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December 2020

Happy New Year!

We hope that folks have all enjoyed a rejuvenating holiday break and are ready to get back into the weekly rhythm of RTS. I'm delighted to state that we will be returning to campus this week. I anticipate that your kids will be happy to reconnect as well.

While collectively we recognize that 2020 has come to an end and 2021 is just beginning, at Rock Tree Sky we are only just nearing the half way point of our year together.

Each year at Rock Tree Sky, I notice how the time spent together that follows the winter break tends to be more peaceful as learners have become accustomed to being in community together and bonds have become deeper. There is a beautiful growth to be witnessed during this season that we are stepping into at Rock Tree Sky. Both amongst the learners and their relationships, and the earth as she begins to be watered and new life fruits. I'm very much looking forward to these next several months of being together.

That being said, we entering the month of January with some heightened awareness relative to the recent spike in COVID cases in Southern California. We will be striving for 100% outside activities and with the rainy season (hopefully) upon us, we recognize all day outdoors will be very challenging. We are requesting that families that are not reliant on RTS for childcare consider staying at home on rainy days. Additionally, for the time being, Miss Kim will not be joining us on campus and will instead be facilitating offerings via Zoom from Tuesdays through Fridays in addition to her regular Monday offerings. All learners will be welcome to tune into the offerings with Kim and those learners assigned to Kim's bands will be absorbed into bands facilitated by other mentors.

We thank you all for understanding that during these times we must be adaptable and resilient and most of all trust that the hard times will not last forever.

During the remainder of this letter you will find photographs and reflections from the month of December and a parent education piece about resilience.

As always be well and stay curious,

With love from the RTS Staff

Looking Towards January:

Monday January 18: No Zoom Offerings in observance of MLK Day

Reflecting on December:

Is it just me, or does December feel like a year ago?

During the month of December, the learners at RTS had all sorts of fun.

With the support of Miss Kim, learners enjoyed creating holiday wreaths, crafting "snow" people, and making cards for senior citizens.

Kids engaged in a variety of textile arts throughout the month. They experimented with creating garments, sewing hats, making and flying kites, and more.

A particularly windy day inspired the building of a cardboard fort on the playground.

And the relentless sunshine provided beautiful days for exploring the wildlife and enjoying the expanse of the lower field.

A special delivery mulch pile from farmer Kelly turned into a great opportunity to experience the exothermic reaction (heat given off) of decomposing wood chips. We measured temperature of up to 148 degrees Fahrenheit.

A volcano was constructed in the loose parts sand pit and it was later erupted by a strong surge of “lava” from the hose.

In the garden learners helped to plant strawberries, fava beans, and more.

And on the stage kids enjoyed making songs with the eclectic keyboard and and participating in drum circles with our collection of percussion instruments.

We are so excited to see what experiences January has in store!

Parent Education: Resiliency

Just as I was preparing to sit down at my desk and write this piece, a hanging lamp came crashing down onto my open laptop, damaging the screen to an unusable degree.

This was an easily avoidable mistake, it was an accident that was also one hundred percent my fault. You see, I had just set the 2020 MacBook Air (a very recent and very expensive purchase) open on my desk and made the impulsive decision to stand on my spinning desk chair (not advisable), screw a hook into the ceiling over my desk, and hang a lamp there. I could see that the lamp was too heavy to be supported by the size of hook that I used, I anticipated the lamp crashing down, yet I let myself believe that maybe it would be fine. Then I plugged the lamp into the nearest outlet. When the bulb did not light up I fiddled with the exposed wires (not advisable). There was a spark, there was a crash. I shrugged my shoulders, unplugged the cord, and set the lamp aside. I turned on the light switch for the overhead light fixture. Then I sat down at my desk and moved my finger over the track pad of my Mac. Instead of coming to life, the computer's screen displayed white web like cracks and some neon vertical lines. Oh F***. The lamp had crash landed on the computer creating internal damage to the display. Oh F***.

