I have been thinking a lot lately about the connectedness of all living things. I chose CONNECT as my word to hold before the Kent School community this academic year because I believe that it is so important for us to CONNECT meaningfully in this time of disconnection due to the pandemic. But, my fascination with the word has taken me in a surprising direction.
A wise and thoughtful school head I know in Canada steered me toward the writing of the late Richard Wagamese. I have been inspired by his meditations since the summer. He is an Ojibway from the Wabaseemoong First Nation of Canada. His storytelling is one of Canada’s many gifts to the world, and to me personally.
His words ground me. I began with Embers, but it is his book, One Drum, in which he reflects on the connectedness of the universe and all of its pieces, that is speaking to me. “We are all one energy, one soul, one song and one drum.” Yes.
These morning meditations have inspired me to learn more about indigenous peoples in our country, and I also have been reading about Chief Seattle, Chief of the Dwamish, Suquamish and allied Indian tribes, widely regarded as one of the most important figures among Native Americans for his efforts to accommodate the white settlers in the United States. On the other hand, Chief Seattle had also been a lifelong advocate of the need to respect the land rights of the Native Americans. In a letter to President Franklin Pierce in 1854, he wrote:
We are all children of the Great Spirit, we all belong to Mother Earth. Our planet is in great trouble and if we keep carrying old grudges and do not work together, we will all die.
How incredible that these words ring true today – one hundred and sixty-six years later. Have we not learned the most important lesson of all throughout the course of history. We are all connected and we must work together to heal our one world. We must respect and celebrate the differences of others, because we cannot all be the same. Our world leaders must come together to fight a global pandemic, climate change, and senseless territory wars. We must listen to each other and listen to our planet.
2020 has been a tough year. (I realize that is an understatement but I was trying not to swear.) We must welcome 2021 by taking a lesson from schools. Humanity needs to adopt a growth mindset. According to Carol Dweck’s research, “a growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.” This is the roadmap. Let’s go, people. We don’t have time to waste.
Over Thanksgiving I shared with my family my desire to learn more about Native Americans and their teachings and beliefs. James and his girlfriend Whitney sent me a belated birthday gift of a pair of beautiful mukluks. The boots, generally made from sealskin or reindeer-skin are typically worn by indigenous peoples of the arctic regions of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and eastern Siberia. The word “mukluk” is of Iñupiat and Yupik origin, from maklak, the bearded seal. My bearded seal boots have a beautiful blue (for Kent School!) bead design and they are the coziest and warmest boots I own. I will treasure them, and I am grateful for the love and support of my family as I take this journey to more understanding.
We are all connected. More so than I even believed in September when I selected my word for the year. Collectively, we can make change happen. And, we must.