Wildflower Hike 5/28/09

Today I went on the first grade wildflower hike with the first grade from San Francisco Friends School.

Seven Year Old was SOOO excited. Last night before he went to sleep, he grinned repeatedly, and said, "Daddy, Daddy, you're going on the field trip tomorrow!"

I went on the same hike when now-Eleven Year Old was in first grade. That time I had to leave a little early; this time I got to stay the whole time and carpool with another parent and child, which was nice.

The hike was in the Marin Headlands, in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, specifically on the trails above Rodeo Lagoon. I love Rodeo Lagoon, and hadn't been there in either a year or two years.

The day was overcast with fog -- known 'round these parts as the marine layer -- which was thick enough to hide the sun and keep it quite cool but thin enough to let plenty of UV rays through. I got a bit sunburned because I put only a little bit of lotion on.

The best part of the hike came at the beginning. One of the two first grade teachers called the children around him, calmly, quietly, without yelling. They were quiet and rapt as he explained about the trail, where we were going, and just a few guidelines.

Then a few hands went up. "Don't step on plants." "Don't pick the flowers." "Don't touch poison oak." And so on. The children were so quiet and attentive, it was beautiful. The result of practicing learning together as a community with a respect for one another and with an ability to be together in silence. It was truly rewarding to see.

We walked about a mile and a half up the hall, to where some remains of the former military batteries are. On a flat piece of concrete we ate lunch, and the children were instructed to find three types of wildflowers to sketch. The rocks and the ruins were more interesting than the flowers for many of the children.

I was disappointed that we didn't walk back down the hill after lunch in silence, which the teacher had said we would do. Oh, well. I would have liked a brief moment of silence in a circle to close the hike, too, but we didn't. I wasn't one of the people in charge, so I was okay with that.

Overall, I am so glad that I carved out the time from work to go. I enjoyed talking to the other parents, and seeing Seven Year Old in one of his "native environments" outside the home, interacting with his friends. He had a good time, and though he didn't feel the need to stay by my side most of the time, he was really glad I went. So was I!


Traveling Friends

This weekend we went to College Park Quarterly Meeting's spring session at Ben Lomond Quaker Center. The theme was caring for our youth. The invited guest was Emily Stewart, Youth Ministries Coordinator at Friends General Conference. Her traveling companion was Betsy Blake from North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Friends United Meeting).

The weekend was full and rich and I'm too tired to blog about it now. I stayed up too late visiting with Friends last night!

Betsy and Emily came to our house afterwards. It turned out that C. Wess Daniels and his friend James were stopping at Chad's house on their way to Wess's new home in Camas, Washington. So we invited Chad and his wife Da to come with Wess and James to our house to hang out with us and our guests.

We're not used to late nights like that -- they left around 11. Fortunately, we had fair trade hot chocolate to drink together.


Thoughts on the Quaker Way

The test of Quakerism does not come only on Sundays.

The test of Quakerism is not even or not only what you believe.

The test of Quakerism lies in keeping that faith and trust all week long.

When you encounter someone in trouble on the street.

When you face competitive or hurtful behavior at work.

When you see self-destructive behavior in friends or family.

How do you respond?

Can you tap into that lifespring of living energy

that we find here in waiting worship?


Eileen Flanagan's God Raising Us pamphlet

Last summer I bought Eileen Flanagan's pamphlet God Raising Us: Parenting as a Spiritual Practice (Pendle Hill Pamphlet 396). I've been meaning to post about it ever since. Well, I just re-read it, really liked it, and would recommend it to other Quakers, whether they are parents or aunts or uncles or might like to be any of the above one day.

Eileen writes the blog Imperfect Serenity. I met Eileen and her children at the Friends General Conference Gathering in Johnstown, Penna., and we got to spend a little time together. Her son and my older son even played instruments onstage together during a participatory moment in one of the evening performance times. It's always neat to know an author. Actually, by reading Eileen's blog, I already have a sense of knowing her in a way that is much deeper than if we just spent that little amount of time together. That's one of the magical things about blogging for me.

Here's a sample from the beginning of the pamphlet:
God has continually used my two children to raise me out of selfishness and make me more self-aware. Through them, God has taught me about patience, surrender, and self-control, as well as the testimonies of peace, simplicity, and integrity. They have helped me find God, not just in silence and solitude, but in the midst of chaos and crying. While I still have much to learn, I have found that naming parenting as a spiritual practice helps me follow this path more consciously.
I enjoyed her description of family practices, such as evening prayers, or extended silence as part of their evening routine during Advent and Lent. I was also inspired by how, when her daughter was very young, she prayed to God to find another mother as a friend. Soon after, by talking to someone in a grocery store, she connected with a person who was just the kind of person she was looking for. An atheist, the other mother laughed to hear she was the "answer to a prayer."

Eileen addresses an important issue in the final section, "Supporting the Spiritual Lives of Parents." She cites the FGC Gathering as a place where parents can "deepen their own spiritual lives without cutting themselves off from their children." She names the challenge of finding and creating that kind of wholeness "closer to home and at less expense, so that all families can experience it."

For myself, I find Pacific Yearly Meeting to be another place where that wholeness can very often be found. Yet it's still a week away and not cheap. And besides, that wholeness is challenged mightily on an almost daily basis, as Friends fill up the business meetings with more and more discussion. Parents have to choose between being on time to pick up their children, and respecting the teachers (I was one last year myself), or staying in the meeting for worship with a concern for business. This is an especially painful choice when the business topic is staffing the youth programs, which it was at PacYM last summer.

In sum, I recommend the pamphlet God Raising Us. For me, it was even better the second time I read it.

In addition, Eileen's new book The Wisdom to Know the Difference: When to Make A Change–and When to Let Go will be published this fall. You can read more about it on her author website, www.eileenflanagan.com.