Beliefnet
The Queen of My Self

September marks the beginning of the school year. And even if we have not attended classes in ages, we are still affected through our children and grand kids, as well as our own memories.

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Fall always feels like New Year to me. It carries so much more significance than does January 1. The first crisp hint of a chill in September always shakes me out of my summer lethargy, wakes me, makes me more alert. It focuses and concentrates my attention. I can smell the possibilities of a fresh start in the air.

Reinvigorated by the sunny days and laze of summer, life now begins again in earnest in schools, government agencies, cultural institutions and businesses across the country. There is an unmistakable aura of enthusiasm and energy in the air, a palpable sense of intensified determination. This annually renewed resolve seems so much more natural than the resolutions we make at the turn of the calendar year.

Fall jumpstarts everything, including itself. Labor Day has become the popular indicator of autumn, rather than the equinox, which occurs three weeks later. In the same way, Memorial Day, which predates the solstice by three weeks ushers in the civic summer season. By this reckoning, school starts in the fall.

Most of us have been indelibly imprinted with the excitement and optimism of the first day of school. There is nothing quite so inspiring as buying blank notebooks, pencils you have to sharpen yourself and some brand new white blouses. So clean, so fresh, so hopeful.

The Jewish New Year falls in the fall. My memories of the High Holy Days that I celebrated as a child with my family have little to do with organized religion. Rather, I remember a domestic sense of auspicious new beginnings: major house cleaning, usually a new outfit to wear to temple and best of all, we ate off of the good china with the real silverware.

I think of my birthday as being in the fall, but it is actually three or four days before the equinox. Our birthday is our own personal New Year. It is an annual reunion that we have with ourselves, and attendance is required. Our birthday is our periodic opportunity to take serious personal stock. “How am I doing?” as old Ed Koch, former mayor of New York City, would always ask. Like any new beginning, our birthday is an ideal time to sharpen our priorities, realign our perspective and rededicate ourselves to living the very best life that we can.

How old! and yet how far I am from being what I should be….I shall from this day take the firm resolution to study….to keep my attention always well fixed on whatever I am about, and strive everyday to become less trifling and more fit for what, if Heaven wils (sic) it, I’m someday to become!
– Princess ( Queen-to-be) Victoria of Great Britain
In her diary on her 18th birthday

Every Autumn I take time out of time to evaluate my past experiences and actions and to prepare myself mentally, physically and spiritually for the coming year. I usually retreat to some extent and fast to some degree during the two-week period surrounding my birthday. The new and full Harvest Moon, and the equinox usually coincide.

This experience is intended to center me and slow me down. It is my birthday gift to myself. During my fast/retreat I devote myself completely to cleansing and centering myself: body, mind and spirit in readiness for the future. I rinse my system with fresh water and teas, I clean my house and altars and I use yoga, meditation and t’ai chi to flush my mind clear of the mental detritus that I have accumulated.

Since the early 1980’s, I have kept a birthday book. Therein, I ritually record an accounting of the past year. I process my impressions and my life lessons. How have I grown? What have I learned? And what is it that I just can’t seem to get through my thick skull? I plot my progress. I ponder my possibilities. I pour over my problems. I plan my goals.

This civic fall also marks the eight-year anniversary of September 11. Let us mark this propitious time by reflecting honestly upon our vulnerability in today’s terrifying political/economic climate, our culpability in the deadly repercussions that arise from our own chauvinistic attitudes and deeds, as well as our impressive individual and communal capacity for extraordinary acts of courage and devotion.

May this new season signal the beginning of a new era of planetary peace and plenty.

We will open the book. Its pages are blank.
We are going to put words on them ourselves.
The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.
– Edith Lovejoy Pierce

With best blessings for a new beginning,

xxQMD

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

September marks the beginning of the school year. And even if we have not attended classes in ages, we are still affected through our children and grand kids, as well as our own memories.

***

Imagine a woman
Until we imagine something, it remains an impossibility. Once imagined, it becomes our experience.

Imagine a woman
who loves herself. 

A woman who gazes with loving kindness upon her past and present, body and needs, ideas and emotions. Whose capacity to love others  deepens as she extends loving kindness to herself.

Imagine a woman 

who accepts herself. A woman who turns a merciful eye toward her own secrets, successes, and shortcomings. Whose capacity to live non-judgmentally deepens as she is merciful toward herself.

