16. Girls Go To School, Mold, Dear Mum

“Kirsten, there are not any other parents staring in the window, let’s go.” Cam said to me, lightly pulling my elbow. “But I want to watch!” I said as a poor excuse. Elle’s class looked so gentle and calm. Eleven neat wooden desks, of lovely proportion and quality formed two lines in the center of the space. The classroom had delightful energetics, everything was fresh, clean and thoughtfully valued and placed. I felt very good about where Elle sat, second along in the front row, between a girl named Cedar and a boy named Jude. A chalkboard had been artfully filled, with a giant sun flower representing the season beautifully. As I stepped away from the window pane, tears welled in my eyes. “I miss them.” I said to Cam. He shook his head at me, we were a predictable pair, me being sentimental, and him thinking I was silly for being overly so. I noticed however, Cam seemed a little lost too. We stood there not quite sure what to do with ourselves. Strangers in this new town, feeling even stranger without our children. It must have been obvious to others too because it was then we were kindly directed that tea was being served in the library for parents. I very much felt like a chia and started imagining a steaming pot of chai being ladled out into handmade ceramic mugs. You know, I get a little carried away with imagined scenarios at times. But isn’t it fun to think, how lovely life can be? And more importantly, what can I do to facilitate that? Anyway, what existed was two silver thermos canisters, one with coffee and another with hot water for tea bags. I noticed the milk was not appealing to me, nor the tea bags, and so I poured myself a cup of hot water. The mug was in fact handmade and I found perfect of another sort. Sipping the steaming water Chinese style while sitting on the wooden bench, I was grateful for having picked up this habit of drinking hot water. Ancient Chinese medicine encourages drinking a glass of warm water in the morning or evenings to aid the digestive system. Hot water, because of its temperature increases blood circulation and helps your body release waste and toxins.

Before long I had the company of a talkative petite woman, quite like myself in many ways. Sitting by my side introductory conversation quickly evolved and she offered to be my new parent buddy. Which means she takes on the roll of informing me of informal school happenings, before they happen. Her vibrant nature delighted me, and I very much appreciated her friendliness.

An hour quickly passed and we were introduced to more parents and we told our story many times, to many people. “We moved here last week from New Jersey, just outside of New York City… We are originally from Australia… the girls were homeschooled… We are friends with the Chittendens… we live near the cove.”
When we arrived back at the house, there were some chores to do. Cleaning, unpacking and appointments. Our house has a care taker, who is on hand to answer questions in the absence of the owners who live abroad. The caretaker was coming over to introduce himself and to share information about firewood, forced heating, snow removal, the plumbing, and most significantly to inspect some black mold I had found behind a bookshelf in the upstairs walk in wardrobe. When he pulled into our drive he ran over a moving box which I had sat on the bitumen earlier. Standing at the kitchen window I waved and then I went out the front to greet him. Bending down low I pointed out the box which was now stuck under his car. “You just ran over one of our moving boxes.” I said. He was a little embarrassed but carried on in a bright lively manner, reversing the car off the box with apologies. I stood alongside waiting for him to get out. With booming friendliness he offered his hand to shake. We exchanged names formally, although we both already knew of each other through emails. Then in my way to say whatever comes to mind, I said. “You know, I thought you would be older.” He saw not taken back by my peculiarities and in a humorous way he said, “I am a very old man who looks younger than his years.” I narrowed my eyes, and said, “I don’t think so.” To which he said, “Maybe not, I am 65.” You see, the owner of our house had been speaking of him quite a lot, letting me know I could ask Abe any old thing regarding the house. When we arrived, there was a small sliver of paper, with the name Abe Weston and a phone number beneath it hand written in very old script pinned to the notice board. The hand writing had caught my attention in an illuminated way, amongst other things pinned to the large piece of cork. I could tell it was writing older than my Grandmother’s, and I had deducted that he had written it, and that he must be in his mid to late 80’s. Given my friend Helene is 89 and still driving around and working, it was easy to imagine an 88 year old caretaker.”Well, let me show you why I thought you were older.” I said as we entered the house together. We stopped in the door jamb and I pointed. “Do you see how old this writing of your name is, well, I thought you had written it.” I said. Wes peered at his name, in the swirly cursive script which showed a little crinkle of stiffness in the form. “That is Margery’s writing.” He said. “Margery wrote that.” In that moment he seemed to be struck with sentimental, I could feel something there in his heart for this women who had lived in this house for many, many years. “And she was older than you?” I asked. He nodded silently and for some reason, his nod gave me a glimpse into another realm where an elderly lady was very grateful for Abe being on her doorstep.

