The Spring is like a young maid
That does not know her mind,
The Summer is a tyrant
Of most ungracious kind;
The Autumn is an old friend
That pleases all he can,
And brings the bearded barley
To glad the heart of man.
This time of year makes it remarkably clear how fortunate we are to live in Colorful Colorado. It makes it much easier as a school to exhibit a life lived in harmony with the seasons. It is a life that celebrates not only our unique setting, but also the notion that the education of the parent body is no less crucial than that of the student body. While our efforts are often presented as academic, we recognize that education proper continues outside of the classroom and long after classes have concluded. We endeavor to be an institution that acculturates, ennobles, and edifies, and we are acutely conscious that our efforts to foster wisdom are tied to the experiences our students carry with them from all aspects of their lives.
Ridgeview is a community in earnest. The parent book groups, the Senior Lock-In, and Humanities Day are all expressions of this. Each demonstrates that an education can be had here by anyone humble enough to learn. For instance, the parents in the weekly book group have worked through Sophocles' Antigone, Hogben’s short treatise on mathematics, Anton Chekhov’s The Student, and Josef Pieper’s Abuse of Language – Abuse of Power. The monthly parent book group recently finished reading Blaise Pascal’s thoughts on human happiness, and it called to mind Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life. While Seneca discussed mankind’s continual longing for leisure, the benefits of a liberal education, and our general inability to make a short life feel as though it were long and fulfilled, Pascal lamented man’s tendency to seek out distraction. Seneca wrote that when we are looking forward to some type of amusement, we “want to leap over the days between. Any deferment of the longed-for event is tedious…Yet the time of the actual enjoyment is short and swift, and made much shorter through [our] own fault.” Continuing on later in the text, Seneca writes that, “They lose the day in waiting for the night, and the night in fearing the dawn.” By contrast, Pascal is dubious of the possibility any final tranquility in this life: Men “imagine that if they secured a certain appointment they would enjoy resting afterwards, and they do not realize the insatiable nature of cupidity. They think they genuinely want rest when all they really want is activity.” These are powerful texts when side by side and made more wonderful by conversation among lively and intelligent people. They also highlight why we should wish to be a school that consciously lives its life in harmony with the seasons.
In contemplating the season just begun, many consider it only as the miserable end of summer or the dreary prelude to ski season. Too many are mingling in the past or anxiously awaiting the future at the expense of the present. “Life is long,” wrote Seneca, “if you know how to use it.” Here is our present, a season of corduroys, sweaters, flannel, down duvets, and heavy quilts. A polychromatic season of changing leaves, and not only the Aspens, but the Sugar Maple, Cottonwood, Oak, Black Tupelo, Sourwood, Sassafras, and Sweetgum. The Aster, Toad Lily, Goldenrod, Russian Sage, Sunflower, Helenium, Autumn Crocus, Monkshood, and Witch Hazel are all in bloom, and split wood, straw bales, gourds, and pumpkins lend timeless beauty to our land. It is a bountiful season of foods and smells. Caramel apples, pumpkin spice, cinnamon, cardamom, sweet potatoes, lingon berries, meaty stews, game birds, cider, baked breads, ginger cookies, freshly split pine, squashes, cranberries, plums, pears, toffees, and roasted chestnuts. It is a season of hunting pheasant, quail, grouse, chukars, teal, ducks, geese, and wild turkey. It is a season of plentiful fishing, beautiful day hikes, corn mazes, and haunted houses. It is a season for making leaf prints, carving jack-o’-lanterns, and making a big mess with papier-mâché. It is a season for reading Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Stoker’s Dracula, Shelley’s Frankenstein, or even Turgenev’s A Sportsman’s Notebook. It is a season that has inspired wonderful music like Vivaldi’s L’autumno, Haydn’s Autumn, Tchaikovksy’s September, October, or November movements, Joseph Joachim Roff’s Symphony No. 10, George Whitefield Chadwick’s String Quartet No. 4, and Gustav Holst’s St. Paul’s Suite. It is a season for putting on a pot or brewing a cup of coffee and settling down with a good view of the wind blowing the leaves around to read Brontë’s Tennant of Wildfell Hall, Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Doyle’s The Hounds of the Baskervilles, Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, Wilde’s Dorian Gray, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, or du Maurier’s Rebecca. It is a season for poetry that appeals to the young and old. Consider Robert Frost, John Keats, Christina Rossetti, or even Shakespeare’s Song of the Witches from Macbeth.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.
What child, giddy with the promise of Halloween, would not delight in this being their introduction to the greatest bard of the English language?
This is a season for being with our families, listening together, reading together, talking together, and simply being together. Life is short, but it is for us to learn how to use it, and as parents and teachers, to impart a way of using it that it makes it fulfilling. Appreciation of the world around us and all that it contains is but a beginning, but it is one that we are honored to have a part in this autumn. We invite you all to join us, whether in our reading groups or in the many events we host throughout this delightful season.