Monday, December 21, 2009

TMS Holiday Party Marked by Cheer and Goodbyes

Friday marked the end of the first semester at The Meeting School and was formally celebrated through the holiday party, the final Secret Santa gift exchange, and the Spiral Walk.

The final gift exchange held some surprises. Cole gave James his cape (yes, the cape he has been wearing almost daily for several years). Wally now has not only his intention but a t-shirt to live up to - Moon gave him a shirt with "I am a vegan" stenciled on it. Jackie and Victoria discovered they were each other's Secret Santa and Sheila made five-year-old Aidan a lovely hand-sewn apron so he can better help out in the kitchen.

After the gifts, Head of School Jackie Stillwell read departing Interim Assistant Head of School Bill O'Flanagan his "minute" (all departing faculty and graduating students receive a minute, which is an approximately 200-word tribute to the person and his or her time at The Meeting School that is "inked" on a sheet of paper with calligraphy and usually illustrated in some way).

Here is an excerpt from Bill's minute:

"We delighted in Bill’s Irish twinkle, humor, delicious smoothies and love for his grandchildren - particularly Flat Conner. We appreciated his astonishing skill at washing dishes. When we needed clearness meetings Bill clearly came through. He worked hard even with a weak back that lasted seven days. When we needed faculty for pottery class, Bill stepped up to the plate. He brought sunshine to Helios house. When anyone needed a break from our noncompetitive culture to talk sports, Bill responded with the passion of a Patriot and the faithfulness of a Saint. Bill took up tasks for our overworked Head of School. Thanks to Bill she is still well. Bill embodies servant leadership, seeking the views of others and making decisions sensitively. Sharing his decades of experience, he gave us his wisdom, care and his intention to make the world better wherever his arms can reach. We are fortunate to have been in his embrace. "

The Spiral Walk has held in Hindmarsh Dining Room after the party. The Spiral Walk began with everyone seated, as in silent worship. One by one participants got up, took a candle, and walked through a spiral bounded by evergreen branches. People were invited to dedicate their candle to a person or an experience if they chose. We wish all of our students and their families a restful and safe holiday and a very productive and exciting Intersession adventure in January.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What Would You Do If?

The primary topics in Thursday's Peace Studies class were Matthew 5:38 and Joan Baez' famous essay "What Would You Do If?"

Teachers Frederick Martin and Landis Brown acted out the line in Matthew's Sermon on the Mount that says
"If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" - and grounded it in the historical and political context of the time. The purpose of the close reading 5:38 was to illustrate that Jesus was calling not for passivity but for a revolution in social structures in which all human beings could stand together in equality.

The class discussion talked about "the third way" - the path of nonviolence that is neither violence nor passivity, and finished up with a reading of Joan Baez' famous essay "What Would You Do If?" The essay, well worth reading (or rereading) is below.

What Would You Do If?

Fred: OK. So you're a pacifist. What would you do if someone were, say, attacking your grandmother?
Joan: Attacking my poor old grandmother?
Fred: Yeah, you're in a room with your grandmother and there's a guy about to attack her and you're standing there. What would you do?
Joan: I'd yell, "Three cheers for Grandma!" and leave the room."

Fred: No, seriously. Say he had a gun and he was about to shoot her. Would you shoot him first?
Joan: Do I have a gun?
Fred: Yes
Joan: No. I'm a pacifist, I don't have a gun.
Fred: Well, I say you do.
Joan: All right. Am I a good shot?
Fred: Yes.
Joan: I'd shoot the gun out of his hand.
Fred: No, then you're not a good shot.
Joan: I'd be afraid to shoot. Might kill Grandma.

Fred: Come on, OK, look. We'll take another example. Say, you're driving a truck. You're on a narrow road with a sheer cliff on your side. There's a little girl sitting in the middle of the road. You're going too fast to stop. What would you do?
Joan: I don't know. What would you do?
Fred: I'm asking you. You're the pacifist.
Joan: Yes, I know. All right, am I in control of the truck?
Fred: Yes.
Joan: How about if I honk my horn so she can get out of the way?
Fred: She's too young to walk. And the horn doesn't work.
Joan: I swerve around to the left of her since she's not going anywhere.
Fred: No, there's been a landslide.
Joan: Oh. Well then, I would try to drive the truck over the cliff and save the little girl.


Fred: Well, say there's someone else in the truck with you. Then what?
Joan: What's my decision have to do with my being a pacifist?
Fred: There's two of you in the truck and only one little girl.
Joan: Someone once said if you have a choice between a real evil and a hypothetical evil, always take the real one.
Fred: Huh?
Joan:: I said, why are you so anxious to kill off all the pacifists?
Fred: I'm not. I just want to know what you'd do if...

