Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father.
The sun still hangs over the horizon when I reach the summit of Hochblauen on Sunday afternoon. Our local mountain, Hochblauen is truly a hill with a hotel at the summit, to which you can unfortunately drive all the way. Still, it is the tallest point around, the place I go on days when the Sausenburg ruins aren’t dramatic enough, when I want to see the Alps in the distance. Today–cool and many-colored with the splendor of mid-autumn–is just such a day.
Life in Kandern is school, for the moment. With our first quarter just finished, and a new set of final essays looming just around the corner, most of my spare minutes of late are saturated with last-minute details. There are papers to proofread, late assignments to correct, grades to check and recheck before they are submitted to the ominous eternity of the Report Card. I’m planning for the future, putting to a vote the next book for regular American Literature (Shall we read Pudd’nhead Wilson or excerpts of Huckleberry Finn?) and getting excited for the lyrical Fireside Poets and the nature-loving Transcendentalists. Students are interested and bright, amazing me with their insights into literature and life, with their curiosity and energy.
A colleague in Seattle used to teach at a rural high school in Whatcom County, and I remember him once telling me that what he loved about his time there was the closeness. “All the kids, they don’t have anything else going on. Everyone does everything. There’s a game? Everyone comes. There’s a play? The whole town is there.” To a great extent, this holds true in our rural school, also. We are a community, more than a shattered collection of programs and offerings.
Yesterday–Saturday–I also spent much of the day at school. Not grading this time, but trying for the second time in my life to wrap my mind and fingers around alto clef, again the lone violist. I’m playing for the school musical, Seussical, next month, and have been practicing a few times a week with this mostly-student orchestra. I spent most of the day waiting to play while the cast rehearsed, laughing with the cellist who sits next to me, also a student in my literature class. Like the Thursday evenings I spend eating and baking in the dorms, this is a relaxed community, one in which I’m grateful to be welcome.
I’ve listened to a sermon podcast from Bethany Community Church while walking up the mountain. The topic was mentorship. The exhortation: to spend more time, spend life, together, that true and rich mentorship comes out of hours of investment, not cleverly programmed minutes.
I realize that, more and more, this is what I’m finding mentorship to mean at BFA. Though much of it happens in the classroom, there’s a sense of seamlessness to life here. I leave my last class and head to ceramics class, which I’m taking as a student. From there I grade for an hour and then have rehearsal. Later there will be a dinner or a small group.
In the midst of all this activity, we live life together. Because of this, students trust us with matters of material. Sure, we’ll write a poem about nature, and later read it aloud in front of a crackling Youtube video of a fireplace. That’s odd, but we’ll do it. And somewhere, we become more than classroom teachers; in our interconnected way, we show our students how to learn, to grow, to live. It is a great responsibility, this mentorship, and a greater honor.
It’s not without cost, I know. At the summit of Hochblauen, I look out west to the mist-filled Rhine Valley, east the now-golden Black Forest hills and south to the Swiss Alps. After such a week of proximity, I cherish this time alone, following in the footsteps of the many, living and past, who climb mountains to pray and think, seeking the refreshment of time alone with God. Yet I’m thankful for both, for the busy valley, obscured with fog, and this summit with its clarifying solitude.
Yet we don’t live on mountaintops. After a while, the late sunshine no longer thaws my frigid fingertips, and I walk down through the forest. On the way, I meet some boys from one of the more adventurous dorms, having a Sunday night small group in the around a campfire. Unfazed by the oddity of meeting their English teacher in the forest, they share their fire and foil dinner, making room for me around the stump they’re using as a table. It is strange and lovely, this place between mountain and valley, even here filled with life together as I rejoin the land of people I love.
Once again, I am grateful to be here, learning to be fully present in the variety, the fullness, the richness of these days. Thank You, Lord, for the continued strength and joy to serve You.