Imagine a woman who participates in her own life with interest and attention. A woman 

who turns inward to listen, remember, and replenish. Whose capacity to be available deepens as she is available to herself.

Imagine a woman who remains faithful to herself through the seasons of life. A woman who preserves allegiance to herself even when opposed. Whose capacity to sustain interest in others deepens as she is loyal to herself.

Imagine a woman who bites into her own life and the fullness of its possibility. A woman 

who has opened to the depths of goodness within her. Who affirms the original goodness of her children until the stories of old hold no sway in their hearts. 

Imagine a community of women who rock the world by giving birth to images of inclusion, poems of truth, rituals of healing, experiences of transformation, relationships of equality, strategies of peace, institutions of justice, and households of compassion for the sake of our children’s future.

Imagine a world where the question “what’s wrong with me” has been exorcised from the bodies and lives of our daughters. A world where they cultivate their amazing capacities as children of life. Where they travel a less turbulent path than we did toward self-love, self-acceptance, 

and self-trust.

Imagine yourself as this 

woman. And together let us imagine such a community and world into being for the sake of our daughters and sons, and our beloved planet. 

Imagine a Woman III 
©2014 Patricia Lynn Reilly
***
Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

September marks the beginning of the school year. And even if we have not attended classes in ages, we are still affected through our children and grand kids, as well as our own memories.

***

I went to Superior Elementary School in East Cleveland, Ohio. Named ostensibly after Superior Road, the street where it was located at the foot of Superior Hill, Superior School was, indeed, a superior school.

This was due entirely to the singular visionary efforts of the extraordinary principal, Wilma Bayes, my childhood shero. The top picture on this article is not Wilma Bayes. She was not famous enough to have a Google image. But it is a reasonable likeness stylistically – another school principal who has the same general look, but a much more severe visage than did Miss Bayes. The bottom picture captures her gaze and warm, strong demeanor, at least in my affectionate memory of her.

She was the last of her breed of dedicated spinster schoolteachers. When she started her career in the early years of the 20th century, it was illegal for teachers to marry. So she chose to devote her life to educating and expanding the horizons of the students she loved. Wilma Bayes had been principal of Superior School for probably 40 years by the time I knew her. She was principal there when my mother was in the same elementary school in the late 1920s.

Miss Bayes was a spinster, all right. She spun devotion, passion and compassion; knowledge, understanding and practice; creative individuality and community spirit; art and science, and most seminal for me – ritual. (By the way, seminal does not refer to semen, but to Semele, an ancient Moon Goddess. But I digress.)

It has always seemed strange to me that in our endless discussions about education so little stress is laid on the pleasure of becoming an educated person, the enormous interest it adds to life. To be able to be caught up into the world of thought – that is to be educated.
– Edith Hamilton, Anthropologist

I have a Master’s degree in education and have read my share of educational theories, philosophies and programs. I have been in and out of many hundreds of public, private, parochial and charter schools as a teacher, teacher trainer and special guest presenter, and I have never seen one anywhere that was nearly as innovative as the one I attended 50-some years ago.

Though I do not know for sure whether she was influenced by John Dewey or Maria Montessori, Miss Bayes was, like them, an innovative proponent and practitioner of hands-on learning or experiential education. We did, indeed, learn by doing and creative thinking was encouraged. No, demanded. I never took a multiple choice or true/false test until junior high school and did very poorly on standardized tests when I first was exposed to them. All of our testing was though essay writing. The one thing I learned for sure in Superior School was non-standardized thinking.

Our curriculum and class schedule was also revolutionary. We only had regular classroom studies on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Tuesday was devoted to community and citizenship. In the morning there would be an educational assembly where we would watch nature films, hear special lectures, listen to stories of the old world from foreign born parents, and frequently see slide shows of Miss Bayes’s exotic travels.

The afternoon was devoted to community service. All of the students in the school were assigned to special clubs, each of which was conducted by one of the teachers, not necessarily our own. Each club performed a duty for the school or for the general community or taught a useful practical skill. As I recall, the choices included crossing guards, tutoring of deaf students, gardening, touch up painting, Red Cross first aid, lip reading and sign language interpretation, and old age home visitations.

Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.
– Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and Director,
Children’s Defense Fund (see May 2008 issue of The Queen’s Chronicles)

Every class in the school had a year-long service project to benefit the school. One year my class got to repaint the gigantic world globe, 12 feet in diameter, that took up an entire alcove in the second floor hallway. It actually took us the entire year complete the detailed painting and stenciling, but you can bet my grasp of geography is very good!