Joan: If I was in a truck with a friend driving very fast on a one-lane road approaching a dangerous impasse where a ten-month old girl is sitting in the middle of the road with a landslide on one side of her and a sheer drop-off on the other.
Fred: That's right.
Joan: I would probably slam on the brakes, thus sending my friend through the windscreen, skid into the landslide, run over the little girl, sail off the cliff and plunge to my own death. No doubt Grandma's house would be at the bottom of the ravine and the truck would crash through her roof and blow up in her living room where she was finally being attacked for the first, and last, time.

Fred: You haven't answered my question. You're just trying to get out of it...
Joan: - I'm really trying to say a couple of things. One is that no one knows what they'll do in a moment of crisis and hypothetical questions get hypothetical answers. I'm also hinting that you've made it impossible for me to come out of the situation without having killed one or more people. Then you say, 'Pacifism is a nice idea, but it won't work'. But that's not what bothers me.
Fred: What bothers you?
Joan: Well, you might not like it because it's not hypothetical.
It's real. And it makes the assault on Grandma look like a garden party. Fred: What's that?
Joan: I'm thinking about how we put people through a training process so they'll find out the really good, efficient ways of killing. Nothing incidental like trucks and landslides. Just the opposite, really. You know, how to growl and yell, kill and crawl and jump out of airplanes. Real organized stuff. Hell, you have to be able to run a bayonet through Grandma's middle.
Fred: That's something entirely different.

Joan: Sure. And don't you see it's much harder to look at, because its real, and it's going on right now? Look. A general sticks a pin into a map. A week later a bunch of young boys are sweating it out in a jungle somewhere, shooting each other's arms and legs off, crying, praying and losing control of their bowels. Doesn't it seem stupid to you?
Fred: Well, you're talking about war.
Joan: Yes, I know. Doesn't it seem stupid to you?

Fred: What do you do instead, then? Turn the other cheek, I suppose.
Joan: No. Love thine enemy but confront his evil. Love thine enemy. Thou shalt not kill.
Fred: Yeah, and look what happened to him.
Joan: He grew up.
Fred: They hung him on a damn cross is what happened to him. I don't want to get hung on a damn cross.
Joan: You won't.
Fred: Huh?
Joan: I said you don't get to choose how you're going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you are going to live. Now.
Fred: Well, I'm not going to go letting everybody step all over me, that's for sure.
Joan: Jesus said, "Resist not evil." The pacifist says just the opposite. He says to resist evil with all your heart and with all your mind and body until it has been overcome.
Fred: I don't get it.

Joan: Organized nonviolent resistance. Gandhi. He organized the Indians for nonviolent resistance and waged nonviolent war against the British until he'd freed India from the British Empire. Not bad for a first try, don't you think?
Fred: yeah, fine, but he was dealing with the British, a civilized people. We're not.
Joan: Not a civilized people?
Fred: Not dealing with a civilized people. You just try some of that stuff on the Russians.
Joan: You mean the Chinese, don't you?
Fred: Yeah, the Chinese, try it on the Chinese.

Joan: Oh, dear. War was going on long before anybody dreamed up communism. It's just the latest justification for self-righteousness. The problem isn't communism. The problem is consensus. There's a consensus out there that it's OK to kill when your government decides who to kill. If you kill inside the country, you get in trouble. If you kill outside the country, right time, right season, latest enemy, you get a medal. There are about 130 nation-states, and each of them thinks it's a swell idea to bump off all the rest because he is more important. The pacifist thinks there is only one tribe. Three billion members. They come first. We think killing any member of the family is a dumb idea. We think there are more decent and intelligent ways of settling differences. And man had better start investigating these other possibilities because if he doesn't, then by mistake or by design, he will probably kill off the whole damn race.

Fred: It's human nature to kill. Something you can't change.
Joan: Is it? If it's natural to kill, why do men have to go into training to learn how? There's violence in human nature, but there's also decency, love, kindness. Man organizes, buys, sells, pushes violence. The nonviolent wants to organize the opposite side. That's all nonviolence is - organized love.
Fred: You're crazy.
Joan: No doubt. Would you care to tell me the rest of the world is sane? Tell me that violence has been a great success for the past five thousand years, that the world is in fine shape, that wars have brought peace, understanding, democracy, and freedom to humankind and that killing each other has created an atmosphere of trust and hope. That it's grand for one billion people to live off of the other two billion, or that even if it hadn't been smooth going all along, we are now at last beginning to see our way though to a better world for all, as soon as we get a few minor wars out of the way.

Fred: I'm doing OK.
Joan: Consider it a lucky accident.
Fred: I believe I should defend America and all that she stands for. Don't you believe in self-defense?
Joan: No, that's how the mafia got started. A little band of people who got together to protect peasants. I'll take Gandhi's nonviolent resistance.

Fred:: I still don't get the point of nonviolence.
Joan:: The point of nonviolence is to build a floor, a strong new floor, beneath which we can no longer sink. A platform which stands a few feet above napalm, torture, exploitation, poison gas, nuclear bombs, the works. Give man a decent place to stand. He's been wallowing around in human blood and vomit and burnt flesh, screaming how it's going to bring peace to the world. He sticks his head out of the hole for a minute and sees a bunch of people gathering together and trying to build a structure above ground in the fresh air. 'Nice idea, but not very practical', he shouts and slides back into the hole. It was the same kind of thing when man found out the world was round. He fought for years to have it remain flat, with every proof on hand that it was not flat at all. It had no edge to drop off or sea monsters to swallow up his little ship in their gaping jaws.

