Can we be deliberate about the stories that shape our worldviews? Can we consciously chose to be the authors of our own stories? And if so, then can those stories enhance our ability to frame our connections to the land and each other? What role does our rural campus have within the running internal narratives of the people both young and old who are connected to the Lake Country community? Can the stories of the Land School help us to place ourselves within a dramatic narrative that involves the essential questions of our age?
As I understand it, our reality is shaped by the stories that we imagine ourselves to inhabit. There is an interior narrative structure to our experience of life, and that interior narrative is as much a creator of experience as it is created from the outside by experience. We think in stories and dream in stories. We are drawn to stories and we base our interpretations of politics and social life on the stories we have internalized. We quickly identify with the protagonist in film and books and vicariously live his or her narrative. My own pulse quickens to the words "Once upon a time" or to the little jingle that precedes the presentation of a movie on HBO.
Part of my own interior narrative attaches to the underdog. For instance, I'll begin to view a random college sports event on TV and my unconscious mind will affiliate with the smaller school that is ranked lower. Now I have a team I can root for and the game can be viewed through the framework of my own personal narrative. Even when my preferred team is playing and they are the favorite, I unconsciously imagine that they are the underdog, fighting against insurmountable odds. If reality does not fit narrative, then the narrative must be right. Many of us are prisoners of an inadequate narrative, but for others the internal story functions as a positive rudder to keep us sailing in the right direction. What is my story, and how am I the hero?
What does this have to do with the Land School? I think it may be time to deliberately recognize our rural campus as a sort of "mythological landscape"akin to Winnie the Pooh's hundred-acre-wood. Then we can construct (or simply record) a series of stories that reinforce the values inherent in the experiment we are engaged in at the Land School. It is amazing how the mythological landscape of the rural campus is already functioning at Lake Country School. There are class traditions related to specific places and activities. The Land School animals are beloved and appreciated. The Land School staff can become characters in the stories of children for weeks after an experience at the rural campus. To some children my full name is "Farmer Andy." The contributions that children make to the work of the Land School are justly magnified in their retrospective stories.
I am aware that to be a character in the LCS community's collective story of the land is a great and important responsibility. Now I would like to invite you, gentle blog reader, to join me in the jump from being a character in an unplanned story to become co-authors in the deliberate construction of a narrative mosaic. I believe the best way to do this is to create (and/or record) the stories of activities and places that already exist at our rural campus. However, rather than a simple reporting of activities, I believe what is called for is a dramatic telling of the heroic actions of realistic protagonists. Within the stories we could and should embed the value structure that we consciously and unconsciously believe in. Our stories will be about agricultural, social and environmental stewardship attached to a framework of Montessori pedagogy. They are about the belief in the nobility of humans and the possibilities for community and progress when human potential is allowed to develop in the appropriate environment.
While I speak of a mythological landscape, I don't mean that we should be creating myths. I think we are best served by stories that occur to potentially real people/animals in real places. While we should remember that sometimes it is easier to encapsulate truth within a fictional story than an exact retelling of events, we still need to be vigilant to not create fanciful magical stories that do not advance the coherent narrative of the Land School. When I think of developing mythological landscape I return to my own important mythological landscapes. While I was growing up, my family had a lake property in northern Minnesota that we visited every summer. I knew that place intimately and I loved it thoroughly. My grandparents and cousins were players in my own internal narrative, rooted in that specific place. Even now, years later, I will sometimes wake up from a dream and realize that it was set at our cabin. My environmental and work ethic was formed in relation to that specific place and now those stories reverberate in new settings. This is what I believe that the Land School can be. A specific place to form environmental, moral, work, social and agricultural values in the form of stories.