This little light of mine
Written by Erica Ormanovich - Morning Glories Mixed Kindergarten Teacher
September 19th, 2019 started like any other morning in the Morning Glories classroom. The children slowly trickled in, tugged at my apron, offered up hugs. The forecast was clear so things were supposed to be business as usual. I looked out the window debating whether we should start outside or not, but decided to hold off for a few minutes. I called the children to the table and we sat for tea, and then I sent them off to play. Everything felt calm and normal, and the room was humming with play.
Soon the lightning started, and I heard a buzzing in the hallway among teachers about canceling outside play for the morning. All of a sudden one little girl started singing one of our Michaelmas songs we had been working with during circle time throughout September. It’s a circle about a child who looks outside to see a big storm coming, and it takes us through preparing for a hurricane (while never mentioning anything of the hurricane). At the conclusion of the circle the child’s father tells a story of “knight and great deed!” and we sing a song about Michael (pronounced Mike- aye- el), the brave knight who, in a lot of the traditional stories fights a dragon, but in this circle he is the knight that rides in on his shimmering steed to bring his radiant light to the earth through the darkness. Michaelmas is traditionally celebrated on September 29th and is associated with harvest time and the approach of winter. It is a celebration of strength to face the powers of darkness within and around us. In much of the Northern Hemisphere, including Germany, where Waldorf education was founded 100 years ago, days are getting both shorter and colder at this time of year.
When I decided to write and bring a Michaelmas circle to my children, I knew I had to find imagery applicable to the Houston climate so it would be easier for them to connect to the festival. For us, Michaelmas falls right around the scary, unpredictable end of hurricane season. This is our reality and the reality of our children. Many of the families and children I have in my classroom lived through Hurricane Harvey and so just about any rain can strike fear. In Waldorf education, we strive to protect young children from the harder realities of the world and be a buffer, or an envelope of safety, even when things around them may not be safe.
The storm hit suddenly and I could feel the awareness rise up in them. Rain pounded the windows and lightning lit up the sky. So I froze, and I looked at all of them, and in the middle of their play I started our circle verses, and of course they calmly followed suit.
“Little child looks out the pane, I see it coming, it’s going to rain!
I know what this means, we must be prepared.
I know! I’ll go with father and fetch the candle light!”
Shortly after they all broke out singing, “this little light of mine”. I could feel the tension rising among the adults in the building: administration working hard to monitor the situation and keep parents in the loop, while also milling through the halls to make sure we all had enough emergency candles. But I could feel this bubble around the children: the fear of what was to come had not interrupted their being. Even though nothing was going as planned--my room was slowly flooding, and the hallway anxiety was leaking in on us--the children floated alongside me, never losing their song or their mood. Finally we found ourselves at the snack table. Our new white emergency candles adorned our beautiful candelabra, but the storm wasn’t letting up and we were in intermittent darkness as the electricity faltered. Still I felt no fear in the children, but I could feel their excitement and their connection to the festival. I looked at all of them and said
“Let’s bring Michael to our snack table today, and then we will say our thank you’s.” They followed along as if we did it every day. The song ends with “Oh Michael lend us your starry sword, the darkness of earth filled with light!” At that very moment, the lights came back on, and a silence fell over all of them as they looked at the candle and the lamps around them, and I believe they truly felt Michael had lit them again.
In our adult world, we were slightly frantic, a little confused, overwhelmed. We were all worried about parents getting to us safely, hearing stories of being stranded, and housing new community members in our foyer for most of the day. Yet the children floated through their day held, unwittingly, within the envelope the teachers created. At rest time they found themselves, like every other day, asleep and warm awaiting the arms of their parents.
Once I had half a moment to sit and reflect on how well the children followed my every impulse, everything antithetical to their regular day, I knew that this was not only the beauty of Waldorf Education at work, but this was Michaelmas. This is what Michaelmas feels like in our community. A time when we need to lean on one another for strength and guidance, and to those living 100 years ago applying this education I am sure it manifested differently. But here we are in Houston, where storms can ruin cars, homes, and lives, and this is when we need to lean on our community the most. This is where the spirit of Michaelmas--an archetype of light and strength--brings us together as one.
That is what I saw in our school yesterday. Teachers banded together and worked long hours, administration answered phone calls calmly and constantly, and Ms. Jessie and Ms. Tracy literally broke bread with the children, without giving a thought to how or when they themselves would get home. We shared our food, our warmth, our strength and our love to anyone who came knocking at our door.
For most of us, yesterday was exhausting, scary, and mentally trying. For the children, it was igniting. They felt fierce, courageous, and full of life and energy. I share this with you all not only to give you a small glimpse into our day, or inform you of our festival, but to paint a picture of how festival life and celebration can truly penetrate and enliven a community.
Technically Michaelmas is not for another week, but yesterday Michael was with us every step of the way. We strive to make our community a place where we can bring light to all who need it, through the rain and darkness in these uncertain times.
“And now the rain has stopped,
the sky is bright and blue
and over bridge and bayou
the sun is shining too!
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