Fred: How are you going to build this practical structure?
Joan: From the ground up. By studying, experimenting with every possible alternative to violence on every level. By learning how to say no to the nation-state, 'NO' to war taxes, 'NO' to military conscription, 'NO' to killing in general, 'YES' to co-operation, by starting new institutions which are based on the assumption that murder in any form is ruled out, by making and keeping in touch with nonviolent contacts all over the world, by engaging ourselves at every possible chance in dialogue with people, groups, to try to change the consensus that it's OK to kill.

Fred:It sounds real nice, but I just don't think it can work.
Joan: You are probably right. We probably don't have enough time. So far, we've been a glorious flop. The only thing that's been a worse flop than the organization of nonviolence has been the organization of violence.

Monday, December 07, 2009

What Are They Doing? 2010 Student Intersession Plans

During Intersession, a four-week block of time in January, all students leave campus and do independent study projects in an area of special interest to them. The project might be an internship, travel, a service project, or any other educational opportunity that they can participate in full-time for those four weeks. Finding, designing and organizing an educational, exciting Intersession project is an important challenge each student faces every year.

Plans for Intersession 2010 include two internships at Koinonia (, a Christian farm community in Americus, Georgia, whose many accomplishments include founding Habitat for Humanity; volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans; an internship with Quaker Earthcare Witness; working with endangered wolves in northern New Hamsphire, and assisting with a sleep research lab at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. Projects taking place abroad include a trip to do volunteer service in Africa (Ghana), and traveling in Italy to study Italian, work with sick children, and assist in a school teaching English.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Knit One, Purl Two

Anyone familiar with The Meeting School knows that knitting is a female activity integral to community life here. Over the past three months, we've sat in meetings watching students and faculty members bring gloves, hats, scarves, sweaters, and socks into being out of lumpy skeins of wool.

Friend in Residence Ginny Hoffman, one of the campus's avid knitters , generously sent out announcements last week with the following notice:

"Gentleladies are invited for knitting instructions and discussions of delicate topics Wednesdays from 7 to 8 pm."

In a scene Ginny described as "nothing short of glamorous," five "gentle ladies" indeed arrived to take part in the knitting circle. It has been reported that one of them learned to successfully cast on. Ginny says, "Yup. She used size ten knitting needles with lavender yarn. She did a good job, too."

So the question remains. While the gentle ladies show up next week, needles and yarn in hand? And perhaps more interesting, what will they be wearing?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

En Garde! Corps-a-corps TMS Style

Our Forum presenter for Saturday, November 14, was TMS alum Tim Guarente, who gave students a tutorial on the history and practice of fencing. Students enjoyed not only sparring with one another, but also learning more about the history of fencing and what participants used to wear (Tim showed up wearing a doublet and plans to participate in the next Brattleboro Renaissance Fair). Students had the opportunity to try using a foil and practice their footwork. Students really enjoying learning about the evolution of swords, their history, as well as how to move with a foil and how it affects one's body.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Student Reflections: Embracing the Not-So-Ordinary

This posting comes from a new TMS student, Andrew, who is a junior this year.

"When I started searching for prospective schools for my junior year, I wanted one that would incorporate my interests. So when I came across The Meeting School, I was really intrigued by the sustainable agriculture program and the experiential aspects of the school. I got drawn in when I read about Intersession and I immediately started thinking about possible ideas: working with a gay rights organization in India; living on an intentional community; or working with an independent news source. During my interview process, it seemed like these were viable opportunities. Even if I didn’t get in, I had a clearer idea of what I want to do with my life, at that moment. I say at that moment of my life because I believe that interests are fluid and forever changing. It’s interesting to look at how my ideas for Intersession have changed only in the three or so months since I have applied.

"What is even more interesting is to see how I have changed in the month and some odd days that I have been here, at TMS. For example, when I first came to Junior writing class, it was extremely difficult for me to get out a paragraph. I was on the edge of my seat and was literally tugging at my hair. My writing process was tainted by thoughts like: “this is not good enough” or “Why should I even bother, this is gonna be crap,” and “I am so inarticulate.” I knew that the best thing to do was to just write and not look back and judge. This was extremely hard for me to get over but I was in such a nurturing environment and the other kids were really great. Everyone was there to support me. I still struggle a lot but nowhere near the amount when I first entered my teacher Frederick’s study.

