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The Poetic Pause of a "Fire" in School and Homelife
  • Beauty
  • Formation
  • Prayer
Tricia LaRocca

Autumn is my favorite time of year for many reasons. Candles, sweaters, blankets, warm soup, cool breezes, and pumpkin spice bread set the tone for comfort and gratitude. As a teacher, fall is also my favorite season for its exceptionally beautiful songs and poems. Yet there is one more experience that autumn provides: the magical welcoming back of a bonfire or fireplace. Oh, this, this is it! Autumn fires are the best, most perfect part of the season for me.

If you were to meander near the Early Childhood wing on a typical day, you would hear voices rhyming, chanting, singing, and reciting. For pre-kindergarten students, the season of autumn infuses Circle Time with joyful poems, verses, and songs. Beloved favorites include The Lantern Song, The Knight, and, most recently, Autumn Fires by Robert Louis Stevenson. Together, we recite the first stanza of this poem while pretending to roast marshmallows and soak in the warmth of a bonfire. As we pause for Selah, I remind the children to watch the flames with their imaginations, hearing soft crackling, feeling the warmth. A candle or two often assists our imagination, electricity off to draw each eye to the flame’s light.

Poetry in Early Childhood is magical. The engagement of imagination helps language acquisition to take deep root; there is no better preparation toward literacy development than the rhythmic beauty of language and verse. This is the most natural and comforting way to learn. And fall, I find, provides the most savory season to soak it in.

I was sweetly reminded of the poem Autumn Fires when my family recently lit our home’s fireplace during Fall Break. We invited back the flames and the power this fireplace holds. I found myself still, observing the flames’ movement as I’ve often done before, when I glanced over and saw my children, themselves lost in awe of the flames, with the warmth and quiet sounds. It reminded me how important life's pauses are.

The Power of the Pause” is a term I learned years ago in the exceptional book Simplicity Parenting. Author Kim John Payne speaks to the importance of stillness, of pausing and simply being. He writes that a sentence wouldn’t be a sentence without the inclusion of period or comma. A piece of music wouldn’t be music without the low and high notes, as well as the rests. I know we agree that stillness is valuable to us and our children, and that we must carve out time for intentional pauses during the hustle and bustle of ordinary life. When we embrace rest, we ponder, we wonder, and our stillness allows us to hear the Lord speaking.

Staring into the fireplace in that moment, I became aware of how much more I need stillness in my life – of how important this time is to simply receive the flames and my children’s presence, to embrace deeply the warmth and love from the flames of the Holy Spirit. Oh, how He loves us and wants to just be with us.

May this abundantly beautiful time of year fill you and your family with time to be still together, to pause and embrace the gifts that are in front of us.  As we pause during our poetry time in Pre-K at school, and also during our daily rest, may we all be reminded to bring Selah into our home lives, more and more.

Where is your pause place, the “fireplace” in your home? When and where can you simply pause for a few minutes? Join me in this great endeavor for ourselves, especially this holiday season. We deserve it, and our children will be watching.