Pollen Swirls and Holding Community

by Amber Jensen

Ponderosa Pine pollen drifts and swirls in eddies around the parking lot. A few puddles of lingering spring choke beneath the buttery yellow film. It’s almost summer, but not quite. And with summer comes the big out-breath of summer break.

I imagine this year may feel almost choked back, like the tiny puddle, gasping for breaths of normalcy among the suffocating film of masks, regulations, and fear. It will come. It always does. It’s something I count on as the days grow warmer and the heat opens cones and early seed heads of delicate ephemerals.

School has been a blessing to our family this year, not online school, virtual school, or figure-it-out-from-home school. Our family is blessed to have discovered and rooted ourselves in a small school with a community that holds one another up and supports children’s growth in all aspects of development.

This last year has been a snapshot of possibility in the face of challenge and the hum of solace has come from the heart of this small school.

When we stumbled upon this education model, we were transitioning from traditional preschool to home school and then realized that wasn’t going to be a thing I felt comfortable doing. I remember swiping my debit card in the parking lot for the application fee because I had a sleeping little one in the backseat of my car.

From the first day dropping two little boys off, bundled up in layers and mittens, snow falling on lashes, we felt this style of education—Waldorf education—was a step toward the life we wanted to build with our children. It was rhythm. It was heart. It was a vibe for sure.

Now, four years later, we have all four children enrolled. I sit in a pollen-dusted parking lot, waiting for my masked children to file out and meet me. I sit in the pick-up line with parents who used to stand outside together and connect, parents who have built relationships and friendships. I watch teachers I admire, line up with my children, their children, our children—I fight back the eye mist and throat lump. I crave being with these humans. I miss them.

It’s more than a school. It’s a community, a root system of nourishment. Before this year of uncertainty, there was a small Waldorf-inspired school in Spokane. It felt like the kind of place I could get behind. Before there was this deep digging resolve to rise and meet the children where they are, adrift in a pandemic swirl of expectation, grief, and loss of what was their childhood—before all of that, this line of cars, the masks and sanitizing—there was a little school with a big heart.

As the cloud of yellow swirls around car tires and sticks to tiny masks and tangles in wind-swept hair, this school is the heart of so much hope in our family’s life.

Our kids have been through a year of school in the classrooms that hold them lovingly. They have weathered the storms of masking, careful cohorts, canceled play dates, social distancing, and they’ve thrived. The opportunity for in-person whole-child learning wasn’t available for every child at every school, and our school did what was said to be too difficult. They opened with such strict guidelines they lost half of their enrollment. They moved through spikes in case numbers and precautionary quarantining of a few classes. They pivoted fundraisers, festivals, and the entire modus operandi of the school community. They did it anyway.

As the school year winds to a close, there is no frantic homework or rigid deadlines of academic expectations. There’s no fear of this year or regret of not trying something difficult. There is rhythm, acceptance, compassion, and strength. There is a tone of triumph and exultant victory. We have weathered something together. We have stepped into uncertainty and created a new form of experience. We have grown together.

My heart has a little bit of peace in this swirl of pine pollen and uncertainty, knowing this school exists for the sole purpose of doing what is best for the children in their care.

The world stage can feel unsteady. The country, state, and local community space can feel unsafe. And when things shift under our feet, I am reminded of the power held in the micro-community—The churches, schools, clubs, and little bitty groups of support that wrap loving arms around their people and hold them together.

The swirl of hazy yellow opens up, and the warm spring sun promises to allow rain to tamp it down, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week. The promise whispers, children run toward cars, and masks are removed to reveal smiles.

Amber is a mother, wife, writer and dirt road philosopher. She hales from small town Idaho and makes her home on a spread of dirt in Eastern Washington with her husband and four wild children. She is dedicated to a life of contribution and finding the pieces of our journeys that connect us all in our greatness. Learn more at facebook.com/amberjjensenauthor.