"I love animals and I love the connection I can have with them. During the first couple days of school David, who oversees the farm, was looking for two volunteers for farm chores. I thought this was a good idea for me to just jump right in. I have learned a lot about how to treat animals and also what they eat. I think the best learning experiences so far have been the out of the ordinary ones…like when LL Cool Cow busted through the wiring in order to return to her calves. This was a time where we had to be very sensitive to her needs. Or the other day, when I was milking Bruschetta. I really got to connect one on one with her. I let her know I was there and she really took to me. On some level, it felt like there was a spiritual connection or at least a physical understanding between us. Learning how to connect with a living being on this different level, I believe, is very important for our souls. The joy I got from the experience was great and I can’t wait ‘til next week when I get more practice and eventually, when I get my own milking shift."

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Peace Abbey

Last week the Peace Studies and Health & Sexuality classes had the opportunity to visit the Peace Abbey in Sherborn, Massachusetts. Teacher Richard Kleinschmidt reflected on the trip: "Our students approached the experience with an open reverence and it was an incredibly uplifting and educational experience."

Liz, one of the students on the trip, remarked on how peaceful the physical place felt.

One of the most interesting memorial statues (see photo) was in honor of Emily the cow, who managed to single hoofedly escape a local slaughter house and then came to live at the Peace Abbey for several years until her death. Her story is told as a tribute to nonviolent resistance and vegetarianism. In fact, visitors who bring their lunches are asked to eat no meat on to the grounds.

It's interesting to reflect on Emily the cow in the context of The Meeting School's working farm and our close relationship with our farm animals. In addition to our extensive vegetable gardens and fruit trees, all of the meat and a good portion of the dairy consumed by our community is raised right on campus. As part of their chores, students are responsible for feeding and caring for the animals - and giving them an occasional scratch behind the ear or a pat on the back. Our animals are treated humanely and with respect and care.

Which raises some questions about the farm to plate connection: What is the relationship between peace, what we eat, and other living animals?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

TMS by Moonlight

TMS blogger sat down with junior Marluna (a.k.a. "Moon") to chat about school, life, and what comes next.

TMS blogger: So...what drew you to TMS in the first place?

MW: Before here, I went to Arthur Morgan School It's based on Quaker principles like here, and also has a strong work program. One of the students there told me about TMS. I came and toured and toured and really loved it. Also I know several other alums of TMS and talked with them about the school. So there really wasn't ever much of a decision - I was going to TMS.

TMS blogger: How’s the year going?

MW: The year is going really well. I’m a junior this year and juniors typically take US history so I’m taking that, along with writing, geometry, ceramics and biology. All of the classes are really, really good. Working with Shana at Rooted With Clay as part of our ceramics class has been a wonderful opportunity.

US History is also very interesting. We've been very involved at actively looking at historical markers in our environment. We recently went to the Rindge cemetery to study gravestones. I understand an upcoming class will involve visiting the town offices in Keene or Rindge and exploring their town records. We are going to be asked to discover something of interest that no other historians know. I’m really looking forward to this challenge in "making" history.

TMS Blogger: So what about life on the farm?

MW: The new farm chore schedule is getting people more involved. We used to be on chores for two-week rotations, but the students decided to change the schedule so we're on once per week. I think it's a really good change - I think we will all end up being more in tune with the farm. For example, before you could be on in the winter and have no experience with farm chores in the spring.

TMS Blogger: I know you’re a junior, but have you thought about college?

MW: I've been thinking that a school like Warren Wilson College might be good... a smallish school, with some kind of a work program. I like being in this kind environment where people have different responsibilities and everybody has a role in making it all happen.

TMS Blogger: What are your preliminary plans for intersession?

MW: Well, I've been toying with a plan I call “Operation Bojangles.” I’d like to go to New Orleans in pursuit of the mythic Mr. Bojangles and do character profiles of street performers, through photography and character profiles. If this dream falls through, another option is to work at a vegan bakery in Concord, New Hampshire, called CafĂ© Indigo.

TMS Blogger: Good luck with "Operation Bojangles"! Wrapping up, what’s your favorite farm animal and why?

MW: (with pondering expression on her face) This is a very serious question for me…I think it’s a toss up between the ducks and Brioche the cow. The ducks are really funny and interesting – there’s a duck couple on campus – and it’s amusing to see them run around campus as a pack. Brioche is beautiful and has an attitude and I really appreciate that about her.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Marshes, Music, Marching and Meows at TMS

In addition to learning, community building, harvesting produce, pig and cow wrangling, and other exciting experiences, the first month of school has been marked by increasingly chilly temperatures and beautiful fall foliage.

In the classroom, students have been spending some time out of class. The Environmental Science course has been focused on "the tragedy of the commons," or what the overuse of resources is doing to our shared environment. In addition to looking at resource wars and exploitation in the Congo, junior student Andrew chatted with TMS Blogger about a recent class field trip down Bean Hill Road to study the ecosystem in our backyard. (Andrew ended up knee deep in the marsh studying the characteristics of the surrounding trees, cattails, Indian cucumbers, and peat moss, to name just a few of the florae.)

