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Plant A Cherry Tree During Michaelmas

 Once upon a time in a foreign land, there were well meaning parents who only wanted the best for their children. A neighbor had told them that a friend told her, who was told by her cousin, who knew from her relative, who in turn heard it said in the street during market day, that perhaps wearing cotton and planting cherry trees was the very best thing for children.

By foreign land I don't really mean Russia, this is an allegorical story of course. And my parents were/are awesome so the other similarities to the cherries, the cotton, and the freaky foreign land are purely coincidental and for illustrative purposes only... don't ask about the cat. I have no idea about the cat. I wasn't a cool kid ok?
 Indeed it wasn't just the best, it was what all smart and responsible parents did for their precious charges. So these parents got rid of and sold all their warm wool clothes, replacing everything with the much cheaper cotton. Then they dug up every well meaning plant and tree in their garden, leaving them to shrivel in the sun: the tomatoes, the squash, the apple, even the potato plant did not escape their well intentioned destruction. Their children thrived in their breezy cotton and snacking off the sugary sweet cherries through the summer until winter came howling in. But they had grown weak and wane by that time, living off only cherries and so the whole family shivered, coughed and sneezed their way through the long and hard winter months. When spring rolled around, the family wisely re-planted their garden with all the varieties of fruit and vegetable; traded in their useless cotton for wool, and vowed never ever to listen to such rubbish advice again. Unfortunately, these parents wanted so badly to be the very best parents they could be, and were so very afraid of "screwing up," like their neighbors that they lived in constant doubt and self-judgment. Their children grew up weak and hesitant, distrusting even the tiniest gesture towards them as criticism. Even more unfortunately, they were not the only children that were raised this way so eventually this foreign country faded into obscurity as the occupants faded into themselves out of fear and insecurity until the whole land was populated with nothing but misty shadows who when brushed up against by accident would whisper mournfully "I think I lived, but I can't be sure." The End

Doesn't parenting feel like a fairy tale sometimes? And not the sweet kind, but the kind where people get eaten or stolen away by grey wolves with red eyes, never to be seen or heard from again. The internet or social media often resembles the proverbial deep dark wood with all kinds of temptations and intriguing squirrel paths all too eager to lead one astray. A parenting technique that promises perfect children if you would just click on the link. A friend who just KNOWS that vaccines will give your child autism and will tell you in caps on a posting on your FB wall. A mother at the playground who proclaims vigorously on twitter, while ignoring her unhappy toddler on the swing, that there is no such thing as too much attention. Or the parent who circles anxiously around their child just waiting for the disaster to strike, not realizing that their well meaning actions are suffocating and distressing. 
How does one manage? How can we as parents or friends of parents see through the distracting morass which is all around to raise well intentioned and healthy children?
I guess we can't.
Not according to all the articles that seem force-fed to us and are geared solely towards wrecking  confidence and igniting fear.
I don't know about you, but I'm sick of fear. Killer viruses, ISIS, home grown terrorism, and then the ultimate low blows: our failing parental skills - our messed up children.
There are a lot of wolves in the woods.
So many wolves in fact that it's hard to see the patient beauty; the goodness just waiting for us.
What's wrong with us? Why are we fading into misty shadows of fear?
True, the horrors of the current world deserve our concern, but do they deserve our cowering fear?

At Nika's school a couple weeks ago they celebrated the festival of Michaelmas.
Here is quick write up about it:

"Michaelmas, traditionally celebrated on September 29, commemorates the deed of the Archangel Michael, who with his angels fought against the devil and the powers of darkness.  Michael hurled Lucifer down from heaven for his treachery and cast him into the earth. This saint is usually depicted with a shield and lance or fiery sword, gazing outwards while subduing the dragon underfoot. Sometimes he is shown holding a scale with which he weighs the souls of men.  
At this time of year daylight and darkness are in fact very close to their exact balance point.  While in spring we contemplated the resurrection of the physical body, now in fall we need a resurrection experience for the soul that acts as a counter force to autumnal decay in the world. Through our own efforts we must discover new inner resources which can help us grow towards life and light. 
Historically Michaelmas has long been a time of new beginnings. As an English Quarter Day it was the time when contracts were renewed between landlord and tenant, the time when hiring fairs were held. Many universities still begin their year at Michaelmas. Taking up a new task is a theme of the season and Michael’s task can become real for us when we try to take a new step on our inner journey and discover that we must battle with the hidden “dragon” in our own being. 
Michael beckons us to find the spirit to come alive through the dying year. Flashing meteor showers in the autumn are said to be the sword he wields for us; each falling star is made of iron – the iron we need to strengthen the resolution of the heart. Seed-thoughts of summer can be harvested now as deeds and find their place in the world among people, to generate a life of their own that goes on in the future. "

Drawn by Nika's second grade class.

The kids all take part in a play where they re-enact the slaying of a dragon and the saving of a princess (of course) and a village by a self-sacrificing warrior.
Sometimes the scales have to be shaken up to relieve the tension of a misbalance. Sometimes our souls have to be shaken up. Sometimes we need to go out on a limb for someone else and with that, comes something Nika's teacher described to me as a bit of "St. George-ness." A saint who also slew a dragon he embodies bravery, and so St. George-ness is what causes you to stand up a bit straighter, to take a deep breath, to open your eyes in concentration and focus, and then to act in purpose. Simply, it is courage.

And that is what is lacking in our society right now; it's missing in our social media news-feeds, in our parenting do's and dont's, it is missing in our interactions with each other.
Courage to slay the dragons.

We need to remember that sometimes that the wolves and dragons don't always look like wolves and dragons. Sometimes they look like Facebook and laundry, dirty dishes, and bills, seizures, and sicknesses. The dragons can even lurk inside our hearts breathing a steady stream of fire and dulling the shine of our iron courage.
Sometimes the dragons attack through our crumbling self-confidence as we desperately try to find the answers, the right ways, the tools to survive the attack, anything to help us get out of hard situations.
We see the dragons as self-help books, as yet another article proclaiming to solve all your problems in twelve steps, as self-pity and criticism of others.
And courage sometimes doesn't mean swinging a sword. Sometimes it means putting the sword down. Courage sometimes means getting up early every morning and packing school lunches, taking a deep breath and smiling when you might feel like crying (or sleeping, am I right?!) instead. Courage is being patient when it's the last thing we want to do.
Courage is trusting and believing that if even one lonely warrior, not that different from ourselves, can slay a dragon and save a whole village, so can we teach and raise our children not from internet shortcuts and hear-say, but by example from the iron courage in our own hearts.
Courage is taking those sweet "Seed-thoughts of summer," and keeping them, planting them, nourishing them through the deep dark nights until the light returns. And sometimes courage is also keeping the light and holding those precious seeds for those in this blight ridden world who can't do it  for themselves.
And perhaps, those seeds might be from cherry trees, who if not solely relied on for daily nutrition, really could be one of the best things. Especially if you can find a pair of cherries and drape them over your ear...for good luck purposes! (I think...or maybe because you haven't pierced your ears yet or it seemed like a good idea at the really doesn't matter, just do it.)


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