Rogue’s Roost: Paradise In The Wilderness, Part 2.

“There was a trail down each side of the river, and, at the upper end of the Roost complex, there was a swinging bridge across the river…  The bridge was supported by approximately 5/8 inch steel cables, which in turn were supported by large wooden timbers at each end and anchored to large fir trees.  The sides of the bridge consisted of wire fencing approximately two 2x12s about two inches apart.

A short distance downstream from the bridge were the tennis and croquet courts, then the main lodge.  The main lodge included a large kitchen area with a separate dining room for the servants along with two bedrooms and a bath for the Chinese cooks.  The main dining room was long and narrow with a fireplace in the middle of one side, built-in buffets on each side of the swinging door into the kitchen, and a very large, long dining table, which was placed down the center of the room.  From the dining room, there were steps down into the screen-enclosed “summer” dining room, which was a delightful spot furnished with bright-colored canvas chairs and a rustic handmade table.  The screens reached from the eaves to within about two feet of the floor and continued around two sides of the room.

From the summer dining room there was a door into the living room and another door leading to the deck over the edge of the river.  There was a large fireplace on the deck directly opposite the huge fireplace in the living room.  The fireplace in the living room was large enough for an adult to walk into and consumed huge logs, many of which were purchased from my Dad(Gus), who cut wood in the wintertime when there was not too much farm work to do…

The deck over the river was a delightful spot.  There was a large alder tree around which the deck had been constructed, and built-in seats on either side of the fireplace, which I guess would be approximately 15×45′.  There were cracks between the decking boards and , in typical ten-year-old fashion, I used to to like to lie face down in the spring sunshine and peer through the cracks at the water rushing below…

In the area of the Roost…, the river was wild and especially beautiful with many excellent fly-fishing riffles and deep holes.  I remember one particularly interesting spot directly down from the swimming pool area.  There was a huge boulder the size of a small house on the edge of the river.  The water was deep and dark and there was a whirlpool near the big rock.  It was fascinating to watch sticks and leaves being sucked down into the center of the whirlpool …

I have many happy memories of the hours spent curled-up in one of the big leather chairs with a good book, a stack of records on the phonograph and a cozy fire in the fireplace.  It was a fairy-tale sort of place for a financially poor little girl who was actually living in the lap of such luxury…”  –Evelyn Ditsworth Walls

Although,  Rogue’s Roost no longer exists(it was washed away in the ’64 flood), it left indelible memories.  For me, it represents childhood in its most ethereal form.

I remember Mom turning our station wagon down the gravel road, which dropped sharply to the river.  I can still see the lush vegetation on either side of the road, the narrow bridge crossing the irrigation ditch and the ineffable beauty of the surroundings.

I remember the feeling of remoteness and seclusion.  And I always felt a sense of awe when we arrived at the entrance.

I recall walking on the deck and looking out at the rushing river below.  When I looked at all the boulders which stretched across the river, I couldn’t understand how a boat could go through.

My clearest memory, though, is walking the path from Rogue’s Roost through a garden to come out on a clearing to the roaring sound of the Rogue River.  There was a small beach from where you could watch the river plunge over moss-strewn boulders and pour over a large drop-off amidst a series of huge, volcanic boulders.

Rogue’s Roost will always remain a part of my most magical and mysterious childhood memories.  And from time to time it beckons, calling me to an untroubled world where the doors to this kingdom open once again, and the river flows by undisturbed.

Remembering Mikhail Krasovitsky: Vasilii Sukhomlinsky: The Ukrainian Teacher, Part 1.

Mikhail Krasovitsky was the former Director of  the Institute for Advanced Teacher Training in the Ukraine.  He was also a member of the Advisory Board of Medford Education International, and a participant in the Educational Reform Symposium.  A man of considerable learning, and a vibrant personality, he was a supporter of Ukrainian educator, Anton Makarenko, who worked with troubled teenagers that were displaced by the Russian Civil War of 1917 and World War I.  Makarenko’s  Pedagogical Poem(with a nod to Dante), delineates his struggles with local authorities and his would-be delinquents and how his adolescents become responsible human beings.  He does not shy away from depicting life as he sees it, not refraining from coarse terms, corporal punishment,  class warfare and the like.  The book makes for compelling if disturbing reading today.  But Mikhail was also intrigued by the personality and teaching approach of Vasilii Sukhomlinsky, perhaps the greatest poet of all the famous educators.  Sukhomlinsky recognizes the enormous impact nature has on a child’s developing mind.  In the following article, Mikhail gives a moving and informative tribute to this outstanding teacher.  Parenthetical comments are mine.

He died in 1970 at the peak of his creative powers.(He died from shrapnel he received while fighting in the war.  The doctors were amazed he had lived as long as he had, so great was the internal damage surrounding his heart.)  He was a teacher and school director(principal) in the village of Pavlysh located in the Ukrainian steppes.

He wrote more than 600 books and articles(more than 30 books, and the rest were articles) in which he described his pedagogical experience and illustrated all the difficulties and fine points of a teacher’s work.  His best books include:  The Birth of the Citizen(This is debatable.  It reflects Krasovitsky’s attachment to some of the Communist ideals.), I Give My Heart to Children(A fine book that is also marred by numerous references to evil imperialists and an idealizing of Communist principles.), 100 Suggestions for a TeacherConversations with a Young Director, and How to Educate a Real Person.(The use of the word “real” is unfortunate.  Back issues of Soviet Life make extensive use of it to portray the ideal Communist future.  Socialist realism, the accepted literary style under the Communist regime, uses it as a sine qua non.)