Thanks to board member Nancy Lloyd, on September 16 students had the opportunity to visit the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music in Nelson, New Hampshire, and hear the Apple Hill String Quartet play a piece called the Third String Quartet by the Czech composer Viktor Ullmann.

The quartet was written in 1943 during the two years Ullmann spent in the Nazi concentration camp, Theresienstadt. Ullmann was a student of Arnold Schoenberg and was a prolific composer, writer, and critic before he was deported to the camp, although sadly, only thirteen musical works remain from that time. In October 1944, Ullmann was transferred to Auschwitz where he was killed in the gas chambers.

The quartet itself is written in two movements. The piece is only about 12 minutes in duration, but it encompasses a range of colors and moods, from lush romanticism to wildly intense characters to complete desolation.

TMS senior student Stephen reflects on his experience: "It was awesome - the four musicians were captivating and incredibly talented, and explained the piece in detail." Another student, Charlotte (who is a cello player herself) liked the experience of meeting the musicians and watching them practice.

On October 1, five students and two faculty members participated in the annual New England Pilgrimage for Peace They met up with the walkers between Dublin and Peterborough and continued with them to the Peterborough United Church of Christ church where they had supper and participated in the evening program. In the sharing circle virtually every adult praised the students and said how important it was that they were there. The walkers said it was one of the best days they'd had, just having TMS energy to boost them.

Finally, Jackie Stillwell, the Head of School, has a new kitten named Rufus, whose namesake Rufus Jones was one of the most prominent Quaker philosophers, historians, and theologians of the 20th century. Kitty Rufus has some big shoes to fill; in the meantime, he's busy chewing on the plants in the office and being very cute.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Welcome - And Welcome Back!

After nearly a week of new and returning student orientation, classes got underway today.

As one might imagine, there have been lots of meetings in preparation for the first day of academic classes - community meetings, student meetings, house meetings, Ministry and Counsel meetings, advising meetings, and other meetings this blogger doesn't know happened. Students have begun their chore rotation, work study, and meal planning (with the interesting and respectful discussion around vegetarianism and veganism already underway).

The meetings were punctuated by activities that included bowling for returning students, a group "Goblins, Giants and Wizards" game (loosely based on "Rock, Paper, Scissors"), a scavenger hunt that included a trip to the "big swing," and the compost pile, and Capture the Flag.

Some students dug up potatoes during Tuesday's first work study, while others worked in the kitchen.

The first meeting of the geometry class discussed some of the basic definitions of Euclid's geometry:

A point is that which has no part...a line is breathless length...the ends of lines are points...straight line is a line in which all points lie evenly on itself.

(Some of the raw ingredients that make everything else possible.)

One of the writing classes had an engaging discussion about different types of arguments and various appeals to reason, emotion and faith.

Discussion was punctuated by a brief ode to (from?) Keats: "Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know," and Darien and Connor were charged with finding copies of the Quaker Peace Testimony on campus before tomorrow's class.

As the school takes a "technology sabbath" on Wednesdays, TMS blogger doesn't think that posting the Peace Testimony here means letting the cat out of the bag (or Skunk or Hipster in Bliss):

"We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretence whatsoever; and this is our testimony to the whole world. The spirit of Christ, by which we are guided, is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing as evil and again to move unto it; and we do certainly know, and so testify to the world, that the spirit of Christ, which leads us into all Truth, will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for the kingdoms of this world."

Welcome and welcome back, everyone!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Getting Ready for School

After a busy summer on campus we are eagerly anticipating the arrival of our returning students on Wednesday, September 9th. New students will be joining us on Sunday, September 13.

Faculty are in the process of finalizing course preparations, organizing their homes to greet students, and planning a preliminary set meals.

(While on the topic of food, please note the photo of the brie, which was produced earlier this summer under the guidance of Laura Pepper from Keene Meeting. Two years ago, Laura sold her business of making artisan cheese in the Philadelphia region and moved to Hinsdale to work on reopening a hydroelectric plant on the Ashuelot River. She and Meg Kidd (former TMS staff) spent a day in July working with us to make cheese from milk from Bruchetta. A "Bruchetta Gouda" was also produced.)

We are excited to welcome Laura and Landis Brown, who are houseparents in Aurora. They have two young sons, Silas and Aidan. Laura will be teaching mathematics with Richard Kleinschmidt and overseeing the kitchen; Landis will be teaching courses in writing and social studies in addition to his role as Residential Life Coordinator. Their full biographies are available on our website. Welcome, Laura and Landis!

Meanwhile, under the care of interim farm manager Craig Jensen, the farm is currently producing copious amounts of kale (Lacinato, Red Russian, and White Siberian), beets, swiss chard, green beans, cucumbers, winter squash, red kuri, apples, and pears. Our root cellar is quickly filling up with beets and turnips. We have begun pulling flint corn and will be pulling sweet corn soon (which is late this year). Two work study activities for students soon after they get to school will be pulling onions (thousands of them!) and potatoes.

