When Ms. Diane Taylor wrote to me about her decision to retire, she reflected on where she was in life after her 34 years at Moravian Academy. Amid many beautiful observations about how life had changed and remained the same, with students cycling through the room while values stayed constant, she quoted these words from George Orwell’s 1984: “The end was contained in the beginning.”
I’ve circled back to these words many times this past spring, as members of our faculty have shared with me their decisions to begin retirement. Thinking more about these educators who are concluding their long careers this year, I went searching for how to make sense of how transitions and permanence are woven together.
In true Moravian fashion, I was thankful to encounter some wonderful teachers. They gave me words of advice and quotations, songs, and artwork as inspiration. I left these exchanges feeling both calmed and invigorated.
Here’s what they shared:
Ms. Sue Maurer, Art Department, in her words, said:
For many years in the fourth quarter of the full credit visual arts course “Portfolio,” students- typically seniors with one proverbial foot in high school and the other stepping towards their next academic career phase- were given an important assignment to visually communicate their responses to the epigram “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Thought provoking works of art were resulted and hopefully assisted them in making sense of the many changes going on within and around them.
I’d like to recommend when dealing with change, which is inevitable, what soothes me: watching the act of creating through the dancer, actor, painter, potter, printmaker, photographer, poet, sculptor, woodworker, musician, and singer. Their work has a beginning, middle, and end. Their work is birthed, has life breathed into it and separates from its creator when it is deemed “done.”
For 30+ years, I’ve had a “front row seat” to watch young people realize their visual ideas by the thousands. These individuals come to Moravian, stay awhile and say goodbye. Throughout that time, there are developmental, physical, spiritual and emotional changes.
What stays the same within this continuum is the divine within them breathing life into inanimate materials and transforming them with their intentionality and skills. They are able to, for example, turn an ordinary burnt piece of wood into a still life drawing or a refined lump of earth into a ceramic vessel able to house a refreshing cup of tea.
I highly encourage you to take up creating to soothe your soul and assist you in making sense of these changes. If that isn’t enticing, I invite you to watch others creating art live, such as glass blowers, jazz musicians, and street portrait painters, in real time – right before your very eyes. The act of creating is ever changing yet the stream of artists continues on with the indomitable spirit within each of them: to make.
This truth I depend upon and it satisfies my soul knowing all will be okay.
Ms. MacNair Randall, English Department, sent this painting with the following:
In an interview, the conservator Joyce Hill Stoner said:
“Betsy Wyeth titled this painting…It was her husband’s last work, begun in the summer [of] 2008, and finished before his death the following January. The painting may have been a reference to the couple’s farewell to Maine at the end of each summer, as well as Wyeth’s own frequent departure from the island home where Betsy resided.”
When I saw this painting at a retrospective of Wyeth’s work last summer, I was very taken with it. The commentator mused that Wyeth knew he was near the end and that the sailboat almost out of frame was the painter’s own goodbye to his home, his wife, his life.
Mr. John Marks, English Department, offered these passages:
Bilbo’s decision to adventure from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien:
“As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and a jealous love, the desire of the hearts of dwarves. Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick. He looked out of the window. The stars were out in a dark sky above the trees. He thought of the jewels of the dwarves shining in dark caverns. Suddenly in the wood beyond The Water a flame leapt up —probably somebody lighting a wood-fire— and he thought of plundering dragons settling on his quiet Hill and kindling it all to flames. He shuddered; and very quickly he was plain Mr. Baggins of Bag-End, Under-Hill, again.”
Huck’s plan for the future from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain:
“But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before.”
Mrs. Kim Sanborn, Global Languages Department, offered this song:
“Country Road” by James Taylor
Mrs. Anne Fessler, Fifth Grade, shared the following:
The brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking once said, “The past, like the future, is indefinite and exists only as a spectrum of possibilities.”
Sometimes all those possibilities and the changes they bring can be uncomfortable and scary. But Hawking also said, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”
As we say goodbye to so many beloved friends and colleagues now, a future without their companionship and collaboration does feel uncomfortable and scary. Many of them have been a part of our lives for decades and have made our Moravian Academy family a safe, supportive home for us.
Next September, we’ll each be exactly where we’re meant to be. And whether we’ve stayed put, taken new positions here, moved on to opportunities elsewhere or retired, we will all manage to adapt and we’ll be better for it.
There will be plenty of tears at our farewell breakfasts this year, but there will be laughter too, and we will celebrate the “spectrum of possibilities” that are waiting for each one of us.
Mrs. Alison Overdorf, Math Department, reminded me of a closing chapel talk about seasons of change that she gave a few years ago relating Galatians and Ghandi:
From Galatians 5: “The fruit of God’s Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If we are to live by the Spirit, let our lives also be guided by the Spirit.”
And from Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
If the change you want is more kindness in this world, then be kinder. For students to find joy in math, it begins with me showing them the joy that math brings me.
Ms. Robyn Endress, First Grade, shared:
I find change both daunting and invigorating. For me, change is best when there is an underlying stability to which I can cling. When that foundation is strong, it centers me and allows me to be open to new approaches or different ideas. In relation to all the changes at MA, that principle holds true. The foundation and mission of the school are strong, giving me the comfort level needed to embrace new innovations and other points of view.
Do you have a favorite passage, work of art or intellectual expression to add? Please email it to us at email@example.com.