the journey home


David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you

Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,

And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,

Must ask permission to know it and be known.

The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,

I have made this place around you.

If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.

No two trees are the same to Raven.

No two branches are the same to Wren.

If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,

You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows

Where you are. You must let it find you.

I have been home two and a half weeks now. My time, for now, in New Zealand carrying out my Fulbright came to an end. It all felt like a whirlwind of an ending. We had celebrations in June. I presented my project in about 20 minutes to my fellow Fulbright teachers and other supporters. I packed up and went on a final New Zealand road trip with my good friend Nicole. I flew off disappearing for a while in Fiji with another good friend Alejandra. I came back to Wellington for about 24 hours to say goodbye. I stepped on a plane taking me in the direction home. I landed in Portland feeling a slight daze ever since. My friends and family have welcomed me home in beautiful ways. Lots of moments catching up. Time moves on without you. I feel like the last year of my life has been a dream I am just now waking up from. I emailed my final report and reflection to the Fulbright folks. Yet, I have so much I am still processing, still want to write and share. First let me say, this blog isn’t ending because I am home. It will continue, because the journey continues. I welcome any of you who want to keep following me on that journey.

The inevitable questions: What did you learn? How was your experience? What was your biggest epiphany? I attempt to answer, but I feel like I fail to express the depth and broad way New Zealand and what I learned there how it impacted my own life and hopefully journey as an educator. Below are my slides from my brief presentation that may help paint the bigger picture.

Yesterday, I was listening to Krista Tippett’s On Being recent interview with, Jonathan Rowson. “[He] has studied the brain, philosophy, economics, and education, and he directed the Social Brain Centre at the Royal Society of Arts. And he is co-founder and director of Perspectiva — a research organization in London that examines the relationship, as he says, between systems, souls, and society.” I was struck by the conversation and the depth of examination into systems, souls, and society.

Rowson shared: “Well, I mean — where do I start? I think, with the question of hope, I think it’s incumbent on anyone who would define their work as being in some sense about changing the world — and that can be quite a hubristic notion, of course — but anyone who is trying to fashion better forms of living, they need some working theory of hope. And I like the definition of Roberto Unger, as well, which is that hope is the ‘visionary anticipation of a direction.’ So it’s not just so much about thinking things will be better, but actually seeing a place that’s worth going to and orienting your will towards that. So when I quite recently created a new organization called Perspectiva, and the purpose of the organization, in some ways, is to paint a vision of the future and a pathway of getting there that does instill a certain amount of hope. And I think the only way we’re going to do that is if we get better at linking together what we call ‘systems, souls, and society’ — so, complex systems, including the economy and politics and all that, the totality of our inner worlds, and then, how we talk to each other and how we live together. And I think, if we can get better and more nimble and more generous about how we move between those worlds, then the chance of creating a hope that makes sense for all of us is all the greater.” (I recommend the whole interview.)

Hope is something I come back to over and over again. At another point in the Tippett/Rowson interview she quotes a definition of hope by Vaclav Havel. “Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. It is an orientation of the spirit and orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more propitious the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper the hope is. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

As I transition back to my role as “life-coach for children” also known as a restorative practice school leader, I find myself encouraged by Havel’s definition of hope. The weekly Intro to Restorative Justice course I took while in New Zealand at Victoria University filled my spirit full of hope. Week after week we unpacked the social movement that restorative justice, restorative practices, a restorative approach, a focus on relationships (whatever term you want to use) has grown into and how it continues blossoming. It filled me with hope. I know this is just the beginning. I know there will be obstacles, push back, and messiness along the way. But I also know, thanks to the Fulbright and those using a restorative approach in New Zealand and their willingness to share with me their stories, that another way is possible. I will personally keep working towards that possibility because it makes sense. It values the individual’s humanity and our inherent need for each other. I will also continue to share those words and stories of inspiration that were told to me while in New Zealand. I know they will inspire me in the years to come.

I will leave you with the beginning of The Bone People a New Zealand novel by Keri Hulme. I am reading it now and feel like I saved it for the right time, a transition from one land to another.

2 thoughts on “the journey home

  1. I love your writing. It reminds me of WG Sebald, the way you transition from poetry, to prose and photography. Each one of them is done with great nuance and they’re interesting to follow. Together it feels like a really successful Tetris game (a rarity, right). Would you be interested in a guest post swap?


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