Last Friday we cut hay - several hundred bales of it - and would like to thank our neighbor down the street, Mark Wolterbeek, for offering to help out and even lend us his mower. The Meeting School mower has finally mowed its last field - when I asked someone "in the know" how old it was I given a look, which I interpreted to mean "ancient." Here's to neighbors helping neighbors!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

TMS mentioned in The New York Times

Dan Hall (61') forwarded this article from the August 25, 2009 New York Times. The piece is about people who pay to vacation on farms and get a taste of farm life and work - with a focus on former TMS faculty Kate Marsiglio's farm in the Catskills. TMS is mentioned - favorably - as a catalyst for Kate and Dan's efforts to help reconnect affluent urbanites with the earth.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Alumni Weekend at TMS

The Meeting School held its annual alumni weekend on August 14 - 16. Organized by Mary Ruth Crawford ('60), the weekend was a low key affair with sun, good conversation, and delectable TMS meals from the farm.

On Saturday afternoon, a memorial service was held for Elizabeth Waterman in the barn. Alumni, faculty, former faculty, family and friends came to take part in the service. Elizabeth, a former faculty member and beloved member of the TMS community, died in March 2009.

Jim Clark ('62), founder and owner of Black Bear Roastery came with a mocha java blend in hand. He left the "Charbucks" blend at home (visit the Black Bear website for more information about the litigation with Starbucks).

Visiting took place around the campfire, on the lawns, and in the garden. The meals used many ingredients straight from the farm. We invite you to try our Balkan Cucumber Salad recipe, which included cucumbers, yogurt, garlic, parsley, scallions, and dill right from our gardens.

Balkan Cucumber Salad (six servings)

1/2 c thinly sliced red onion
4 med cucumbers
1 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 c yogurt
1 or 2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 tsp honey (optional)
2 tbs. freshly minced mint leaves
1/4 c finely minced parsley (packed)
2 scallions w/greens, finely minced
1 to 2 tbs. freshly minced dill
1 c chopped walnuts, lightly toasted

Soak the onion in cold water for about 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry before adding to salad.
While onion is soaking, seed cucumbers and cut them into thin rounds. Place in medium bowl. Add remaining ingredients except walnuts, and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until serving time. Sprinkle walnuts on top and serve.

Monday, August 10, 2009

when more than was lost has been found

Rose Mohan, an alumnae of the class of 2006, returned to TMS on August 5 to volunteer on the farm for a week. While here, she took a few minutes away from the gardens to reflect on her experience with TMS Blogger. The interview took place in the living room of Mountain House.

TMS Blogger: So - academics first. What were your favorite classes at TMS?

RM: I'd have to say farm science, and a really cool poetry class. We studied and memorized the poetry of Pablo Neruda, ee cummings, Jane Kenyon (a poet laureate of New Hampshire) and others. We also had to write our own poems in the style of the poets we studied.

TMS Blogger: Can you still recite any of them?

RM: ee cummings..."it’s spring (all our night becomes day) o,it’s spring!"

TMS Blogger Note: The line comes from "when faces called flowers float out of the ground":

when faces called flowers float out of the ground
and breathing is wishing and wishing is having-
but keeping is downward and doubting and never
-it’s april(yes,april;my darling)it’s spring!
yes the pretty birds frolic as spry as can fly
yes the little fish gambol as glad as can be
(yes the mountains are dancing together)

when every leaf opens without any sound
and wishing is having and having is giving-
but keeping is doting and nothing and nonsense
-alive;we’re alive,dear:it’s(kiss me now)spring!
now the pretty birds hover so she and so he
now the little fish quiver so you and so i
(now the mountains are dancing, the mountains)

when more than was lost has been found has been found
and having is giving and giving is living-
but keeping is darkness and winter and cringing
-it’s spring(all our night becomes day)o,it’s spring!
all the pretty birds dive to the heart of the sky
all the little fish climb through the mind of the sea
(all the mountains are dancing;are dancing)

RM: I also really liked a course I took about the benefits and limitations of technology. It really made me think about the pleasure derived from doing things simply, by hand.

TMS Blogger: Tell me about your post-TMS experience.

RM: Well, immediately after graduating I went to work on a farm - an intentional community - called Cold Pond Land Trust, in Acworth, New Hampshire. I now attend Naropa University, in Boulder. I'm studying performing arts there.

TMS Blogger: How did your experience at TMS affect you?

RM: TMS definitely helped me figure out what I am interested in and influenced my choice of Naropa University. At TMS, my classmates and I were constantly discerning who we were - students here are encouraged to create and explore both our inner and outer worlds. I remember there was a student here who wanted to build his own bow and arrow. So he did some research, and then whittled and constructed the bow and arrows from wood he found at TMS. He also whittled a working flute. Other students built elaborate, insulated forts in the woods, and it seemed like there was always live music coming from somewhere. Also, I had never been part of a community like TMS and didn't know how important it is. Everyone feeds each other, and off of each other. Now I realize how important it is to me to be living and working and learning with a community around me.

