Finding Meaning in Fall

The following editorial appeared in the Waynflete Flyer, the Upper School student newspaper.

I find this time of year to be particularly difficult. Fall means my birthday, sweater weather, and the collection of firewood, but it also means dark afternoons, schoolwork, and seeing 250-plus teenagers everyday (which, if you’re an introvert like me, is incredibly daunting.) Fall is a time for growth and evolution, but it is also a reminder that the flush of summer always fades, slivering away so slowly one hardly even notices. But I have decided that this year I will finally embrace a transition that has always been the black cloud looming over me come August. I will find meaning in the season that conjures stress and anxiety from the pit of my stomach, by reconnecting with nature.When I was little, change in seasons used to represent purely a change in surroundings. Winter to spring had nothing to do with the end of school, and everything to do with purple crocuses sprouting in our gardens, a warm sun following me home from the bus stop, and the emersion of monarch butterfly cocoons preparing for their metamorphosis. Fall to winter brought a kaleidoscope of reds, yellows, and oranges, twisting into white. Every morning I would stand at my front door, bleary eyed, clothed in dark blue pajamas, and literally say “Hello!” to the world. And then I became a 12-year-old, and slowly stopped greeting nature, my mind too intertwined within itself to drop my worrying for one moment and acknowledge that something greater than my own thoughts was around me. So now I will travel full circle back to being a little girl again. Every morning before school I am going to literally stand at my front door and say “Hello!” to the awakening day before me. I will wander through marshes and woods and fields on Saturdays like I used to, meditating on the fullness of life in nature, and face my fear of rabid, nocturnal animals by taking walks on Sunday nights, just to feel nature through other senses besides sight. I will do my best to view everyday as a gift given to me by nature, and not as yet another 24 hours spent slogging through small talk, school, and other responsibilities.

And what meaning do I hope to absorb from these actions? The realization that nature will always be bigger than what is inside my head, and takes up my time. The ecosystems and beauty and spirituality surrounding me are so complex, and so hidden that my own life and contemplations pale in comparison. That is not to say that I am not important; rather, there are just some things that rise above the web of human existence. I hope to be humbled by this realization, and enlightened in a way that empowers me to reconnect with the roots of my life.

Editor’s Perspective

The following editorial appeared in the Waynflete Flyer, the Upper School student newspaper.

 

As most people probably noticed, there was a photographer on campus on Wednesday. Presumably her pictures of class discussions, frisbee in Waynhenge, and students walking into Emery will eventually appear on the website or in the viewbook, replacing the pictures of middle schoolers who have graduated. After being photographed, I heard many people wondering about the shots’ portrayal of Waynflete. Is it really a Waynflete norm to smile while doing homework?

A day or two later, having been let out of class early, I did not rush across campus to my next class as I usually would. Instead, as I sauntered out of Emery en route to Cook-Hyde, I reflected upon my perception of Waynflete. Though I knew that hordes of students would gush forth from Emery in less than five minutes, the well-treaded path by Waynhenge was deserted. I looked at the trees separating the path from the parking lot, and remembered the community service day when my homeroom planted flowers between those trees. I crossed Storer Street carefully–attentive not primarily because of the danger of cars, but because I recalled a memorably slushy day freshman year when I ended up sprawled on the road, unhurt but soaked. I smiled as I passed the Sanctuary, thinking of an enjoyable Latin class earlier in the week during which we had worked outside.

Next time that you’re walking through the halls or across campus, think of everything here that has meaning to you. Think about what being a Waynflete student means to you–it’s different for all of us. No matter how awkward people may have felt while being photographed, we are Waynflete. Thinking about this the other day, I walked into the library during PA. The library was relatively quiet save for the sound of typing and of pages being turned. Believe it or not, several people were smiling as they worked.


What A Day on the Kennebec With the Class of 2014 Taught Me

I have been thinking a lot about the value of teamwork and how that applies to a broad spectrum of experiences. The genesis of these thoughts was the glorious day I spent riding the Kennebec waves with the senior class as part of their Outdoor Experience trip.

 

After willingly subjecting ourselves to a screening of Jaws, our bus arrived at The Forks in Somerset County, ME. The Forks is the point of convergence for the Kennebec and Dead Rivers and is the home of Three Rivers Whitewater. We piled out of the bus, received our cabin assignments, and quickly unloaded our gear. It was 4:00 in the afternoon and we wanted to check out Moxie Falls before dinner.

 

Moxie Falls has one of the tallest single drops in the State of Maine.  After an easy 10-minute hike, a series of steps and handrails brought us to the edge of the Falls and a gorgeous view of the river, falls, and forest.  After 15 minutes, we headed back up the trail in search of the apparently elusive swimming hole.

 

The swimming hole turned out to be easy to find and a handful of brave souls, led by Carol Titterton, went for a swim.  It was not a particularly wonderful day, with overcast skies and cool temperatures, and the water temperature was chilly.  Most of the senior class chose to hang out on the bank of the river and watch the swimming from the warmth of their dry clothes.

