We still have two weeks of school remaining before our year ends, but our 3-5 class got an early start on summer and held its year-end picnic yesterday afternoon. Luna's family lives in a neighborhood with its own beach access. We've been coming here for the past several years with both her and her older sister Aria acting as our hosts. There is a large, grassy picnic area with playground equipment and a shelter, separated from the beach and Puget Sound, as are all the beaches along this part of the coastline, by a well-traveled railroad track.
This will be our last time coming to this place together as a community since Luna is ready to move on to kindergarten.
We're sending twelve children from our 3-5 class off to new schools next fall. All of them have been coming to Woodland Park for 3 years, although in many cases they, like Luna, have been part of our community for longer than that, having tagged along with their older siblings until they were old enough to make the classroom their own. And while they'll always be part of Woodland Park, six families are saying their final goodbyes this summer.
After eating, a group of us crossed the tracks and fanned out over the beach . . .
. . . our large, tight, robust community suddenly appearing small and scattered. Some of us stayed behind in the picnic area, others chose to play in the high and dry sand near where the trains passed . . .
. . . while the largest contingent wanted to stick our toes into the cold waters of Elliott Bay . . .
. . . and play in the wet sand.
It's an odd event for me. I'm used to being responsible, at least tacitly in charge of things, working to draw everyone together, deciding what songs we'll sing and calling out, "C'mon everybody!" But here in the vastness of beach, sound, sky and mountains, that's not my role. Coming to this beach with our community, I'm always made aware of how much each of us must ultimately stand alone in this world, even as we are all together.
It's the connections we have, the experiences, the love we share with the other people that ultimately makes it possible to stand courageously and joyfully in the world as individuals. Without our families, our friends and our community, the vastness would dwarf us, swallow us up, cause us to despair. It is only through the other people that we can become ourselves.
This is the time of year when we disperse as a community, fanning out into the world like we did over the beach yesterday.
Some of us will take what we we've learned together, carry it off into the larger world, and use it to connect with new people, making new friends, building a new, larger community, one that better serves the people we are becoming.
The rest of us will reconvene next September, older, wiser, reconstituted and refreshed by the advent of new friends and their families, still the same community, those who have moved on still with us, but new as well, different, a stone soup made from what each of us bring to throw in the pot.
I shared hugs and kind words with several parents yesterday, and even said a few goodbyes. We've been part of one another's lives for a long time, but there were no tears because we still have two weeks left of school.