With that set aside, we went about house business. There was the matter of mold to address first because I had spent so much time trying to scrub it away. I took Abe on a tour of all the mold that was bothering me. If I could have I would have put it under a microscope for him. My eyes are a bit like a microscope anyway so I used my powers of verbal description. “There is all variety of mold, in different places.” I said to begin with. Abe quizzed me further about what I had learnt about mold, “I have found mostly two types, black and orange.” I said. “The orange I am not overly concerned about, but the black, well it has to go.” I said. My discourse was adequate that he felt I knew what I was talking about. He also wanted to know what I used to clean it with. “Well, I started with vinegar, then I tried bleach, and then I used tea tree oil, which is a good antiseptic and smells better than the other two. It really depended on how severe the mold was and what surface it was growing on.” I said. “I do not like to use bleach, but in some places the black mold was so prosperous I needed to be sure the spores were expired.”

“Do you think I am overreacting?” I asked, being open to receive his honest opinion, that might have been that I was. “I think you are sensitive, but with good reason.” He said. I considered his answer polite and true. “I read your letter to Selena.” He said. I felt myself come to life, because I know my letters can be very blah, blah, blah. Well, whatever, I thought, I am just me being myself. Selena bought the house after Margery passes away and she lives in South America. Abe was reluctant to remain caretaker with new owners, but as we both agreed, Selena is a very lovely person.

Abe stayed only a little longer to check the basement, and organize when would be best to collect firewood he had prepared for us, from his house. “Margery liked the logs to be cut less than 16 inches long for this stove, so I have cut the wood like I did for her.” He said.

I am learning so much about living in Maine, and continually find myself grateful for meeting people who help us on our way. Imagine if I had ordered a truck load of any old wood and it did not fit in the stove? Can you see the predicament of an enormous load of wood dumped on the drive, that we loaded and stacked into the mudroom and then when the first cold day of Winter arrives and we go to light the fire and Cam and I are standing there trying to jam wood that is too long into the small wood stove. Oh dear. Thankfully, that did not happen.

