Living on the edge of other people’s reality is not an easy thing. Having a different perspective, one that I could not/can not always articulate for someone else’s mind set made it especially difficult for me in school. There is always another way to see something, another viewpoint from which to speak. The alternate viewpoint, this other way of seeing, is not an intellectual exercise. This is not opinion to be expressed as viewpoint. This is an actual way of viewing that alters the perspective. And, it’s hard to get those who have only the eyes in their heads (with which to see) to understand the greater cosmic viewpoint. It makes it hard to fit the feelings and thoughts in to a neat box for someone else to see. It forced me to have a lot of questions that went beyond the answers in the back of the teacher’s book. Teachers didn’t want to explore with me, and pushed me into silence. My eighth grade science teacher once slammed his teacher’s book shut and yelled across the room at me that I would be arguing that I wasn’t dead as they nailed my coffin shut. (Little did he know the actuality of his statement. I had already been shown that death is really another birthing of the spirit.) I simply was not able to get as finite as science and mathematics wanted me to be, or as finite as those who were teaching wanted me to be.
In eighth grade, the class took a New York State aptitude test and I scored perfectly on the logic/mechanical reasoning portion of it. It was easy for me because it was merely a matter of mentally turning images around, seeing them from every possible perspective, and then seeing which ones fit together. It was so unfathomable at the time that a girl could do that, that I was accused of cheating. To make matters worse, it showed I had a high aptitude for being an architect; girls didn’t grow up to be architects in the mid-1960’s. My teachers couldn’t reconcile the test score with what they saw in class. My math homework did not follow the regulated steps to achieving the answers, even though my answers were more often than not correct. They saw no logic in how I figured things out because it did not match the “normal” way of doing things. Instead of seeing the potential in this, and in me, I was written off by teachers and parents. In my mid-twenties, I took a course in conceptual math. I was thrilled to be finally given the permission to conceptualize the process of moving numbers around and get the correct answer. I felt supported—and vindicated—that I’d been doing it in a right way, even though it hadn’t fit in to the existing model with all its rules and boxes.
As I watched Kyle move through his schooling, I saw the same pattern in him. Right from the beginning his Montessori days were filled with finding his way of doing things. I believe that the sand and water tables were his favorite “works” not only because of his love of Nature, but also because they afforded him freedom that the other works did not. There wasn’t any big-to-small, left-to-right patterning for him to have to follow. While I know the reasoning behind this, it still was limiting to this particular child’s mind frame; he wanted to be able to have the time to look at things from all angles, to hold them, turn them, and experience them in all their detail.
When Kyle was in third grade, all the parents were invited to school to hear a presentation on Australia. The children were all sitting in a semi-circle, each with a large index card…except for Kyle. Immediately I began to fret for him, wondering why he had not done the assignment. I listened to each child, all the time feeling Kyle’s impending embarrassment when he would have to stand and announce that he didn’t have anything to say. His time came closer, and I was starting to feel a little angry that I hadn’t even heard about this assignment. Why didn’t he ask for help?
It was Kyle’s turn. I held my breath. Up he stood, and went in to a twelve-minute extemporaneous dissertation about the fauna of the Australian desert, complete with appropriate scientific terms and descriptions. He was incredible! And, his delivery was one of true knowledge and not merely reading from a card as the other children had done. The teacher had to ask him to stop because they were running out of time.
This was my first epiphany about how Kyle translates what he knows. He does not write things down. There seems to be too much information in his head for him to make it finite on a piece of paper. From that point on, my question to his teachers as they complained that he didn’t turn in homework was: Can you see that he understands the material by what he says and does in class? The answer has always been affirmative, usually with the comment that he adds a lot more to the subject than was taught in class. Unfortunately, knowing that Kyle truly understood the subject matter did not prevent his teachers from giving him failing grades because he didn’t write it down for them.
I see that pattern in myself. When I teach, I do not read from my notes. I know what I know, and let the spirit of the moment tell me what is important to share. I also see in my past where, based upon the social norm and its dictates, I tried to stop myself from seeking my own highest point. I always got in to some sort of bind because of it. It was this awareness of my own challenges that allowed me to heighten my vigilance with Kyle. By watching for the telltale signs of his frustration through holding back or not caring, I was able to help him move through the difficult places and find himself again. I learned from my childhood that a child needs support in order to be able to succeed, and have success with heart and spirit intact. Children need to be allowed to tell us what they know, to enlighten us about their experience of the learning, instead of being constantly told how and what to learn. Had I not had my intuition overridden by the politics of divorce, Kyle would have been home-schooled and allowed to learn and process his knowledge in the way that is best for him.
