Once upon a time, a tender, new mom and her nine-month-old daughter stumbled upon The Community School of West Seattle. The school was just about to open in the coming months and this not only new mom, but idealistic, new Graduate of Education student, was in need of a job so this young family could buy banana’s, socks and other junk.

This mom packed her baby girl around on her back as she got ready for the new opening of this, once in a lifetime position, at literally (really no exaggeration here) the school of her dreams – the only place in the entire city she wanted to work and have her own child attend.

In this fairly recently married woman’s life, she had written her wedding vows that centered around a giant tree that was a metaphor of all of the strength of her and her husband’s lives together and the life of the new baby tucked secretly (really not so secretly because they told everyone they met) under her wedding dress (the couple had been together for six years already so no need to fret about the shot gun wedding part).

A few days before the beginning of the first days of school, the mom, the baby and the baby-daddy all gathered some paint and headed to the school. They had a plan. A tree to encircle the new classroom and the new family. As the mom and dad painted, the baby lolled on the floor, eating beads, wood chips, what-have-you.

As they began painting the woman stood against the wall and he began the outline of the tree around her body. Her torso became the trunk, her arms became the branches, her hair became the leaves. As they painted, the tree exploded to life, so much so that every time the woman walked into the room it literally (seriously did) took her very breath away. The tree became the symbol of the school, part of the school website and even on the very first business cards.

The tree even had it’s own song that the woman and the students sang to it each morning. “Here we sit under the circle tree, the circle tree, the circle tree. Here we sit under the circle tree so early in the morning, Jackson sits under the circle tree, Talin sits under the circle tree, Brigit sits under the circle tree so early in the morning” and on until everyone’s name was called – every single morning of the trees life.

The woman, her child and her students spent so many days under the tree, learning how to care for each other, how to fight for what they believe in and how to find the letters in their names. All of the children’s names and the photos of their families hung from the tree. The class of students became a family under the tree, one day at a time, one month at a time, one year at a time.

Two years later.

The woman becomes so enamored with her students that she plans to never ever leave the school but her students are growing and also not wanting to leave, so she sadly packs up her room but happily continues her journey moving into a new room with the promise that the tree will always stand. And happily the lovely and wonderful dance teacher takes over the room so that the children get to visit the tree whenever they return to dance class.

Two years later.

The lovely and wonderful dance teacher wants to create a classroom of her very own – the same privilage that every other teacher is allowed (including this one) and she wants desperately to paint her own classroom as she would like. She does not hold the same thoughts and feelings toward the tree as the woman who helped create it and doesn’t know the history that it has held for many of the students in the school.

The woman who helped create the tree is so sad but she understands (mostly) and tells her students the tree will come down and that they could write a note of goodbye to give to the tree if they wanted. But the students riot. The woman told them to do what they needed to do for themselves but that she could not help out of respect to the other teacher. Jackson, who loves the tree with all his heart because he holds all those same memories as the woman does, (shoots sparks out of his eyes,) rather says flatly, “no she’s not” and then precedes to state his case to the director and helps to initiate a class meeting with the dance teacher to explain how they feel about the tree.

The understanding dance teacher hears their cries, they also hear her ideas and are torn but ultimately they think the tree should live. Jackson said, “I could sing the circle tree song right now!” Zavier was torn and thought the dance teacher’s ideas were exciting but ultimately thought the tree too important to paint over. Anya saw the tree outside the window and thought the reflection of the tree inside to be magical. Asher said, I don’t know my left from my right but I know the difference between the tree and the windows when I’m dancing. Amalie cried.

The dance teacher, although really wanting to create her own space concedes to keep the tree up for one more year until the kids graduate from the school and move on. She tells them the news but they still are not okay with the idea of the tree coming down – ever. She is upset because she really wanted understanding with this compromise.

Then the dance teacher says if we feel so strongly we can have our room back if we want and without hesitation, the woman who helped create the tree and all the kids nearly scream with happiness, “OH YES PLEASE!” And the tree is saved. Never underestimate the power of five, six and seven year-olds. The woman is very happy. Not only because her beloved tree is saved but also because she has gotten to see first hand the power her students have and the role she has played in their lives. She helped to give them the tree and the strength to keep it standing. Her heart swells to bursting with pride.

Today.

The tree has been lovingly retouched to its original beauty and seems to have stretched its branches in anticipation of the coming home of its loved ones.

Tuesday, September 9th, the circle tree will be ready to greet you with love and the circle tree song.

Thank you Jackson. This woman, teacher, mama, friend, lover of art, history and trees is forever grateful for your courage and dedication to the preservation of our beloved tree.

The Totem Pole Dance and The Circle Tree

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