Sukhomlinsky tried to discover the unique personality of each child, to understand his/her internal world, and on that basis alone establish relations with him.  He wrote: “…  There is not a single pedagogical norm, there is not one truth, which can be applied in one way to all children.(This statement shows him to be at odds with many educators of his time, who treated children like machines that required the same mechanisms to make them run.)…  To educate a person–one must first know the person’s soul, see and feel his/her individual world.”

He believed in the beautiful world of childhood.  To one teacher who was beginning to be exasperated by children, Sukhomlinsky responded in this way:  “There is nothing in a child that requires a teacher to be brutal(At that time corporal punishment in school was common as it was in the U.S. and elsewhere.  Children were not considered as fully developed human beings, a major principle of Polish educator, Janusz Korczak.), and if vices or flaws arise in a child’s soul, then those evils will be overcome best of all by kindness…  I abominate nagging suspiciousness of children.   I abominate the formalistic regimentation of demands and prohibitions.

Sukhomlinsky thought the most important element of a humanistic education was the ability of a teacher to expereience the world of childhood, to see the world with the eyes of a child.  He wrote:  “The child’s world is a special one.  Children live by their own notions of good and evil.  They have their own criteria of beauty.  They even have their own way of measuring time:  in a child’s world a day is like a year and a year–eternity.(For more on this topic, see Jean Piaget’s, The Child’s Conception of Time, and Kornei Chukovskij’s, From Two to Five.)  In order to enter into this fairy tale palace whose name is childhood, you must be reincarnated, become to a certain extent a child.  Only under such circumstances will you be able to exert a benevolent authority over the child.

The area of the Pavlysh school is located in a unique site.  Here Vasili Sukhomlinsky created “a school under the blue sky, which became the most important factor in the educational development of his students.

The pride of the school was its garden:  pear and apple trees looked in the “green classes” from all sides.  In one of the corners of the schoolyard the children planted grape vines;  in other places there were green glades, flower beds with roses, chrysanthemums, tulips.  There was also a little corner for dreams(a gully behind the school), an island of wonder where under the green tree tops children made up and told fairy tales.  There were even little groves of trees in the schoolyard.  The parents had built the children a greenhouse, so that the school cafeteria would always serve vegetables.  All this was a marvelous aid in helping the children study, dream, create fairy tales, listen to the music of nature.

In the Pavlysh school there was a tradition:  the little ones planted trees in the spring, apples and grapes for their mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and grandfathers.  Then they brought their relatives the fruit grown by their own hands.

Vasili Sukhomlinsky taught little children to feel and understand another person’s spiritual state, to empathize with him/her.  Not far from the school there were women working on a sugar beet plantation.   Sukhomlinsky taught the children to look into their faces, and try to feel and understand what each was feeling–untrammeled peace or the dark cloud of grief.

In order to teach children compassion, sensitivity, and sincerity, Sukhomlinsky wrote the text Thoughts About a Person.  These are short stories, which were intended to arouse feelings of charity and compassion in his students.  Here are some themes in the conversational tales:  Why are there tears in the grandmother’s and grandfather’s eyes/  Think about how your actions might affect another person’s feelings.

In real life situations Sukhomlinsky taught his students sensitivity, charity, genuine humanity.  On the outskirts of the village lived a girl Natalka.  From early childhood she had been very ill, and could no longer walk.  Natalka’s whole world consisted of a green courtyard, an apple tree, two beehives, a well, storks on the shed, the dog Palma and rabbits.  Doctors took care of her, but did not promise to cure her.  The children and the teachers came to her assistance.  They planted many flowers in the courtyard.  The teachers came to her house, and taught Natalka to read and draw.  They brought her to school for the holidays.  In two years she was back on her feet.  The doctors said it was not only medicine, but joy that cured her.

Vasilij Sukhomlinskij accepts flowers at graduation.

Vasilii Sukhomlinsky accepts flowers at graduation.

A Pool Of Memories

My Grandma Lillian’s swimming pool provided a treasure of childhood memories.  Since my family lived next door to her, summer visits to the pool were frequent.  I recall the flashes of brown and green as fins dropped to the bottom.  Later, these fins served as bats when we played pool baseball.  If you hit the rubber ball over the diving board, you were given a home run.  Any ball hit on the side was ruled a foul ball.  To throw a swimmer out, you needed to hit the designated base before the swimmer.  In those halcyon days, energy didn’t seem to be a factor.  And when we did get tired, we were usually rewarded with hot dogs, and paper cups of cold, sparkling lemonade.

The right side of the pool displayed a jacuzzi-like effect, because that’s where the recycled water shot into the pool.  I remember water spurting all over my skin.  The left side of the pool provided another attraction:  the filter.  I remember Dad dropping in a colorful display of liquids, and the flushing sound as the filter went about it’s business.  I also recall Dad holding a large jug of chlorine, which later burned our eyes and got into our lungs.

When our basset hound, Peter, was around, we’d take him into the pool area, because his brother, Adam, lived on the other side of the wire fence.  It was amusing to see the dogs approach each other and look into each other’s deep, doleful eyes.  The bassets continued to meet until Adam was poisoned.  Peter looked for him, but never found him.

A jump in the pool was just the thing to dispel thoughts of ringed atolls, complex numbers, and future exams.  These thoughts washed way in frolicsome play.  Water became the main focus and doing laps via crawl or frog kicks was just the thing.  And lying flat on your back or grabbing some object to float on was the order of the day.  Time was never thought of, but  was present nonetheless.  High school, which seemed like a distant vision, had become only too real as well as college, which was approaching.  Soon, unbeknownst to me, the gates to Grandma Lillian’s pool would never admit me again.  And when the gates would open, they would belong to another family, building their own pool of memories.