 

In addition to the glorious views, our group received a great compliment from another group of hikers.  We were told that our students were remarkably polite, friendly, and helpful.  I had to agree.

 

We returned to The Forks for an evening of all-you-can-eat tacos, karaoke, and games.  The most athletic event was Twister and boy! was it athletic.  It combined a little Sumo wrestling, yoga, chess, and teamwork.  The winning teams were able to force their opponents into impossible positions.

 

After the evening’s events were concluded, we returned to the cabins to go to bed.  Actually, to be more accurate, we returned to the cabins at least.

 

The next morning, a tired group of seniors managed to get themselves to breakfast in time for our safety briefing.  It was a glorious day already and temperatures were predicted to be in the 80s and sunny throughout our rafting time.  The lead rafting guide walked us through all of the risk factors that could appear during our trip and the ways to avoid them.  We then donned our life vests, grabbed paddles, and climbed aboard buses to the start of the whitewater course.

 

Because the Kennebec is a dam-controlled river, the whitewater fun is created by water releases.  Our guide explained that the river is usually flowing at about 2000 cubic feet per second, but the whitewater release brings that up to 5000.  He described one cubic foot as the size of a chicken and had us envision 5000 chickens going by per second.

 

I was assigned to a great raft and had Emily Wasserman as my bow mate.  She and I were the only ones brave enough to take on the river first.  I would have been happy to give up my seat, in fact, I begged to give up my seat.  I had no takers.  So down the river we went.

 

Kenny, our guide, taught us the correct paddle strokes and encouraged us to paddle in sync.  This would provide us the greatest maneuverability and speed.   Before we entered a series of rapids, Kenny would tell us how we would maneuver the raft and then would begin yelling out his commands.

 

The first half of our rafting trip was the most exciting with a mixture of Class 3 and 4 rapids.  Kenny’s job was to position the raft in such a way that we would feel like we were in a giant flume with water spraying everywhere.  The thrill combined all the elements of a great amusement park ride: adrenaline pumping, nerves energized, and hysterical laughter all rolled into one experience.

 

After completing the upper part of the river, we were permitted to float through series of Class 2 rapids and swift water.  Just imagine our good fortune: the air temperature registered 84 and the water temperature was 69.  It was a cloudless sky and bright sun beating down on us.  It could not have been more perfect.

 

Since I am never one to miss an opportunity to draw a lesson from an experience, this rafting trip did not disappoint.  It was one of the rapids that made me realize that the teamwork aspect of rafting is like so many things in life.  If a rafting team doesn’t work all that hard, they will have a perfectly pleasant and fun ride down the river.  However, if a rafting team works really hard and concentrates on staying in sync, they will have the most thrilling ride possible.  I think this lesson can be applied to a lot of things in life.

 

Our day ended with a mellow float down the Kennebec followed by a picnic lunch.  It was a great way for me to get to know a bunch of the senior class and to spend a few days in the Maine outdoors.

Multiple Sports Leads to Multiple Benefits for Waynflete Athletes and the School

With a one goal lead just into the second half of a recent game against Class B Gray-New Gloucester, the Flyers needed to take advantage of a free kick from inside the offensive zone.  The two teams had battled evenly since an early Waynflete goal so all of the players knew that the next goal of the game would be critical to determining its outcome.  Ninth grader Isabel Canning looped the kick into the crowd gathered in front of the net, where Leigh Fernandez broke loose from her defender to get her head on the ball and redirect it past the goalie into the net. With a two goal lead, the momentum swung to the Flyers, who continued in their defense of the Class C state title by going on to win the game 3-0.

 

Leigh is in a unique position this fall.  Besides working hard with her teammates to defend their title, she is also hoping that for the fifth time in a row, her season will end in a state championship.  Leigh and Rhiannan Jackson, who graduated last spring, began the streak as teammates on the 2012 state champion lacrosse team.  Their teams then ran the table last year, winning state titles in soccer, basketball, and then lacrosse again.

 

With Rhiannan off in college, where she is planning to play basketball and lacrosse, Leigh is alone in pursuing a fifth athletic championship.  But she is not alone in changing sports with the seasons.  In fact, nearly all of her teammates play more than one sport and most play on three school teams.  In an age when individual sports are offered year round and young athletes are under increasing pressure to specialize, this phenomenon seems counter-cultural.  In fact, it is.  The path to success at many schools is to encourage athletes to specialize.  But when asked what he thinks of three season athletes, Athletic Director Ross Burdick candidly replied, “We are a small school. We depend on them. Without them, we couldn’t field our current slate of 18 varsity and multiple junior varsity teams, much less enjoy the success they have been having.”  To express it gratitude, Waynflete recognizes three sport athletes each year and gives an award in the spring to seniors who have played on three varsity teams for all four years.