Before long Abe left and it was time to collect the girls from school. My new parent buddy had invited us to the watermelon picnic at the cove that takes place this time each year. I was not sure the girls would want to go, but as it turned out, they did.
When we arrived at the cove, it was late in the afternoon, others had been there for hours already. The tide was high and we walked the narrow sand track between the tree line and water through the shore grass. Then up over the rocks we climbed and around the corner to the hidden sandy bank. There were numerous families sitting in a cluster, with children splashing in the water and parents chatting. Watermelon rind was strewn about the place, with lobster pots holding more. My immediate instinct was to walk beyond the largest group and find a quiet spot. I had spent the morning telling our story, and I did not feel like repeating it all over again. Dropping our towels I noticed one father was playing with a smaller child where the water lapped sediment. They had made a row of seven sandcastles, and sticks were stuck in the top of each castle. They were in a single straight line and it looked like art to me. I was instantly inspired to play myself. “I am going to make a mandala.” I said out loud to the girls. It was exactly what I needed to do, for my wellbeing. I did not want to sit still, and I did not want to talk. I needed to move and I needed to express, but not with words. Using a piece of driftwood to measure an even radius I drew a circle in the sand, and before long I had formed a large ring of dried seaweed. As I looked around some wildflowers caught my attention but I felt protective of them and questioned whether I should pick them or not? I was mindful that these people we were gathered with were likely environmentalists (as my heart would desire) and I wanted to be thoughtful in the way I used the resources on the beach. There was plenty of driftwood and without question I could collect it, so that is what I did, using it to divide the circle like a compass. After this I became a little stuck, not sure what to work with creatively? Standing still, I waited. The answers might be there if you listen. Sometimes internally, sometimes externally. I suppose at this minute, I listened to the wind. I felt the light breeze and decided to follow it. Up the bank I climbed, under the overhanging conifer foliage that dipped down low. How kind it is of the trees in Maine to be a buffer to the land of that which blows off the sea. Once under the evergreen canopy I stopped to look around. The ground was covered in a thick bed of dropped pine leaves. “Ah, the pine needles, yes, they are such a beautiful color and texture! Bending down I picked up a clump of the warm brown spindles. Simultaneously a discarded black plastic bucket caught my attention. “Oh how handy!” I thought, it was misplaced, but I was able to marvel that the wind had led me to this spot that had both medium and vessel. It seemed as thought the bucket had been put there for me. “I will be able to fill this whole bucket up!” I said to myself and went to work clumping handfuls of needles into it. While doing so I was inadvertently navigating a crevasse in the land. I was very careful as I stepped noting what appeared to be a fox den where the exposed roots of the tree were grasping the soil like an old hand. I could not be certain it was a fox hole, but within this perfect friendship of earth and flora something fauna had burrowed a home.
With a full bucket of pine needles I dashed out of the foliage and back onto the beach. Anyone who may have been watching this scene unfold might have been curious how I entered without a bucket and moments later returned with one full of pine needles? I wondered myself about the magic I seemed to have encountered. Once you are listening to the wind though, all sort of things can happen.
The pine needles wanted to be placed in the mandala by handfuls around the circumstance. If you listen to wind then you can listen to pine needles too. Like dots they formed two concentric circles, then only once that was done was I feeling able to pick a few wildflowers with intent. “I will pick eight stems, no more.” I said to myself. “They might be weedish flowers, but all the same the pollinators like them.” I said to myself. “They probably helps stop erosion too.” Carefully I broke off the fluffy graduated yellow heads from the goldenrod roots.
While I was making the mandala the girls began their own creative project. With we three playing contentedly side by side, bit by bit people came over to see what we were doing. It was very nice actually, people were more interested to look at what was present, rather than asking about our past. I overheard one mother explain to her daughter that the mandala  was an offering. It felt so good to overhear this, because she was right. I was offering my creativity, and I was giving thanks to be there.
Gradually families packed up and left. When I had finished the mandala, there was only one picnic blanket on the shore. I had noticed the fellow sitting on it found my process interesting and when our eyes made contact, I felt an inkling of familiarity, that perhaps we had met before at the Common Ground Country Fair or such? “Do we know each other?” I asked quite loudly across the sand. He jumped up as quick as can be and came to shake my hand. “No, I do not think so, my name is Jim.” He said. As we stood making introductions, his daughter joined him by his side.
These first few days moved by quickly, ever so quickly with so much new and so much to do. We made a point of finding time to enjoy the beach, and the woods, and the people. The very next day, we were back at the same beach spot, and once again, there was Jim and his daughter, and this time his wife Alice.
The mandala was surprisingly still in tact on the sand. I had thought it would have been washed away by the tide, to see it on arrival made me very happy. “Your mandala is still there.” Jim said, pointing to it. I realized then how powerful the marks we make as humans are. I had written a message on the beach, but what does it say? “I am like the sun or I am alien from outer space? Hmmm?” Well I suppose it depends on who is doing the reading. It seemed Jim and Alice saw me as light, and we picked back up right where we started the day before. Becoming friends.
Most prominent was our conversation was about their house. “We built our house ourselves.” Alice said. I could see right away she felt the work she had put into it very deeply. It was like her whole being radiated the memories of the process. While I could not see the blood, sweat, and tears in that moment, I could feel them. They had actually built it, they were the builders and so of course I was intrigued by her. I had a million questions, but I had to start with just one. “Are you happy with it?” I asked. I don’t know why I ask such things, I just do, and people tend to take me as I am, which I am grateful for. “There are some things we would do differently.” She said. It was not that I wanted to hear what was wrong with their house, but I was curious to know how one goes about building a house one loves? “Did you go to the houses of other people around the place, who had built their houses themselves, first?” I asked. “No, we did not do that, but that is a good idea.” She said. “That would be fun to do, I would think, to tour all the houses owners had built.” I added. Alice nodded. “Freya loves our house.” she said, and just like with all the times someones speaks from the heart, there was a glimpse into deeper reasons for doing and being.
