We know that poem. We share it with our kids. We say we love it. Yet we struggle to take that first step off that well trodden path.
It’s a new day in a new year, the day before returning back to school. School work to be done. More than can get done in this day. But outside, the snow glistens under the light of the low rising sun. It is beautiful. It is calling my name. Gently, I succumb to its call.
With stacks of books, manuals, papers on my kitchen table I decide to go outside, clear my head, feel the cold bite my face. While snowshoeing, my mind begins to clear, to release. Release the tensions and fears about returning to school. I know I’m not alone in these feelings. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first year teacher or an elder like myself. These feelings that so often occur before returning after a long break are fairly universal. It’s taken years to learn that it’s OK to put the planning/grading aside and go outside. It’s taken years to learn that there is more to gain from that then from plowing through what my mind thinks needs to be done. We cannot be an effective teacher if we do not take care of ourselves. We all know that. So out I went.
The first thing I noticed was the beauty. The surface of the early morning snow is soft. It looks like the heavens generously sprinkled glitter over its entirety. The air is crisp on my face. I smile. I am happy. My heart calms. I stand and look, taking in the beauty and air, and then begin. One foot forward. Easily following the trail made a few days ago encourages me to continue. Then I look to the east and decide to break trail. Leave its ease and go into deeper snow. Immediately I question my decision as snowshoes sink. The happiness is replaced with a touch of fear. Onward. Then I see winter goldenrod covered in veil of delicate ice crystals that shimmer like the best of diamonds. Stop, notice, enjoy. Onward. During this diversion I realize how important it is to diverge, to sometimes leave comfort for what’s new and beautiful. My mind wanders back to lesson planning and tomorrow’s day one. I know my kids must feel the same jitters that I do. How can tomorrow be a day of Welcome, a day of joy, a day that makes us all happy to return, to see each other, and spend the next few weeks engaged in the hard work that this time of year demands? I continue, onward.
After finishing the trail I turn around, and do it again. Same trail, different perspective.