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  • Blow upon the dandelion
    Let the seeds fly in the wind
    So we hold
    So we fly
    So we grow again

    My first day as the future principal of the Pretoria campus was a total disaster. It was the end-of-the-year performance of the school play. The first ever school play and the end of the campus’s first year in existence. All 14 kids were in the cast and their parents barely took up one row of seats along the side wall of the tiny multi-purpose room. I was there to introduce myself as the new Pretoria campus coordinator and to tell them that there would be a 100% turnover in staff for the next school year. Claire and I brought lunch for the school with us. We’d spent hours making huge sub sandwiches, loaded like Philly hoagies, pans of moist and chewy brownies, drinks, chips the works. We were out to win the hearts and minds of the little community through their stomachs.

    As soon as I made the announcement the dream of a happy cohesive community was shattered. There were 10 families in the school at the time from 7 different countries. After the briefest silence as my words sunk in, the parents began talking in all their individual languages, loudly. Hands waved, they got out of their seats and morphed into an angry buzzing swarm. Any semblance of decorum and order was gone.

    14 years later the school has over 230 students from over 60 different countries and we are in our second year at a new and expanding campus. My little school is all growed up.

    And now it is time for me to leave. A time of transition, a season of change. The community is already turning to candidate screenings and visits. I am a ghost in my old haunts.

    The last season of such dramatic and drastic change was back when we left the island. Carly was just three and we were leaving our dream of an organic farm and self-sufficiency on a tiny, remote island. Carly and Claire went on ahead to Philadelphia to set up a new life while I finished out the old one. That fall and early winter were dark and intensely bittersweet. As I closed up the house and put the farm to rest I felt a curtain closing on a chapter of my life.

    On a dull grey November day, as I left the island, boat loaded to the rails, I ran aground on the bar between the islands and had to wait for the incoming tide to float me free. It was as though the island were reluctant to give me up.

    The kids know now. The school is like the fishing village near the island, suddenly everybody knows.
    They come up and ask why I’m going away and when I’m leaving.
    Some are relived that they will leave before me.

    I say something vague and professional about change and growing and moving on.
    They aren’t listening by then anyways.
    Their parents squint through my smokescreen but are too polite to speak the questions in their eyes.

    The truth is harder to say, harder to be, harder to contain. I find myself crying over a scene in the park or reading a story like 14 Cows for America, or watching the Caine’s Arcade video.

    We’ve song the good-bye song at the last two assemblies for kids who are leaving and I can manage about 4 words before I choke up completely.

    We hate to say good-bye to you
    Good-bye to you our friend

    It is a long and desperately bittersweet season, an on-going good-bye until the tide will lift me and I’ll cross the bar and know that I’ll never return and that a piece of me has been left behind. I am leaving and only realizing slowly, some new loss each day, and still no clear sense of what I am moving toward.
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