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Embrace Separation, Return to Whole

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In my last post I talked about how for some people writing is a necessity, as much so as eating or breathing. I also mentioned the impasse my life seemed to be at with regard to writing and sustenance. A few nights ago I had several puzzling dreams. As I talked them over with my wife I realized they were indeed pointing me in a direction.

A Jewish mystic once said, “Every dream unexamined is a letter from God unopened.” Now I realize that the word God is problematic for many people, including myself, but let’s move on. For me, dreams are letters from somewhere gloriously mysterious, and I just have to leave it at that. I do pay attention to them.

The dreams, in their own symbolic fashion, were pointing at my educational experience and telling me to enlarge on it with my writing. Several times I have contemplated writing about my teaching experience, but I never have been able to get a handle on how to approach it. Suddenly ideas began to enlarge in my mind and I could feel the nature and shape of the book. My writing is guided by both a symbolic vision of the book and the feel of what I am doing. The writing doesn’t yield to outlines and strict reportage. Though I mainly write nonfiction, the writing guides itself and reveals itself as if I were writing fiction.

I have begun to dive into this new project and I believe that it is a commercially viable piece of writing. Education is a hot topic. Many people write opinions about it, but how many can say they’ve actually taught within a school that works, a school where kids would rather go to class than stay home sick? So I’m going to write about it in my own inimitable style and see what happens. My hope is that a quality independent publisher with integrity like Beacon Press picks it up. Beacon Press was founded by the Unitarians, and the school was housed by the Unitarian Society here for the first ten years of the school’s existence. Having the spiritual companionship of Emerson and Thoreau would be nice.

Because this is going to be a large undertaking, I will have little time for random posts. Instead my posts will mainly comprise excerpts from what I’m working on. That said, here are the first introductory pages of what I call The Heart of the Wheel. You read it here first.


Two crows hop around in the neighbor’s Chinese elm tree. Both crows are of nearly equal size, but from their actions I can tell that one is an adult and the other a juvenile. The adult holds a bright orange-red morsel in its mouth and tries to evade the desperate maneuverings of the juvenile to grab it away. The juvenile loudly squawks in protest.

I’ve watched these birds for several months as they fly to either our Chinese elm tree or the neighbor’s. I’ve watched the juvenile as it has grown from a bird nearly incapable of flight to a bird virtually indistinguishable physically from an adult. The juvenile would sit in the tree by itself as the adults went off to forage. When either of the adults returned, the juvenile would set up a near deafening racket in a demand to be fed. The adult would come over and force regurgitated food down the youngster’s throat accompanied by the loud gurgling, gagging sounds of juvenile pleasure of demands being met.

Now the situation is different. It’s time for the juvenile to learn to fend for itself and the adult is choosing to ignore all the racket and protest. The protest is so loud and grating that I momentarily think of throwing a stick at the juvenile, but instead continue to watch the drama. The adult flies to another limb and the juvenile follows, demanding its entitlement of food. The adult vainly looks for a moment of peace to tackle the orange-red morsel.

We are seated in a circle with my daughter’s five seventh grade teachers. She is actually my stepdaughter, but my daughter nonetheless. In addition to her mother, her biological father is also present to hear what the teachers have to say. This is a yearly November ritual for the new school that she now attends.

We had enrolled our daughter in this new school to begin a gentle process of separation, to allow her to begin to stand on her own and gain confidence. We were also confident that the teachers at this school would draw her out into the world, would provide a guidance that would enlarge upon what we had already provided.

As the teachers finished the go around, I found tears coming to my eyes. They had seen the girl so clearly and at such depth. I suddenly found tears for myself. How different might my life have been if I had been seen so clearly and so deeply as a flailing junior high student?

I looked around me. There were also tears in her mother’s eyes and her father’s eyes. We were all sincerely proud of her accomplishments, but all of us were also reminded of something that had eluded us a long time ago. Even if we couldn’t identify what it was, the sense of that something was now mysteriously palpable.

I didn’t realize at the moment that in a year I would become part of this ritual, that I would be sitting on the other side of the circle in the teacher’s seat, watching the tears flow down the faces of hundreds more parents, watching their faces register the patterns of their own remembered losses.

“Why wasn’t there a place like this for me?”

The other crow parent soon arrives. After a few minutes of the unbearable clamor, the new arrival quickly disgorges a bit of food to the maw of the noisemaker. There are momentary gagging, gurgling sounds, and then there is silence. Blessed silence. The first adult returns to its bright prize. The lesson goes on.

Crow says, “Embrace separation, return to whole.”

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About John Spivey

  • John…

    brilliant, as always…

    thank you for sharing the Beginnings here for all of us to Enjoy… i’m looking forward to reading more as it goes on

    once again, you clearly show the delineation between a real Writer and those of us who just type

    all the Best for you and yours


  • Chantal, Clavos-

    Thank you both for your support.


    Use my email link sometime and tell me if there was anything in that book for you.

  • Clavos

    Beautifully and evocatively written, John.

    I look forward to more of The Heart Of The Wheel.


  • John, this excerpt is brilliant, and leaves me wanting more. Your writing style is as enlightening as your content. I’m looking forward to more with great anticipation.

    True vision fulfilled is a beautiful thing. Like you, I feel I am slowly on my way.