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  • Writer's pictureChloe Vieira

Life in the Hinge

Here we are, in the bright clear morning light, the trees outlined in glittering frost, the creek is quiet, the air is still. This is the Hinge, the place of stillness between the in breath and the out breath, between going and returning. The longest night is coming, and the world waits to see if the sun will be reborn. In all the wintery places of the world, this has always been a time when people look to their granaries, to see if the last years harvest will carry them through the winter. Too early yet to worry, perhaps, but soon enough to wonder, and to pray.

The truth is, when I look at the treasury of The Village School, I find it overflowing with supportive mentors, brilliant advisors, trusting parents, ingenious children, and all the rich and diverse gifts of this wonderful land. I give thanks for these gifts, which truly are the abundant wellspring from which this school flows. And then, of course, there is the one chest in the treasury, set apart, perhaps, from the others, but no less important, that holds the US dollars, which make so much of what we do possible. Through the dedication and effort of our amazing school parents, reaching deep and working hard to pay their tuition on top of everything else they are working to keep alive, and the generous support of several large donors, that chest is nearly, but not quite, full enough to last us through the winter.

However, despite my best intentions and efforts at careful foresight, we have encountered some unexpected expenses. In order to pay for firewood, pay our generously low rent for our classroom at Medicine Wheel House, and properly compensate our amazing Math and Language Arts teachers, we need to raise an additional $500 this semester. If each person reading contributed just $10, we would have it!

Please donate if you can, in any amount, and help to keep us warm and well held through the rest of the winter. All donations are tax deductible, and any donations in excess of our goal will go towards scholarships for next semester, as we anticipate an ongoing need for support in making the program affordable to our hardworking parents! Please also consider signing up as a patron with a monthly donation. This ongoing support is vital to the health of our program.

I have been thinking a lot about the Hinge this week. For those not familiar with the book Always Coming Home, by Ursula K. LeGuin (probably most folks…), the concept of the Hinge is a part of the central metaphor and symbol that she imagines as being at the center of the lifeway of the Kesh, a fictional culture that she imagines in the Napa Valley of northern California, sometime in what would be, for us, the future. That symbol is the Heyiya-If, two spirals radiating outward from a central empty place. That empty place is the Hinge.

I believe (feel? think? suspect? pray?) that we are in the Hinge of history, or between History and Non-history. It seems to me that Civilization has taken us, as a species, spiraling out far away from our origins as earthly beings, integral parts of diverse ecosystems, and that as Civilization is collapsing in on itself, the spiral is beginning to circle inwards again, and much of what we have known as truth is falling away, and we are left with emptiness, space, not knowing what comes next.

It’s a strange time to be an educator, to try to prepare children for a mostly unknown future. And so, mostly, I teach presence, how to be awake and alive to the world as it is, how to be curious, and to seek to fulfill our curiosity, or allow it to lead us further into wonder and amazement. I try to model, and somehow to teach, respect and love for ourselves and the natural world. It seems to me that these are the things that will allow us to have a future as a species, if anything can.

What was and what may be lie, like children whose faces we cannot see, in the arms of silence.
All we ever have is here, now.
-Ursula. K. LeGuin

And so, rather than a detailed description of all the knowledge and skills, all the bits of information and technical expertise I want children to graduate with, I am guided by the following goals, in my parenting, my mentorship, and my crafting of the school. These have been good to me, and I share them in the hope that they can inspire you as well, in your own life and in your work with young people:

What do I want for my children and my students? What do I want them to be like when they grow up? What are my goals for their education?

Madly in Love with Life
Nature connected, big feelings, fully alive, wonder, joy, awe, grief
Conscious Competence in Loving
Intentionally cultivating care, affection, intimacy, responsibility, and compassion with many diverse people, places, experiences, things. Loving as embodied practice.
Competent and Confident
Able to think for themselves, solve problems, fix things, navigate tricky situations, and move gracefully through life. Willing to try new things, and able to fail or succeed with grace.
Lifelong Learners
Love to learn new things, know how to learn, ask questions, find mentors, research, share stories.
Able to recover and grow through setbacks, disturbances, and trauma. Able to reach out and ask for help, be vulnerable, and heal.
Able to access and embody different ways of being, as appropriate responses to different conditions, events, situations.
This is my standard of success as a parent and educator. This is how I want to measure the results of my efforts. This is the point of everything I do now, to allow them to grow into these kinds of people in the future.

Thank you for reading, and for being a part of this journey with me!

What are we reading at school this week?

Always Coming Home by Ursula K. LeGuin

Some might call me crazy for imagining that a bunch of 8–12 yr olds would be interested in this strange, slow moving book, filled with quiet beauty and layers of meaning, and written in a voice that can be alien and strange at times. Perhaps, but I just can’t help myself. It’s my favorite book, and it so poignantly explores what it means to be at home, in a place, on the earth.

How can you support the school?

Get involved with the kids learning

If you live here in the village, just taking a moment to ask the kids about school and geek out with them about the things they are learning is a great way to support our work. And if you are a grandparent, relative, or friend who lives elsewhere, including the topics we are exploring in school in your phone conversations, letters, and other communications with the kids you love could be a great way to connect with them and help them take the learning even deeper.

As always, feel free to get in touch with me if you’d like to come share something at school. You can take a look at our syllabus to see where we’re headed and how you might get involved.

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