I was not able to have this kind of support myself. As I grew up, it was the whispers of my unseen teachers that encouraged me and kept me aware. They pointed out the places where my siblings suffered in spirit even though they were reaping rewards for fitting in to the dysfunctional model that was my family. I was shown the open wounds of my parents that did not allow them to see beyond what they knew. While I was outwardly disappointed and emotionally neglected, I still was given the support I needed from this other Source that connected with my inner knowing. It was my job to support Kyle’s inner knowing that drove his learning process.
We did not watch TV randomly when he was young. He watched Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, and Reading Rainbow. He would also watch video tapes of shows that came on later at night, like Nature. We also had video tapes of dance performances. He liked to watch the Native American Dance Theater, but his absolute favorite was the video of the Baryshnikov Nutcracker Suite. From the age of two until he was four or five, he watched that video every single day. It was his routine: lunch, Nutcracker, nap. He learned the dances so well that he would dance along, standing in front of the TV holding the poses with the characters.
Because the things a very young Kyle saw that were not in real-time were on video, it came as no surprise to me that Kyle started telling me about the “videos” he was seeing that did not emanate from the television. “Video” was his frame of reference for the things he saw but were not tangible. Instead of poo-poohing what he said, or ridiculing him for it (as had been done to me), I not only listened intently, I tried to connect and see what he was seeing. Sometimes I could, but not very often. I learned that these were his visions, not mine. My best place was as a witness and support to his process.
Going for a walk with him could sometimes turn out to be an extremely amazing adventure. He connected and absorbed it all. He was so fast, so completely immersed in what he saw and felt, it was hard to keep up with him. He was like a cosmic sponge, soaking up every detail. Weeks later he would refer to somewhere we had been and talk about something he had “seen.” There were more than a few times that he showed a lack of patience with me because I hadn’t seen it too, or I had forgotten that I’d seen it, or not seen it the same way he had. He would be adorably exasperated as he recounted it to me. The young child teaches the parent.
The summer before Kyle turned five, we took a car trip that was inspired by the thirst he had for being in nature. We had traveled to Seattle the previous summer, and on a side trip to Mt Ranier, he stood looking out at the mountain and exclaimed, “There’s a whole wide Mother Nature out there!” He asked me several times to walk with him away from everyone else and do a ceremony with him. The openness of his spirit and the connection he had to nature told me that I needed to show him all of it that I could. The two of us were on the road for ten weeks, covering 11,500 miles. We camped almost the entire time as we drove around the U.S. and the Province of Ontario. He kept a journal every day. I gave him a book where he drew a picture and wrote one sentence about one thing from the day’s travels. That was the mother-teacher in me having him create something that he would treasure later on. His remembrances of each day came in the form of rocks. Lots and lots of rocks. He had one very special rock from each day and each place that he found to be special. Well-schooled in doing ceremony, he would find the rock (or the rock found him); then, he would ask me for the cornmeal pouch, go to the rock and ask its permission, give some cornmeal, and take the rock. He was aware and honest. When he heard that he did not have permission, he would sprinkle cornmeal on the rock as a gift. Each rock has its energy and its meaning. Our garden, our house, and our 4Runner had these rocks placed strategically placed for beauty, for balance, for grounding and for memory.
Kyle was conceived, born, and brought up with ceremony. We attended pow-wows, drumming ceremonies, and gatherings together. Our favorite times were when Jaichima and Rutury would come to Napa for a drumming ceremony, and he was free to be in a completely safe and sacred space. I was proud to be able to stand back and watch him move through the room full of people. He was a little energy magnet, finding the most wonderful people in the room, those with the most open, calm, and receptive energy, and gravitating towards them. Sometimes, he would casually lean on someone as they were sitting, as he kept his focus on Jaichima. Entranced by the drumming and praying, he would find a safe perch and rest there. A couple of times, he actually crawled into the person’s lap. My gaze of questioning “Is that all right with you?” was met with the astonished look of someone who knew they had just received a blessing. He was amazing. He won the hearts of many, and the attention of all.
He knew where not to go as readily as he knew where it was safe for him to be. I watched as he would repel away from some people like two negative poles of a magnet repel each other. As he grew up, I knew I could trust this inner judgment of his. He has an amazing ability to make friends with wonderful people. He’s had a few encounters with less trustworthy types, and without fail, he has been considerate, but still moved away from friendship with them. Perhaps this would not be so if I had not allowed him his freedom to move around in the gatherings. I knew that I could always see him and would be able to sense his distress if he needed me. I trusted his ability to discern. He continues to show me that he will make wise choices for himself. Kyle has always been an extremely expansive and very often completely profound person and still does not react well to the limits school and society place upon him. What he learns now as an adult is that he can be stalemated only by the limits he places upon himself.
This is beautiful. I tried to raise my children similarly—listening to them and helping them to develop and grow in the ways that fit them as individuals. I’ve really enjoyed reading this. It’s the balm our planet needs and I wish all children could be rasied this way.