In a short while school will resume for this area of Germany. For those young children beginning school there is the Schultütte which is a large paper cone usually flamboyantly decorated and containing all sorts of small gifts, and/or sweets for the new student. I was corrected by my own children that this ritual does not happen at the beginning of every year. What I was really thinking is that I might get a Schultütte myself once my integration classes resume.
The beginning of school is matched by the end of school – the Abitur. The ‘Abi’ as it is also known, is a difficult and challenging test which forces the student to recall years worth of material from their studies. The end is an often feted day for those who ‘graduate’. The rites and rituals of beginning and ending are important and the church can help bring meaning, celebration and liturgical presence to these special days. Yet it is in the ‘ordinary time’ between these big events that learning continues to take place.
There is some old nugget out there that says, “You learn something new everyday”, despite the converse approach that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. So what is it that I learned today in this ordinary time between beginnings and endings?
A few things, but one is: that mystery and story have an important place in the way we experience the world. During the lunch hour I put my phone away as I had been glued to it all morning with pastoral calls, planning sessions and emails. An hour to refresh and recuperate which I would do walking the path next to the river that cuts through town. After all, we are intentionally celebrating the ecumenical season of ‘Creationtide‘. To my surprise I found only a dried up riverbed with only small pools of water that held small but active fish.
This was not what I was expecting! However, this is (so I’ve been told) the norm. That in the hot dry months the river drys up and disappears. Despite this I did walk. I encountered a small forest glen with carved wooden figures of people, animals, and things out of fairytales. On my refreshing, yet dusty walk, I thought of the sweet German story of the Water Sprite. I had read it in English, but the tale, and the illustrations, set the mind thinking of mysterious things.
In playful thought, I wondered if now, of all times, I might get to see a water sprite’s home at the bottom of the dry river. It may sound silly, but not long ago in Germany, and in other areas, the tales of forest and water creatures were told to fascinated children (and adults) – think of the Brothers Grimm and the enduring tales.
There is certainly a place for the supernatural in our structures of reality. Think of the popularity of such books and movies as Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. Besides being entertaining tales of adventure, there are symbols, metaphors and mystery that speak deeply to us. For some, we need to re-learn our sense of adventure, creativity and mystery. Surely adults can recall a time, perhaps in the what they express as their prehistoric past, as a time when imagination ruled. Countless hours acting out made up stories, or watching yet again your small metal car ride roughshod over the dirt motorway that you have built around the base of a tree.
For the students soon to begin another school term remember that we never stop learning. To the rest of us who think we have done our time and have learned all we know: remember that we can also relearn, and re:create. Now, is that the river I hear, or is it just my imagination recalling the melody of a Water Sprite playing a flute song?