While the adults talked, the children played. Maya wanted to sail her driftwood boat The Rose and she invited Freya to hop on board. It was delightful to watch them co-operate astride the awkward buoyant log. It seemed they were destined to be co-mates.
“We are going to Kindle Heart for dinner tonight.” I said excitedly.
“We have been out there once,” Jim said, “But not to eat.” he added.
“Oh really?” I questioned surprised because we felt it was such a fun place to dine at. “It is so good, well that is if you like pizza?” I added, remembering that not all people like grains, or cheese.
“We do like pizza.” Alice said, smiling. “We like pizza a lot.” She said.
“How long have you lived here?” Cam asked, wondering.
“A decade.” Jim said.
“And you have not ever eaten pizza at Kindle Heart?” Cam said incredulously.
We all laughed, it did seem funny that in a small town, with very few restaurants, that they had not eaten there. I liked it very much that they hadn’t eaten there actually, and it was another window to look through. People here like to eat at home, or at friend’s houses.
Saturday came around and when I sat at the desk there was a note from my Mum. Very kindly she had given me space and waited a week to write asking for details. It is part of my new resolve to make special efforts for my mother by sharing our life and my larger worldly thoughts in a more meaningful way with her. It was nice to feel like writing to her and I was able to be relatively succinct with all that had gone on.
Hi Mum,
Well, it is all going well. I am a bit tired from this week of getting the house organized and getting used to the school routine. I have had to wake the girls at 6:40am each morning because school starts at 8am, and they would otherwise sleep until 8:30am. They are easily twelve-hour sleepers if left to rest. We will adjust our body clocks slowly but surely. It pains me to wake sleeping Elle, she is little still. It is only a short eight minute drive to school with traffic, not what I would consider a safe walk or bike ride for children though, so we will drive them each day. We leave at 7:50am.
Cam has been getting up to help the girls be ready, which is very nice since he works late into the night. I prepare lunch and breakfast, make sure they are dressed weather appropriately and brush their hair (which is my pleasure, even if they can do it themselves.). Cam makes me a cup of tea, and chats about the day ahead.
I like our new routine, it feels slightly more ‘normal’ and I sense my nervous system and adrenals relaxing and letting go of the intensity that I had stored while homeschooling. I love homeschooling, but it comes with responsibility and requires specific energy, and for me personally there was a self imposed pressure. Unschooling was not for us. I was relaxed about it sometimes too, and it did come naturally for me, but oh, it is hard to explain unless you have experienced it yourself. Unschooling is fine for some, but I was always aware of what was happening inside the standard education box whist I was outside of it. My particular identity within homeschooling was more work than sending the children to school, so I suppose I feel lighter now they are part of a Waldorf community. I would however take it all back on again one day if life were to revolve that way. Homeschooling would still be my preference for our girls with present culture, time and means, if Waldorf were not an option. We have been able to maintain a delightfully non conformist identity as this Waldorf School certainly move to it’s own beat compared to the status quo.
Maya is experiencing tiny hick-ups, which is to be expected with her disposition and age. I prepare myself in advance that at points I may need to uplift her being. It was Maya’s choice to go to this school, and the tricky thing about empowering your child to make such a choice is that then they think they can un-make this choice also. The first two days of school Maya enjoyed immensely and then the third day, when I picked her up, she walked over to me with a scowl.
It did not take long for me to uncover the reason. She was struggling with cursive writing. Many schools have given teaching cursive away, but this Waldorf School has the upper grade children write all their lessons in cursive. I taught Maya cursive, but she generally printed. Her print is very, very neat, and she is rightly proud, often getting compliments on it. For her to suddenly struggle to write cursive at the same pace as the rest of the class, was hard for her. It took a lot of gentle words to help adjust her frame of mind. “Put this energy, this frustration into learning to be fluid at running writing Maya, and you will feel great in no time at all!” I said. I am always trying to explain to her all expression is energy, so she might as well express she is willing to help herself, rather than getting angry and stuck.
It has been a huge week for them, for all of us, I am empathetic. Moving house and evolving from homeschool to being in school is a massive transition. They are coping well, incredibly well. So much in our life is different now. To be honest I am blown away about how adaptable they are.
Elle was excited beyond my dreams, which is saying something. Each and every day she has greeted us like a ray of light, beaming. If only Elle’s happiness could be bottled and shared with the whole world. Her spirit bubbles over in quick jabber and movements, she can barely stand still because her happiness becomes kinetic. I feel it all, radiating from her eyes, straight into my heart. The love Mum, is so big. She is like you. Well, how you would have been if you were raised by Cam and I. Let’s not blame Grandma though. Let’s not blame anything.
I did not take a first day of school photo, because I knew it would bother the children if I made them do that. I did however take a photo of them in the school garden the day before when we were at the school having a meeting with their teachers, (Elle is grasping Maya’s arm in the photo because she saw a spider and she currently has an irrational reaction to spiders). The school grounds are impressive. A biodynamic garden and greenhouse, chicken coop, a blacksmith shed for metal work. Wonderful creative outdoor play areas and over 40 acres of land for the children to roam on. They let the upper grades play in the woods and the children have built all sorts of natural structures. There is an auditorium, and a library too. All the buildings are made from timber with lots of natural light, polished wooden floors and real wooden furniture. No devious technologies to distract from humble practical learning. It is lovely Mum. It is one of the most affordable Waldorf Schools in the country, and I feel grateful we have been able to make it work.

