"Thus, I propose that the middle of February remind CM admirers everywhere to prepare to celebrate "the science of relations" with One Hundred Days of Keeping -- notebooks that is." Laurie Bestvater
The Original Invitation: "We all know how an idea 'strikes,' 'seizes,' 'catches hold of,' 'impresses' us and at last, if it be big enough, 'possesses' us; in a word, behaves like an entity." Charlotte Mason
It started with my daily reading of a dearly loved collection of editorials by naturalist and New York times writer Hal Borland, Twelve Moons of the Year. In a piece called, "Whimsical February" he wrote:
"February probably will be capricious--it usually is; but there is excuse for that. February is the last full month of winter, (huzzah! -ed.) by the almanac at least, and the traditional battleground of warring weather systems. It begins with the absurdity of Groundhog Day, celebrates romance in mid-month, and includes an extra day every four years. February is the only month that still approximates the lunar month--one of man's earliest units of time--yet on occasion it passes without a full moon."
It got me thinking. Here in the Northeast, when a foot or foot and a half of snow can descend before the clock sees twelve twice, whimsical is not really the word. Maniacal maybe. It was in that "what good is February anyway?" mood that twenty or more robins swept magically into my trees during a snowstorm to make a party out of the leftover crabapples and bittersweet. How could my outlook not improve? They were clearly making the best of February. I got out my Book of Firsts and made a note. I noticed there had been just such a flock this week in 2014 and another the week before in 2010. "Somehow way leads onto way," and while surfing through "February" to try to track down what my "cheerily, cheerily" friends might be getting up to, keeping their calendar in this way, I happened upon a lovely post about 100 Days of School from one of the snowiest parts of my home country and mildly intrigued and certainly sympathetic read a little further to find that the one hundredth day of school is usually somewhere in the middle of February. AH...synchronicity, serendipity...call it what you will, the rest followed hard on the heels of this idea and a passage from Formation of Characterupon which I had been ruminating. I found out that not only is counting 100 days of school a thing, so is a 100 Days of Napoleonic campaign, and 100 Days of Real Food and 100 Days of a certain president...and then, I wandered into "The Great Discontent" (which sounded wonderfully like Charlotte Mason's "divine discontent" and Elle Luna's "100 Days Project" and was besotted.
That's the long version.
The short version is:
1. This is a riff on the 100 Days of Making promoted by Elle Luna. (I borrowed it. I think, ehem, making off with her idea is part of the plan, if not, I hope she will forgive me.) Thus, I propose that the middle of February remind CM admirers everywhere to prepare to celebrate "the science of relations" with One Hundred Days of Keeping (notebooks that is).
2. Like the original makers, we will also be more about process than about our beautiful products but to a purpose-- becoming better noticers as we focus on using one of the notebooks Charlotte Mason recommended for one hundred days.
3. One hundred is a nice round number but there is a prov.en.der method to this madness. Historically the Church observes the season of Lent for 40 days (which is really 46 if you don't count the Sundays which are not included because they represent "little Easters.") After the the reflective time of Lent comes Eastertide which is 50 Days of celebrating that we live, as Mason says, in a "redeemed world." If you are good at math, you'll see that leaves four days, (46 + 50 = 96) for settling into the next liturgical season, beginning with the high holiday of the coming of the Holy Spirit and all growth, Pentecost. Since Mason claims the Holy Spirit is the Supreme Educator of persons, and teaches us this slow and reflective way of noticing through the keeping of notebooks, it seemed natural to begin this experiment on the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, moving through our discipline to a renewed sense of wonder and admiration and growth in new directions in the first few days of Pentecost.
4. The rules are very simple. (I've restated the original project's parameters below). The rewards, I suspect will be very great. I am excited about your comments and hope we can share what we are discovering as we go. Part of the value of our practice is strengthening our understanding of how countercultural and life-changing Charlotte Mason's ideas are. Let's make the Mason community known for this middle of February whimsy as a way to invite others into her "unwalled university." In one fell swoop we can lead a delightful campaign in her direction, celebrate our very full and satisfying days in each Mason classroom, and count more (or less?) than our political, scholastic or meteorological woes.
As A.A. Milne sagely notes,
“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thing-ish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it."
I hope my February whimsy is not that kindof thing. I hope it is a very kind thing we can do for ourselves and each other. What do you say, can the world use more noticers?"
(with gratitude for the work of Michael Beirut, Elle Luna, & Emma Rogan)
Live with the quote above and Rembrandt’s Girl at Window for a few days just noting your attraction to the project.You may want to download a copy of the painting and keep it where you can see it. Copy the quotation by hand. Pray. When you are ready, commit to One Hundred Days. If you think it will help you stay accountable, record your commitment below writing, “I am keeping.” Or “I am keeping a nature journal” etc.
Choose your notebook. You will use just that one, putting aside other Mason notebooks or personal journals for the duration starting on Ash Wednesday and ending on the third day after Pentecost. Think about to how to make it easy to add to your notebook. Gather any supplies ahead of time.
Name your project if you like. Please feel free to invite others with the Rembrandt image and “One Hundred Days of Keeping” but please do encourage off-line means of keeping. It will be so much more fruitful; the project is designed for “by hand” noticing and to help us think about our thinking.
On Ash Wednesday, begin! You may also want to make it a weekly practice to narrate insights about the process of working with your notebook. There are some questions to get you started at the back of the book. (coming soon, ed.) I chose Wednesdays to jot a few notes -- not part of my notebook -- as having a specific time set aside made it more likely that I would do it. Note: If you find this project after the Ash Wednesday start you can still join in and just choose to finish later. Trying to catch up tends to mar the effect. Or designate your own One Hundred Days with a local study group – it doesn’t have to be a Lenten practice.
* Margaret Guenther, Holy Listening The Art of Spiritual Direction (Boston: Cowley Publications, 1998) thinks the similarity between “play” and “pray” are too great to pass by.