Giving Thanks

Dear Parents,

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! I know that many of you live in places that do not celebrate the U.S. version of Thanksgiving, but almost every culture has some ritual of giving thanks. Often it is connected to the harvest, but in every case it focuses the mind on what we have been given and whom we ought to remember. At Putney we have March of the Turkeys, our annual Thanksgiving feast, which no doubt your children have described to you. Our ritual includes each student being given a piece of string to tie on a wrist or an ankle; they must think about someone from their past to whom they owe thanks, and not take the string off until that has been accomplished.

Here in Vermont, Thanksgiving feels like the corner between fall and winter, and it’s likely that by the time students return from this break there will be snow on the ground. I have always been fascinated by the impact of architecture and landscape on the formation of community and group behavior (getting to design a boarding school in Thailand from scratch once was fascinating). Putney’s campus is a fundamentally different place in the winter, and the community behaves and feels differently as well. When there is snow on the ground the days are very bright, and the nights not very dark. Hoods are up and heads are down against the wind; people walk faster and don’t stop to talk on the path much. Places with stoves (the library, most common rooms, the faculty room) become gathering places more than they are in the warm months. The big wood fired oven in the KDU draws people like a magnet. Those who are downhill skiers live for Wednesdays and Sundays, while those who are nordic skiers get out most afternoons. There’s pick-up basketball in the field house almost all the time, it seems. Students here for their first winter sometime forget that spring will arrive, but it always has, so far . . .

Even if your child is not a winter sport enthusiast, it’s important for them to have winter-worthy play clothes. It’s no fun if you can’t go sledding or try skating on the puddle because you don’t have warm clothes – a good winter jacket, boots, hat, mittens, wool socks, some kind of ski or snow pants. These don’t need to be fancy or expensive, and layers are always good. If you live somewhere winter clothes don’t exist, or are not able to get what your child needs, please alert his or her advisor, and we’ll figure it out when they all get back from the break.

Gordon and I are on our way to Victoria, British Columbia to visit our daughter, so out of touch until next Monday. I hope that you are having a wonderful week.

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