Friday, March 13, 2015

Distinguishing Imagination and the Fantastic

Dear Readers, While waiting for the next installment concerning the question of freedom and whether it can be created, which I'm working on and will post quite soon, please consider the following as a possible, pleasurable interlude.

Introduction: A Confession! During my year in the Waldorf Teacher Training Course at Highland Hall Waldorf School in 1961-62, I was asked, early in the year, before Christmas, like the other six students,  to create a first-grade story out of which a letter of the alphabet, a consonant, could  be introduced to the children. Consonants are to be derived from forms of objects in the outer world, but presented in an imaginative way, a way appropriate to the child's consciousness. So, flowers and animals can talk to each other, be friends or not, have adventures, grow and become old;  rocks and rivers can, of course, too. 

For my assignment I decided to create a story and verse to introduce the letter G.  Here is what I wrote. It was never presented to children, only to the assignment teacher and classmates. I will keep the result that followed from the presenting of it until after you've read it, if you will: 


Once upon a time there lived on a hill an old Grandmama,
Whose hair was gray and whose eyes were green,
Who'd ceased to grow, O a long time ago
And was in fact so small she could hardly be seen.

But one day in the month of May when the sun was high and bright
Grandmama started to grow again. My, it gave her a fright!
Anew she grew, right into the blue and the people gathered round
Pointing and gaping and holding their breath, not daring to make a sound.

Up and up and up she grew, higher than the trees
Bending over slightly in the midday breeze;
And when the sun, that day in May, passed through it highest points
Grandmama was stretched out so far all thought she'd surely crack her joints.

But then, as the sun began to set in a lovely glow
She slowly curved and began to descend to all the people below.
"Stand back! Stand back! Run for your lives," the people shouted with fear.
They ran for their homes, hid under their beds, as Grandmama came near.

Goodness gracious, O my golly, 'twas the day of Grandma's folly
As fast and faster she came down, casting her shadow upon the town
Until at last with a noise like thunder
She hit the earth -- GRUUUUUUUUMMMPPPHHH! -- and tore it asunder!

The valley shook, the houses groaned, and many a heart stood still
Wondering abut the Grandmama who lived upon the hill.
For a long time there was silence, in which no sound was heard,
Then slowly, very slowly, the gleaming moon appeared.

A door opened here and a door opened there and into the soft night's glowing
Came the grocer, the grinder, and the chimney-pot mender quietly tip-toeing.
Holding hands and holding breath they went down the road under cover,
While the villagers waited with beating hearts for what they might discover.

Tick-tock, tick tock, went the village clock as slowly passed the night,
And many a head was now nodding in spite of the terrible fright.
Then suddendly, dramatically, there appeared on the village green
The grocer, the grinder and the chimney-pot mender who told what they had seen.

"Oh, dear Grandma, she's still going down, down into the earth below,
Down through the darkness, ever down, where goblin's gold doth glow;
Down through the rocky canyons with all their glittering jewels,
Down through the graying granite and the bubbling, molten pools."

All the villagers spoke out at once of the urgent need
To bring Grandmama back to the light again with all the greatest speed.
But then the village wise man spoke out again quite loudly and quite plain
Saying "Do not worry, with the rising sun she'll pop up again."

"But what will happen then?" a voice was heard to cry.
"Will she keep on going, right back into the sky?"
The village wiseman spoke again and left them all astounded
By telling them what they must do to keep their grandma grounded.

"You must bake a big flat cake that's heavier than lead,
And when grandma comes forth again, pop it on her head."
At that moment a grumbling sound was heard from down below,
While over the eastern hilltops the morning sun did show.

All hurried off to the bakery as fast as they could run,
Hurriedly, hurriedly working to beat the morning sun.
Currents and raisons, eggs and bran, Water and figs went into the pan.
Hurriedly stirring they mixed in flour, racing against the morning hour.

The fires were burning and all was hot
As into the oven they popped the lot.
It quickly cooked and a hundred men
Drew it forth from the oven again.
Huffing and puffing they ran to the mound
That the up-swinging grandma made in the ground.

As the sun got higher, the mound got bigger and grumbling got lounder, too,
Until at last, with a terrible crash, grandma broke into view.

As she burst forth and saw the crowd
 She shouted out a a voice so loud,
"Save me! Save me! I'm almost dead"
 So quickly they popped the cake on her head.

Ah! The sun went up and there came more light
But grandmama stayed down, to the villagers' delight.
So there she is still on the village green
And if things haven't changed she can still there be seen.

The verse found its way to the College of Teachers of the school and though I was not privy to their discussions about it, they seemed to have decided something like, "if we can help him get this fantastic stuff under control during the training course, he might well make an acceptable teacher for next year's first grade." And the end of story? I was called into a meeting in which I was offered the position of the following year's new first grade--at a salary of $3,500.00 a year with a promise of a raise to $5,500.00 as soon as the first child in my most recent marriage came along. 

I sketched a picture for the letter G out of this verse, but would like to ask my readers to attempt a  drawing of it themselves from the above.  And any Waldorf teachers reading here who would like to share the " unfantastic" letter G's  they used in their classrooms are warmly invited to respond. Many, I'm sure, would like to see them

(Dear Readers, please note that the key to this verse being termed fantastic lies in what is written above where it says "consonants are to be drawn from forms of objects in the outer world." Comments welcome.)

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