TMS Blogger: So what are you doing during your week at TMS?

RM: I am going to help out wherever I can. So far I've blanched broccoli greens and kale for freezing, and processed a bunch of spinach, basil, and green beans.

TMS Blogger: Hmm...sounds delicious. Any final thoughts?

RM: I invested so much in TMS and TMS invested so much in me - I am so glad to be back! A big part of my heart is here.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Living in the Round: TMS Yurt Gets Eco-Friendly Upgrade

The largest of three Meeting School yurts, tucked away behind Red House and some fields (where the new piglets are now scrambling about), just had its ceiling and bathroom insulated in preparation for Sheila Garrett's upcoming move there from Thomas House.

In keeping with our commitment to be increasingly sustainable, we used a new insulation technology called Icynene foam insulation, put in by 4 Seasons, an insulation company based out of Keene, New Hampshire. The insulation can reduce heating costs by as much as 50%, which also reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, it is 100% water blown, contains no harmful PBDEs, contains renewable content (it substitutes some castor oil for petroleum) and has no loss of R-Value over time. (Please visit if you want to know more - posting a question on the blog probably won't get you an answer.)

And for those of you not yet familiar with The Meeting School yurts (or yurts more generally), they have an fascinating and multi-continent history.

Our yurts were designed in the early 1960s by Bill Coperthwaite, a faculty member teaching mathematics who was inspired by the Mongolian yurts he read about in a National Geographic magazine. Chuck Cox, who was one of Bill's students, built the yurts. (Later Chuck and his wife Laurel produced a set of portable yurt plans that became the basis of modern canvas yurt design in North America.) Bill Coperthwaite is also the author of the book A Hand-Made Life: In Search of Simplicity, which won the Nautilus Award in 2004 for Ecology/Environment.

Sheila was not on hand to see her new dwelling insulated, as she was on her bicycle headed for New England Yearly Meeting.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Midsummer at TMS

On July 19 TMS hosted a Summermusic and potluck event for friends and the local community. More than thirty five people came from all over the area to share in wonderful weather, food, song, and fellowship. During the singalong about a dozen Farm and Wilderness campers sang an a Capella piece about compost, which was a big hit. Craig Waterman was the song leader with his guitar; people sang songs from Joel Hayden's song book, including "Monadnock." We also sang from "Rise Up Singing" and the school's own songbook - including Sheila Garrett's request of "Fields of Gold." Several Quakers from Concord Meeting made a special effort to attend.

Last week math teachers Laura Brown and Richard Kleinschmidt attended a course called "Teaching Everyone Algebra" at the University of New Hampshire. Funding for the week-long course was provided through a federally funded grant. Laura and Richard joined 21 other math teachers from around the state to share best practices in algebra teaching. The course focused on using manipulatives including algebra tiles, hands on equations, a calculator-based ranger to help collect real world data to be graphed on calculators. TMS was also given $800 to buy manipulatives which will be used in math and science courses at TMS this year.

The Summer Getaway, one of The Meeting School's summer programs now in its sixth year, just concluded its two week presence on campus. The program, designed to provide a free vacation to people and their families in exchange for modest labor on the TMS farm, is coordinated by former TMS board member Zane Knoy. While here, participants cleaned up the grape arbor, liberated a pear tree from grape vines, and weeded raspberries, as well as shared time with faculty and enjoyed our lovely campus. To find out more about Summer Getaway, contact Zane Knoy at

Harvesting is in full swing on the farm - we've had former faculty member Craig Jensen providing invaluable help over the summer. Last week faculty and interns harvested hundreds of heads of garlic. We're currently harvesting cucumbers, peas, beans, and basil. Pesto or pickles, anyone?

Finally, on July 27 six piglets were born to the pig Sally, one of the recent additions to the TMS community.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Farm and Wilderness Girls Visit The Meeting School

From July 9 - 12, TMS hosted eleven 11 -12 year old girls and two counselors from Farm and Wilderness camp (

They were the first of three Farm and Wilderness groups we will host on campus this summer. The campers typically spend 3 - 4 days doing gardening projects as part of the camp's service component. Other camp activities include hiking, canoeing, and art projects.

Thanks to their visit, we have now reclaimed our squash and corn. The campers also picked apple droppings, inventoried the food supplies on campus, sampled the remaining strawberries, helped out with chores and got to view the milking process.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Bringing in the Harvest

Weeks of rain have given way to several days of sunshine, and The Meeting School harvest is in full swing.

To date, staff and interns have harvested and put up more than 50 lbs of spinach, 5 lbs edible pod peas, and 24 lbs of strawberries for the upcoming school year, and have taken 10 heads of lettuce to the local food pantry. Bruschetta, the School's milking cow, is producing approximately four gallons a day and the chickens are laying 1/2 dozen eggs a day.

Farm intern Joan Johnson has been busily picking potato bugs off of the potato plants; it took her almost ten hours to pluck them all off over the weekend and she will be feeding them to the ducks on campus.

