Dog Fur and Muddy Boots: Reflections on Joy in a Time of Change

Dog Fur and Muddy Boots: Reflections on Joy in a Time of Change

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Dog Fur and Muddy Boots: Reflections on Joy in a Time of Change
April 29, 2021
I’ve been thinking a lot about joy lately. Fortunately, I’ve also been experiencing it. It’s spring in New Hampshire, after all, and it would be hard to step outside into the greening landscape, alive with bird and frog song, and not feel joy on these warm, fresh days. In fact, if there could possibly be such a thing, I might say I am overjoyed.
When I first arrived at Oliverian in 2006, I was completely taken with the place and its people. Set in a beautiful, pastoral valley, the school was staffed by brilliant, compassionate, adventurous and creative educators; I could not believe my good fortune to be welcomed into their ranks. Our students were brave, passionate, resilient, spirited. The work was hard and important – and joyful.
Joy is a deep and rich experience. Its light-hearted cousin, fun, feels a bit vapid by comparison. Joy contains notes of goodness, belonging, and meaning. It holds within it the memory of hardship or hard work or loss or absence, and that richness is the source of its power. At Oliverian, joy is gazing at the pile of wood you spent the last hour splitting. Joy is the art piece that expresses a student’s inner world. Joy is returning to the classroom after months of pandemic remote learning. Joy is rafting down a river with your entire school community. Joy is watching the students you love, whom you have nurtured through struggle and self-doubt, walk across the graduation stage.
Fifteen years in, and I am still taken by this place and its people. I remain humbled and awed by the opportunity to do purposeful and fulfilling work alongside truly wonderful people, in service to students so deserving of our love and care. As I step into the role of Interim Head of School and take on its new responsibilities – the balance sheets and budgets and Zoom committee meetings – I am fully committed to stewarding the zest for living that has always been at the core of this amazing little school. Time brings change to any healthy organization, but what remains unchanged reveals the heart of the thing. At Oliverian, that heart is made of compassion and optimism, fresh air and forests, dog fur and muddy boots, resilience, and courageous joy.

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