Fridays were given over completely to the arts. Every Friday morning featured an assembly of music, drama, or dancing presented by a different class each week. These were fairly elaborate productions, and since there were only two classes in each grade K-6, every class had to put together about three programs a year.

In the afternoon we divided into clubs again, this time to pursue our chosen art, craft or musical instrument. Over the years I learned to draw; paint; weave baskets; make, glaze and fire pottery; knit; quilt; cook; play the flutophone and the autoharp; and folk dance.

The sciences received equal emphasis. Every spring, the 5th and 6th grade students were sent to a week-long science camp.Our studies were intensive and all inclusive. We learned how to make strict hospital corners on our cots, studied flora and fauna, learned to use microscopes, collected and prepared wild food and used telescopes at night to learn to identify the constellations and the myths about them.

Superior School was in a very diverse working class area with a large immigrant community, some of whom like the Cubans and Hungarians, were war refugees. Miss Bayes was my first tour guide into the delicious realm of multiculturalism. She was a fantastic community builder and produced wonderful family programs. The PTA sponsored frequent community potluck suppers where the entire student body along with their families would come together to eat dinner and chat. I have very fond memories of Mrs. Papadopoulos’ moussaka, Mrs. Russo’s pasta with red sauce, and my mom’s mandelbroit.

You must learn day by day, year by year, to broaden your horizon. The more things you love, the more you are interested in, the more you enjoy, the more you are indignant about, the more you have left when anything happens.
– Ethel Barrymore, Actor

Around Halloween the entire school worked to produce a fair in the cafeteria. Classes were put to work making signs, constructing game booths, decorating, making programs, signs and tickets. Everyone came to the Halloween fair in costume and spent the night playing games and eating sweet treats from around the world. In the springtime there was an evening Cake Walk with the cakes donated by all the mothers and many of the teachers.

There were several other all-school social events, my favorite of which were the sing-a-longs. We would gather on a crisp autumn evening, a school night no less, children, parents, siblings and teachers and their families, around a huge bonfire in the park across the street. Miss Bayes herself handed out song sheets and we would all sing American folk songs and spirituals and roast s’mores under the stars. How fabulous was that?

Every winter the two 6th grade classes painted the huge two-story-high windows in the stairwells, one with scenes and symbols of Christmas and the other with Chanukah themes. This was really special since the only two Jewish children in the school were my brother and me. This was before the 1960s creation of Kwanzaa, but trust me, had there been more windows there would have been a Kwanzaa mural for it, and for Divali and Soyal, as well.

Miss Bayes was a Queen Mistress of Ceremony. The ritual she designed for 6th grade graduation was called “Clapping Out.” All of the students in the school lined up along the walls on either side of the long central corridor on the main floor. The graduating students walked the length of the hallway in a stately single file. As they passed, the entire school applauded, and kept applauding as one by one they walked right out of the front door, leaving the school behind. It was so simple. So moving. So perfectly transformational. I can still feel the thrill of my own Clapping Out. How sweet it was to pass my brother’s second grade class and see him grinning toothlessly and waving at me, proud of his big sister. How can I ever describe the profound sense of change when I walked out of my beloved school and into my terrible teens.

Of all my fabulous memories of Queen Wilma, the best was when she defended me to my own mother. When I was in the third or fourth grade, my mom dragged me into Miss Bayes’ office to bemoan my terrible handwriting and to complain that I was not being taught Gregg penmanship properly. Miss Bayes’ turned to her former student and replied mildly, “So, she will type.” Oh, ecstasy!

Beatrix Potter said, “Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.” And I say, “Thank Goddess I went to school. It steeped me in originality.” I am ever indebted to Miss Bayes.

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

September marks the beginning of the school year. And even if we have not attended classes in ages, we are still affected through our children and grand kids, as well as our own memories.

Poem by Amber Rainer

School is cool when you want to get away for 8 hours,
School is lame if you have to sit there and do work,
When your parents hate you and you begin to cry, well go to school becuse they will never think to find you there,
i love school now that i think about it, my parents hate me and my sisters dis own me so really who cares about going to school and being popular,
when you have to go to feel loved where people do not look at you in discust,
school is cool and i go to get away from being abused!

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.