After a hectic week of getting our students and faculty online, figuring how to handle poor internet access in some areas, and how to help those most in need, I had a chance this weekend to catch my breath. I was able to spend lots of time in prayer (and we sure need it!), lots of time outside on long walks (and I sure needed it!), and some time reading (which I rarely have time to do normally). I also had a chance to think about my retirement and decided I would start to move some of my books from my office to our new home.
My first decision was to separate those books that I won’t need in retirement from those I will need as I continue teaching. Books on school law and independent school leadership would stay, and I took books on writing and literature, grammar and rhetoric to our new home. I then looked at the other books on psychology, leadership, and education that were left and decided which ones I wanted to read again—which ones had changed my thinking and inspired me—which ones had left now vague memories of being exceptional. Then I came across books that had been gifts— several books of sayings (even one by Dr. Seuss!) to be used in Chapel given to me by students, a book of 19th century moral education that Larry Golden had found somewhere, books of poetry given to me by friends and colleagues. All of these books, especially the gifts, filled me with a sense of nostalgia as I thought back over these 19 years as headmaster and these 36 years at the Academy. I was moved to tears of gratitude, remembering all of the love that has been shared.
Then I found one that took my breath away. It was a slender book, so it had been hidden among all of the rest. A flood of memories of togetherness, resilience, creative energy, altruism, and service surged within my heart and mind. What Does Hope Look Like, a book designed by art teacher Bill Darling’s printmaking class and inspired by the inauguration of President Obama in 2009, was published that same year. Bill and his class gave me a copy as a gift. After watching the Inauguration in Fuller Hall, the class had returned to their room and immediately scrapped their current project for the opportunity to produce this book. They used an Emily Dickinson poem—“Hope is the thing with feathers”—as a springboard as each student created a print of what hope looked like to them; some of them used Dickinson’s bird imagery, but others did not.
Two artists had multiple prints in the book: Audrey Woods had two, and Frances Cannon had three. In looking at their images, one gets a sense of the themes of the book. Audrey’s first print shows a mountain at dawn, and her accompanying comment reads,