As I took the next few moments to process the damage done and the mistake that I made a wash of calm focus came over me as I remembered that I had intended to spend the afternoon writing a piece about resiliency. How ironic that I would be tested to practice my own resiliency in the process.

The truth is, I have found myself in similar situations countless times. Situations where I act impulsively, ignore my intuition, focus only on the best possible outcome without pausing to consider what could possibly go wrong. I make a lot of stupid and avoidable mistakes. And yet, here I am still showing up and taking risks in this life.

Resiliency, according to Dr's. Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, co-authors of The Yes Brain (2018), is the capacity to shift from reactivity to receptivity and come back to balance.

As Siegel and Payne Bryson write, "A child [or grownup] who is reactive is at the mercy of her surroundings; all she can do is react. Receptivity, though, allows her to observe and asses the input from her surroundings, then be proactive in how she responds. She can choose her response and act intentionally, rather than automatically reacting without a conscious decision on her part" (Siegel and Payne Bryson, 2018).

In the instance of the broken laptop, I was receptive to the situation. Other than uttering a quiet explicative, I did not react, I responded. I purchased Apple Care and called Apple Support. I calmly folded laundry while I was on the phone with the advisor. I made a plan to send out the laptop to have it repaired. I calculated the estimated time until my computer would be returned to me and accepted that it is what it is. I am now borrowing my fiancé's computer to write this piece.

I do not feel down on myself, guilty, or ashamed. I felt a bit disappointed in myself but mostly, I felt balanced. I felt able to move on.

Building this resilience has been a lifetime of work, and I still don't always respond so well to challenges. For instance if I am overtired or under fed I am more likely to meltdown. But today I was feeling centered and able to manage myself through this inconvenient and frustrating adversity.

But as I reflect on my life, especially my life in the past ten months, I have noticed a pattern of increased resilience. In the Yes Brain, co-authors Siegal and Payne Bryson write about the window of tolerance which is the term they use to describe the capacity that one has to regulate emotions when faced with stress. Siegal and Payne Bryson also write about the Nervous System Zones. They label nervous system responses of freeze-or-faint, a shutting down of the nervous system, as the Blue Zone. On the other end of the spectrum is an elevated nervous system explosive reaction that they label the Red Zone. In the middle, the place of peace and balance, is the Green Zone, the zone we all strive for. In the Yes Brain they write, "Part of widening the window of tolerance is allowing kids to face adversity, to feel disappointment and other negative emotions, and even to fail. That's how we expand their green zone: by lovingly teaching them that they can live with and then move through frustration and failure, coming out stronger and wiser on the other side" (2018).

Now, the initial inspiration behind writing this piece about resiliency was the musings that I have been contemplating about how COVID-19 may be positively effecting our children with developing the skills to be resilient. Since March our kids have been collectively faced with so many disappointments and frustrations that are completely outside of anyone's control. Disappointments and frustrations that are, from the perspective of a kid, confusing, unfair, and at times seemingly senseless.

And yet, when I witness children at Rock Tree Sky I see an impressive capacity for delight and creativity. I hear expressions of gratitude for simply being here. And I can't help but presume that living through the ups and downs of this pandemic is allowing this generation of young people to develop strength in resilience. They are learning first hand that lots of situations can be difficult, and circumstances are often out of our control. They are learning that it is okay to be disappointed, it is okay to feel all sorts of feelings. And I have witnessed that they are also learning that being stuck on disappointment, sadness, anxiety, what have you, does not resolve the problem. It is much more advantageous to point focus at what there is to be grateful for and try to find the fun.

That being said, as we learned from my anecdote about the lamp and the laptop, it is also prudent to assess situations for possible risks before acting impulsively. Meaning that when we do have control over something it is best practice to manage that responsibility to the best of our ability. But when things do come crashing down on us we cannot be too hard on ourselves. If we get stuck on disappoint, anxiety, and the like, we will be unable to move past the mistake and try again differently. Mistakes, whether they are inside of our out of our control, do happen to the best of us and it is resilience that allows us to move on.

Thanks for reading.



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