The Dog and I “just happened” to take a short morning nap after our early morning walk … and while we were sleeping there “just happened” to be a power outage. Since I had an appointment to talk about Life and Stuff with a wise friend this morning, I was grateful for our gas water heater and for the Nearby Restaurant where I could get coffee and a hot breakfast.
I don’t think The Dog noticed the power outage. He doesn’t do much that requires electricity. A quick look at the power company’s online outage map reveals that power has been restored … but I had already planned to spend some time writing at the Local Bookstore this afternoon. I suspect that The Dog is following his normal early-afternoon nap routine as I write. He’s a creature of habit, so much so that when his collar “just happened” to slip off this morning, he stood there unmoved, sniffing one of his favorite patches of grass, as I slipped it back on and we continued our morning routine.
The image would be perfect if we’d been near the water. I could have looked upstream, or perhaps The Dog could have … and we might have seen something ordinary, or something extraordinary, or something that seemed ordinary but wasn’t ordinary at all. But sadly, The Dog is not a big fan of water. So we were in the front yard, steps away from the front walk and some of his favorite bushes. With his collar restored, we took our familiar stroll to the mailbox, he marked his territory, and we came back in for his traditional dog-food breakfast. No literal stream, no literal looking upstream. Not even that much movement.
But even when you’re a creature of habit, things can change … and they have. When The Dog was younger, his habit would have been to run exultantly down the street, looking for Something Or Other as his family gave chase. For a long time, The Dog had a “regular” bowl and a set feeding schedule, but as he’s grown older and better at self-regulation, he’s graduated to an auto-feeder … a change he embraced with joy and without gaining weight. Given time, energy, and patience, The Dog changed his habits … and with time, energy, and patience, I’ve been changing mine, too. I’m looking upstream with different eyes, and I’m taking steps in different directions. And like The Dog, I’m unexpectedly happy with the new changes.
As you can tell, I’m still thinking about that metaphor of looking upstream that inspired yesterday’s post. still thinking about co-design and about what it means for a joyful learning community to look upstream together. In the metaphor, while the rescuers are busy saving people from the rapids, some of them do more than just look upstream. When they look, they see more unfortunate souls floating towards the rapids, and then they keep looking but start acting. They move upstream together to find out why people are falling (or being thrown) into the river … and to put a stop to it if they can.
I went to talk to my wise friend this morning because I, too, need to keep looking but start acting. But like the rescuers in the metaphor, I won’t be very effective if I look and act alone. Like them, I have a general sense of the next steps … I need to look up the river (check), see if more desperate people are still floating (check), and start moving … against whatever forces are pushing them or causing them to fall. And like the rescuers in the metaphor, I’ve found allies and partners in the quest. My friends at Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, with the two semi-synchronous online courses we’re offering together, will be partnering with me to throw a lifeline (and more!) to some learners and families who refuse to drown themselves in the murky waters of Schools As They Are and Language Learning As It Once Was. Another exciting opportunity, which I don’t want to talk about in detail just yet, will apparently be bringing the Tres Columnae Project and a joyful learning community form of learning to some other learners and families who had seen no way to continue their voyage of language learning.
And I’m closer and closer to finding the team, place, and time for that joyful learning community approach to an after-school program.
My wise friend told me it’s a calling, even maybe a ministry, to build joyful learning communities with, not for the learners and families I’m focused on. And the thing about a calling or ministry, she said, is that you discover that the pains and difficulties you encountered on the journey prepared you, in important ways, to do the thing you were called to do. That’s comforting and inspiring as I keep looking upstream and take the next few steps. Like the rescuers in the metaphor, I have a general idea of what lies ahead; like them, I’ll certainly discover many things I don’t currently know; and like them, I’ll be a lot more effective as I move forward in community, not alone.
I wonder who else will be joining the team, and I wonder what other insights and discoveries await as we keep looking, but keep moving together!