and continued to dig the trench we had started for the Buddha. It was awesome to look out there and see him working hard and long after everyone else had left.
Kelsey Has had fun playing soccer, which she is new at. And she thanks everyone for being so supportive. Tal says she is doing “real good.”
We got a note from Nico! First there was a storm that followed him down the coast, so that wasn’t fun. Right now he is on the island Gibraltar in the Mediterranean. (I think that’s how it’s spelled…)
Griffin read: “The Water Wheel” by Andrew Blakemore
Stay together, friends.
Don’t scatter and sleep.
Our friendship is made
of being awake.
The waterwheel accepts water
and turns and gives it away,
That way it stays in the garden,
whereas another roundness rolls
through a dry riverbed looking
for what it thinks it wants.
Stay here, quivering with each moment
like a drop of mercury.
In Lit, the pony died.
Today we didn’t have morning meeting, we went straight into class. Nineties and Sevies had study where everyone rushed to finish any work because we really wanted to play Wiffleball. That was really the main theme of the day. How could it not be? It’s one of the most cutthroat, competitive games out there.
I was put on the team New Harmony, which was run by head coach Eric Warren. Our roster was looking strong, with a few people who had baseball experience, but we weren’t going to have an easy first game, going against the much talked about, Drop City, whose coach, Tal Birdsey, had the audacity to where Matrix-esque sunglasses to a serious game of wiffleball. The game was back and forth, a perfect match. We were kept even with the combination of our power players, William, Griffin, and Eric, who would get us a few bases and play shut out defense. And then players like me, who never got on base and struck out twice, to keep things interesting. The game ended in a tie, so everyone was happy, and then we went inside for speeches.
First Wren read her speech about always being truthful and honest when she was younger, that was one of her qualities. But then as she got older, sometimes people would tell her to lie, hide away her feelings, because they weren’t “Nice” When she was at camp she had to keep something from her friend, she was told to, and she did it for most of the time, until the end, when she told her friend some of it. She realized that lying was hurting her more than others, she had to be true to herself and she wanted to do that this year, live an honest life.
Anika read next, she talked about how in seventh grade she wasn’t completely in this school, she wouldn’t do her work to the best of her ability. This made her not really enjoy this school. Then she realized that if she was going to be here, she needed to really be here. I can already see differences in the way she is this year, she talks a lot more, she seems like she wants to help this school be great this year. And she seems at peace with herself.
Juliette read her speech about giving up on people. Sometimes she gives up too quickly on friendships, and she leaves them behind, I can definitely relate to that, I haven’t talked to most of my friends from Beeman since I left. She wants to try and stay with people longer, like Aidan. Her and Aidan had a complicated friendship last year, in the beginning they were really good friends, then they tried to move their friendship in a different direction, and it ended up just not working. They haven’t really talked very much since then, but they both sound like they want to fix that, because if they don’t it could hurt the school.
Next Eden read, but I had to leave before I got to hear it, so I don’t know what it was about. But I’m sure it was great, because every day in carpool she talks about it and her progress, so I know a lot of work went into it. She seems to be doing great here, and hopefully after reading, she will gain confidence in herself as a writer.