 

But while students playing multiple sports benefits the School, does it benefit the athletes themselves?  The answer, according to Ross, is an emphatic “Yes.  One of the many benefits of kids playing multiple sports is that they learn how to compete, how to play as a team, how to play for different coaches, and how to be successful.  They learn how to handle pressure, how to come from behind, and how to have fun.”

 

Ross could point to the four championship girls teams to illustrate his point, as each team had faced the clear prospect of defeat before gathering itself and ultimately prevailing. While the 2012 lacrosse champions won the state final easily, they came back from multiple goal late game deficits in both the regional semi-finals and finals for two of the most dramatic victories in the already storied history of the program.  In the fall, the soccer team fell behind before striking with two goals in less than a minute to pull ahead in the final.  The prospects for winning the championship in basketball seemed particularly dim as the team fell behind by 14 points midway through the third quarter to perennial champ Calais before a packed crowd on the last evening of basketball ever at the Bangor Civic Center.  Unfazed, the girls in green pressed ahead with tenacious team defense, timely rebounding, and a stunning fourth quarter rally behind the red-hot shooting of Martha Veroneau to pull away to a 59 to 55 victory and the first Class C basketball championship in the School’s history.

 

The multi-sport phenomenon is not limited to the girls teams, nor is the success it yields.  Also populated by multi-sport players, the 2012 boys soccer team defended its 2011 State Championship by winning the conference title before losing on penalty kicks in the regional final.   The boys basketball team also won the conference and advanced to the regional final for the first time ever in Class C.  Sportsmanship is paramount at Waynflete and both the boys and girls basketball teams were presented with the “MPA Good Sportsmanship Award” for Class C West, showing that our teams know how to play hard, play well, and play with class.

Besides enhancing their athletic acumen, involvement in multiple sports benefits the athletes physically as well. Single sport athletes risk developing injuries through over-training.  The American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness recommends two to three months off per year from any one sport in order to give the bodies of young athletes time to recover from the strains placed on them through the repetitive motions required of that sport.  Another one of the benefits is increased athleticism.  By playing multiple sports, athletes learn to move their bodies in more ways, and being able to move in a variety of ways makes for a better athlete. The physical pay off of playing multiple sports is no doubt another reason for the School’s continued athletic success.

 

While some coaches might be tempted to encourage an athlete to specialize, the Waynflete staff is not.  A veteran group of successful coaches, they understand the benefits of their athletes competing in multiple sports. Assistant Athletic Director Brandon Salway has coached the boys soccer team for over twenty years and has coached basketball for many years, currently the girls.  Rich Henry has coached the boys basketball team for nine years and encourages his boys to play many sports.  “I don’t encourage the boys to play AAU basketball” says Henry.  “I would rather see them compete on the soccer, baseball, and lacrosse fields.  They can play basketball in the summer to prepare for the winter.”  Girls soccer coach Todd Dominski regularly attends basketball games and lacrosse games to watch his athletes compete.  Long time girls lacrosse coach and Waynflete faculty member Cathie Connors is the biggest fan of her girls during the fall and winter seasons, as is eight year veteran cross country coach Brian Gillespie.  Math teacher Zak Starr is an assistant on the boys soccer team, the girls basketball team, and the baseball team.  He also coaches in the middle school, where he conveys the multiple sport benefits to all future varsity athletes through word and deed as he was a multiple sport athlete himself at Colby College.

In the competitive athletic world of Southern Maine, a successful defense of their title is by no means guaranteed to Leigh and her soccer teammates.  But one thing is assured; the players will draw on their vast and varied athletic experience to play at their best, both as individuals and as a team.  At Waynflete, multiple sports has lead to multiple benefits, for the School and for the athletes themselves.


CSA Volunteers at Twilight in the Park

A traditional honoring, Twilight in the Park is an event sponsored by Hospice of Southern Maine that occurs every year in which people “celebrate life” by lighting a candle for a loved one who has died. The candle is placed inside a white bag with sand that bears the name of the individual being remembered. The bags are placed in Deering Oaks Park, and as the sun grows older, the candles are lit, creating a beautiful and touching memorial, showing love and compassion for “someone who has brought light into our lives.” To support this event, volunteers from Waynflete’s Community Service activity (CSA) and the parent community helped to fill and place each bag and later cleared them away.

In an email thanking the volunteers, CSA faculty advisor Breda White reflected on the event this way:

“Your efforts contributed directly, by all accounts, to the success of the event as a vital fundraiser for Hospice’s work. More important, however, was your role in helping grieving families and friends honor the life and memory of loved ones and /or to show appreciation for the caregivers who supported them through the end-of-life journey. As an Upper School community service maven, I was particularly delighted to see such a rich collaboration of Waynflete parents and students in the service of others. I hope we can have many more such joint efforts.”

All in all, a very beautiful way to spend a Saturday.