By: Diane Kashin, Ed. D, RECE.
I feel like I lived a year in a month. In my last blog post, I revealed that I spent last year battling breast cancer and have stepped into 2020 as a survivor. I left for a holiday with my husband 10 days after my last radiation treatment. We watched the sun set on 2019 in Islamorada, a village encompassing 6 of the Florida Keys. A few days later we arrived in Key West, a place that we have been returning to year after year. We love the Conch Republic, a place close to perfect but far from normal. We love the history, the weather, the food, the music, the ambience and the sunsets. Every night I felt safe to watch the sunset from our balcony that overlooked the ocean and the famous Mallory Square. Without my wig covering my near bald head, I would revel in the magnificence of the scene with the people, the performers and the pelicans. Most of all the sunsets took my breath away.
During the day I would put my wig and a hat on to go out for a walk around the beautiful island that is Key West. We would come back to the pool and I would hide in a cabana behind a curtain without my hat and without a wig. One week back from the sunshine state, I decided to pack the wig away even though I had two workshops scheduled in Chatham, Ontario – a place I love to visit because the early learning community there has always been so welcoming and wonderful. I was hopeful that I would be accepted, and I could look beyond the image in the mirror and let go of my vanity and inhibition. In fact, hope is my word for 2020. The experience exceeded my expectations and I am so grateful for the kindness extended to me during my time in this lovely little town in southwestern Ontario. I have been especially moved by the personal stories shared with me because I addressed my short hair upfront. Throughout, I was supported by my daughter, my role model, my inspiration who unfortunately, experienced breast cancer three years ago. As she says, it is not often that a daughter has a major life experience before the mother. She told me that I already have a platform to inspire others, that being my brain. Now I could inspire with my strength as well. I don’t always feel so smart or strong, but I know now I made the right decision. It is not just the lovely comments and the warm hugs offered in Chatham it is the kindness extended to me after my last blog post. This gives me such hope for myself, the early learning community everywhere and for early childhood educators who are the salt of the earth. I thank everyone for sharing their words for 2020. I have put them into a word cloud. The larger font indicates the word was shared multiple times. The words give hope, direction and voice.
When I was writing, 2020 Visioning in Early Learning: My One Word for the Year, I wanted to create a graphic with my chosen word … hope. I looked through my photos and picked a sunrise, not a sunset. Sunrises are so hopeful, indicating a new day filled with new possibilities. Every day, I can see the sunrise over the beautiful Oak Ridges Moraine from my living room window. I don’t have to travel far to recognize a new day filled with hope.
I love when my thoughts have a soundtrack and for this blog post, the song in my head is one that brings back memories of my childhood. Sunrise, Sunset, from the musical Fiddler on the Roof, was my father’s favourite.
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears
While Key West, is far away, I am grateful for my little cottage in Grand Bend, Ontario. Another place known for magnificent sunsets. This past summer, I missed so many of those sunsets because I was so sick. In 2020, I am looking forward to many summer nights, on the beach, watching the sunset with friends and family. Every sunset is different signalling the end of the day and the dawn of a new one filled with much potential.
With every sunset I am grateful. Sunrises fill me with hope. This past week, I had the extreme good fortune to experience a sunrise on the Land by a fire at the Lake St. George Early Years Bush Centre. Visioning for the York Region Nature Collaborative in this way was very profound and meaningful. I am hopeful for the work that we will be doing across four seasons. Our winter offering, Land as Our First Teacher: Exploring Relationships Between Indigenous Storytelling and Pedagogical Documentation on February 15th, 2020 is just around the corner and there are still tickets available. We will once again be offering, Land as Our First Teacher: Establishing and Maintaining Relationships in the spring, on April 26th, 2020. Then in the summer, the Rhythm of Learning in Nature will be back at Lake St. George, a wonderful place to experience both the sunrise and the sunset. Proceeds from all of our events go towards the Land as Our First Teacher Educational Fund designed to make conservation lands accessible to urban Indigenous children and their families by helping with transportation costs, honorariums for Elders and Knowledge Keepers, and other material costs that support Land based Indigenous Education. I am hopeful and grateful for every sunrise and sunset as I move forward in a good way. I thank all the readers of this blog and especially those who took the time to share their chosen words for 2020. I wish for you all a year full of sunrises and sunsets.