by The Rev. Kathy Boss, Chaplain
In Littleton, New Hampshire, right down the road from The White Mountain School, there is a quintessentially New England covered bridge, which spans the Ammonoosuc River. A few weeks ago, I stopped on that bridge to look out over the river and take in the beautiful winter scenery. Ice has taken over most of the river, but the water runs fast, and it has found many paths through, around, and over the ice. The water is crystal clear, and looking down into it you can see beautiful blooms of ice, smooth as summer clouds coating the bottom’s river rocks—rocks worn smooth by years of flowing mountain water.
Something caught my eye as I was looking out at this beautiful scene: movement on the water. It was a small duck swimming furiously upstream. There is no doubt that we, too, are in some icy rapids right now. Things feel like we are swimming upstream, to an unfamiliar place, no less. But this little duck was onto something.
It didn’t spend all of its time on the surface. Instead, it would frequently dive down and swim below the surface to the place where the ice was billowy and the water far more still. While it was under the water, I would lose track of it. When it popped back up, it was many meters further upriver. For several seconds the duck would swim on the surface almost playfully, skittering now and again with its feet across a rock just below the surface or hopping onto an ice flow for a quick preen before jumping back into the water and diving deep into that calm space below the rapids.
These times can feel like that rush of the river skimming around jagged ice flows, foaming as it tumbles over itself—so much to navigate, so much to fight against. It is especially hard for our young people as they also negotiate the transition from childhood to adulthood. This little duck who blessed my walk around Littleton beautifully illustrates the need to slow time and life down sometimes, to go deep.
The Exploratory Learning (EL) Courses we are offering at White Mountain this semester give students time to slow down to go deep for a little while before resurfacing. Their time outside on mountains, trails, even cliff faces, immerses them in a world with more organic, natural softer edges where they can lose themselves for a little while and resurface with more energy and lightness of being. This kind of deep time is critical to our well-being, especially now.
It is Lent in the Christian tradition. It is a time when we are asked to slow down to consider, to give up things that clutter and bustle in our lives, and take up compassion and contemplation, to remember the suffering and love of Jesus and the kinship of all human beings. Seasons like this, where we are asked to go deep, are a part of almost every religion, as are daily practices like prayer and meditation. They also create spaces for slowing down, for deeper time.
I invite you in this season of lengthening days, as the rapids and icy waters of COVID-19 stretch out before us to find ways to go deep, to find places where the water is calmer, the ice smoother. Before you know it, we will be up the river and ready to fly, and there will be a whole new world to greet.
Founded in 1886 and set in the beautiful White Mountains of northern New Hampshire, The White Mountain School is a gender-inclusive, college-preparatory boarding and day school for 140 students grades 9-12/PG. Our mission is to be a school of inquiry and engagement. Grounded in an Episcopal heritage, White Mountain prepares and inspires students to lead lives of curiosity, courage, and compassion.