Travel #1: Student Journey – October 29- December 13, 1980

September 4, 2019

Meredith Kurtz created a traveling Waldorf school that her children and others could experience. Since her family was involved in filmmaking, they were often away from Highland Hall, their Waldorf school in Los Angeles. She felt that the opportunity to visit the places they were studying would provide a deep immersion. I was honored to be asked to design it and participate in it. Karen Mortensen and I developed the curriculum “Origins.” The first term was held at the Kurtz’s home in England where the students built their own desks, attended the theater, learned Morris dancing, and had outstanding Waldorf teachers, who were either living in England or were on sabbatical. I,  Julia Connor, and Karen  joined the second term which was the travel part of the course.

I had previously chaperoned a number of study trips, but this was a day-in and day-out school experience. The journey took us through Egypt, Israel, Greece, Italy, France, and back to England. I taught main lesson every morning in many interesting places including the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, a synagogue in Jerusalem, the Agora in Athens, in various museums in Italy, and in Chartres Cathedral. The students had a sketch book, a small watercolor paint set, and rather than taking photographs, they drew everywhere we went. They wrote essays and poems, and sang songs. It was a challenging experience with times of homesickness, cultural shock, and even illness. However, the faculty was committed to making this trip a powerful experience for the youngsters.

I also participated in the journal experience and cherish the sketches and poems I wrote. What was most important was that spending focused time observing what we were sketching gave us a connection to the subject in deep time. Creating poems helped to awaken our feelings and a relationship to images. I strongly urge others to try this experience. Granted, this was before cell phones, but it is still very valid. I share a few examples from my journal, not because they are of professional quality, but because they helped me relate to our journey in a more profound way.

After Visiting Paintings in the Vatican

Two hands reaching forth
Into the nothingness of the world’s beginning.
God created Adam
And Adam received the breath of life.
Michelangelo lived through his hands,
Holding the brush, the chisel, the stylus
In creation and in prayer.

The Christ holds heaven and earth
In balanced tension.
Right hand lifts the souls into ascending,
The left restrains the hell-bound ones.
A circular vortex of divine energy.

Raphael’s Christ balanced on the clouds
Hands aloft bearing the stigmata.
“I have arisen.”
Why do you argue about pittances?
I am the way, the path, the life.”

Plato points his forefinger to the world of ideas,
The heavenly world through which we pass
On our planetary journey – reality.
Think, Contemplate, Reach deep within.

But his companion Aristotle opens the world
To what is below, the earth, the senses.
Right hand stretches to cover the plane
Of what we see and touch and hear.

Raphael’s heart poured through his
Fingers into the sweet Madonna’s face
And loving embrace.

The one hand of Rodin- the All Hand
From which the substance struggled in
Turmoil to release the stuff of our inner form.
The touch of forming – not squashing
The breath of life,
Not releasing us as air- borne loftiness
But holding in the embrace of all embraces.
“I have made the world and it is Good.”

Betty K. Staley