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Recently my mother was asked by the Director of Alumni Relations of North Branch School to write a paragraph about how the school in Afton has shaped our family. North Branch is a small alternative school (grades K-8) in Afton Virginia, but much has changed since I went through their ranks, more than 17 years ago…
About these changes, let me start by saying that I was apart of the school when it was still getting situated and stable. There were two people in my graduating class… Yeah, me and a female student. So the school has definitely grown and continued to attract great local teachers and students.
One of my most fond memories, believe it or not, is of being in the sixth grade and of tracking the stock market. This is an example of NBS’ dynamic mixture of life skills and academic subject matter. We were given a fake $1000 to “spend” in the stock market. In case you have not noticed, this was a part of math class. I recall that I was one of the few people who more than doubled my money by the end of the project! What fun! Of course, I may have only enjoyed it because I was making so much money… But nonetheless, it was a great learning experience.
I also recall running through the pine forests on the NBS land, playing various kids games such as capture the flag. Nature was an integral part of the curriculum at NBS, whether we were working to create the nature trail running behind the school, or gardening, or starting sprouts to later put in the garden, I was glad to be so in touch with the Earth.
And of course, who could mention NBS, having attended, and not think about their annual winter solstice play, “St. George and the Dragon.” In this play, the characters and plot mirror the dying year, and the bright Sun within St. George must die and then be reborn, reflecting the longest day of the year (which of course was later adopted by Christians to reflect the resurrection of Jesus, but let’s not get into that right now!). While I was attending NBS, I was a shy, reserved, and fun-loving child. I never wanted to be in the spot-light, so my parts in the annual play were always minor or peripheral. I think my culminating-eigth-grade-roll was Father Christmas, a beer and cheer loving character who acts as a narrator of sorts.
Anyway, I got to step into the limelight as it were, when, fifteen years after I had graduated, Charlotte, the Founder and Director of NBS, asked me to take part in the alumni version of the play. And I got to play the role of my childhood dreams – nope, I did not want to be the pure and chivalrous St. George, rather I wanted to get my hands dirty and to play with inner shadowy material. I chose the Dragon! What fun too. That alumni production was apparently a huge success, because when adults do the performance, we seem to bring a lot of feisty innuendo to the characters which middle schoolers are not capable of expressing.
I’d love to see the video of that performance, because while I was changing into my glittery-scales and shiny-claws, and not to mention the enormous Dragon head, I missed what was perhaps the best part of the performance – the two headed Giant who sounded like he was from deep within the Appalachian roots of West Virginia. The Giant of course is the first foe of St. George, before he must rescue a maiden from the terrifying dragon. Our Giant that year brought many waves of rolling laughter through the crowd.
Little did anyone know, but earlier in the day before the performance, I had been apart of a rare meditation group which was focusing on a very potent practice that particular day. (This group is no longer in existence btw.) Therefore, when the Dragon came out, he / I was breathing fire and ready to eat human flesh, preferably a virgin maiden; I was embodying it, feeling it in my core. Hopefully I did not scare too many audience members, but I suspect that was one of the most visceral Dragon-performances yet (and NBS is about to have its 30th anniversary). While the Giant elicited laughter, the Dragon elicited huge cheers when (he finally allowed) St. George (to) put him down. This performance was very cathartic for me, as I got to publicly express that shadowy material and I think many people were surprised when, at the end, all the alumni performers bowed, and there was a tall-grown-up-version-of-timid Kirby, in the Dragon suit… How incredible 🙂
My mom knew that I might have a little something to add to this aforementioned request, so she told me to send her my thoughts on how NBS shaped my life. For some reason, a muse was within reach and I hastily wrote this poem:
Earthy tones and lyrical notes descend,
Autumny Mother Dolly enters,
When fond memories of NBS opened,
Chummy Father X Mas sans antlers,
Piney boughs ‘n mistletoe too,
Lordly St. George appears anew,
Magical Rockfish, rolling hills we view,
Fiery Dragon, yummy yummy stew,
Rest down in nature’s embrace, allow vitality,
Blundering Doctor, knavely and boastful,
Offer your gifts, connect to community,
Chuckling Fools laughter, eternal revival.
North Branch School has a great blog at: http://www.north-branch-school.org/
I hope you enjoyed reading. Thank you for visiting!