We have also harvested scapes, which are part of the top of the garlic plant. Scapes can be used very much like the garlic root bulb.

Here are some garlic scape ideas:

  • Add sliced scapes to any stir fry recipe
  • Chop and add to softened cream cheese
  • Sprinkle on bruschetta (the food, not the cow) or pizza
  • Slice and sprinkle over any pasta or sauce recipe
  • Chop into guacamole and fresh salsa

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Meeting School featured in Monadnock Living

The Spring/Summer 2009 edition of the New Hampshire magazine Monadnock Living features an article about The Meeting School on p. 10.

Many thanks to Sheila Garrett for her help with the piece.

Here's the text, just in case you can't read the 1 point font in the image...

The Meeting School
Experiential Education At Its Best
by Jonathan Allen

For over 50 years, The Meeting School in Rindge, NH has been preparing teenagers for life beyond high school with a unique balance of traditional academic study and experiential education. Founded by Quakers in 1957, the school encourages its day and boarding students to live in a close-knit community that demonstrates simplicity, integrity and equality.

Much of the coursework is project-based and hands on. “Students learn with all their senses,” explains Sheila Garrett, member of the senior faculty. “They can focus on subjects that they are particularly drawn to, and therefore enjoy a deeper learning.” Grades are issued on a pass/fail basis, accompanied by detailed evaluations from teachers, thanks to small class sizes that rarely exceed 10 students. In addition to traditional college preparatory courses, students learn by working on the organic farm and preparing meals.

In March, students returned from Intersession (a month-long, off-campus educational project) with a rich mix of educational experiences. Five students who traveled to India had the opportu- nity to live with a Tibetan family, meet with former political prisoners, and attend an event led by his Holiness, the Dalai Lama. Other projects ranged from ecology work and research at Lake Champlain, to psychology research and kayak building in Vermont.

The Meeting School’s unique educational program attracts students from all over the country. Many go on to attend colleges such as Drew, Smith, Earlham, Warren Wilson, and the Universities of Massachusetts, Montana and Vermont. Alumni have pursued careers in finance, teaching, medicine, architecture and social sciences, as well as farming and the arts.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Junior Jack Langerman Revives TMS Nature Trail

Have you ever noticed the occasional dilapidated sign leaning sadly near a tree at TMS? Well, those signs were the remnants of our nature trail, which had fallen into disrepair. The long-forgotten nature trail has gotten a new face lift under the leadership of junior Jack Langerman, who decided to renovate the trail to satisfy the leadership requirement of his Boy Scout Eagle award.

Students, faculty and family members spent well over 150 man and woman-hours clearing the old trail, identifying trees and painting more than 56 signs. Some of Jack's former dorm mates from Putney School's G-Haus even joined in on the project!

Now community members and visitors will be able to tell a Black Locust from a High Bush Blueberry. All identifications were kindly confirmed by a former faculty member and retired forester. Look for the Trail Head behind the office where you'll find the trail map and a list of featured flora. Enjoy your walk!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Meeting School Graduation 2009

"You, who are on the road,
Must have a code that you can live by
And so, become yourself
Because the past is just a goodbye"
-Graham Nash

The Meeting School graduated five students this morning: Jack A. Stewart, Sarah "Faith" Margaret Jochum, Robert Roy Farmer, Burch Davis, and Luke Langdon Brown.

At about 10 am, after singing several songs together, the community settled into meeting for worship listening to the sounds of birds chirping and flying about in the rafters of the barn. One by one, friends and family stood to talk about the graduates, and the meaning of both the day and the role TMS has played in the graduates' lives.

The challenges students and faculty at TMS faced over the past year were acknowledged in several of the reflections and in the song selections.

"Sometimes, in our lives
We all have pain, we all have sorrow
But, if we are wise, we know that there is always tomorrow"
-Bill Withers

The themes of love and letting go were also prevalent. Faith's mother spoke of her daughter as "breaking the rules in a way to change the world." Luke's father meditated on a line from the graduation opening song by Dylan - "The Times They Are Changin' - "And don't criticize what you don't understand/Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command."

After meeting the minutes for each graduate were read. It was here that I, as a newcomer to the school community, felt the celebration and appreciation of these young people not just as students, but as whole human beings:

Jack, punk in plaid, his appreciation of Black Flag, and his love of simple pleasures and nature; Faith, her acceptance of others, and early to bed and rise, her love of social justice and homeopathy; Robert, his love of art, nature and philosophy; Birch (his minute was read as a rap and I didn't get it all) - something about potatoes, chillin' with Elijah, and guaranteed to fly wherever he lands; and Luke, with his logical mind, and encouragement to look inward to be great.

"There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and dark of night
And where you go, no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone"

Jack, Faith, Robert, Burch and Luke - congratulations on achieving this milestone, and we wish you well as you take your next steps in the world.

Today was experienced by different people in many different and very personal ways - we encourage you to post your thoughts and feelings (and pictures) about the day!