We are getting acquainted with all the fine souls that keep the school afloat. The women I have met so far seem to have a warm custom of hand shaking, where they claps your hand with both hands at once, and connect from the heart behind the eyes with intent. It feels very nice in fact, I will adopt it myself. Everyone thus far appears to be very natural. I am regularly seeing armpit hair and leg hair and grey hair. Today at the farmer’s market I even saw elderly women with lip hair. It is all so refreshing and grounding. I could just hug each person I meet who is living as close to their fundamental self as possible. It is so much more interesting to me to see these archetype people. Of course I will always find all people fascinating whether they are more sculpted by nature or culture. Well it gets so entwined, each informs the other. I suppose what I am saying, is that I love how the space in between nature and culture feels almost seamless here. In my opinion this is what regulates the climate.
The house is lovely, but it needs some restoration and practical updates. On day two of being here I discovered mold, and I have spent this entire week cleaning it away in addition to unpacking our necessary belongings. All of which took immense physical work. There are lots of cracks in the ceilings, and old temperamental plumbing. The heating it is not energy efficient. We have way too much furniture between what was here and what we brought, for example we have five mis-matched sofas in two rooms. BUT, there is an amazing view of the bay, a field of wildflowers, apple trees and a waterfall stream. The drinking water is great and we have been swimming across the road every day. There is a grand piano, and lots of natural light. The rent is much cheaper than our mortgage was, and the house is valued correctly, so the trade off in house quality means we can send the girls to Waldorf school. It all feels balanced and right for now.
We have great neighbors, who have a very sweet dog that Elle adores.
How are you going with Ellie? Are you glad you chose the dog you did? Is she improving your wellbeing?
Love you Mum.
K xoxo
Thank you for reading Magnesium Blue

One thought on “16. Girls Go To School, Mold, Dear Mum

  1. Kirsten, this is so beautiful. I loved seeing snippets of your homeschool, but I am so delighted for you that you are finding your peace. Hope it’s continuing to go well for you.

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