Friday, September 18, 2009


A Most Interesting Story

 A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

 Three minutes went by and a middle-aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule. A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk. A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

 The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

 In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

 No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

 Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

 This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

 One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

Source:  Weingarten, Gene.   "Pearls Before Breakfast."  The Washington Post.   8 April 2007   (p. W10).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Excursion- Birdsong Community Farm

Traveling east, then north out of Cullman, through the blinking yellow light that marks the town of Fairview, Al., down the hill and left before the bridge, and we came upon the home and farm of Joshua and Beth Haynes.  We turned into the drive and were greeted by a large hand-painted sign that welcomed Red Mountain Community School.


Joshua grew up farming this property with his parents, and he and Beth, who met at Wheaton College, decided to move back three years ago to experiment with organic and sustainable farming.  (You can read more about them at <>  

This was the first year that Joshua and Beth were growing and harvesting mushrooms, and because of our Head of School’s deep affection for all things “fungi”, we jumped at the chance to participate.  


The entire school walked down into the woods for a lesson in how several varieties of shiitake mushrooms are cultivated. We divided into teams to pitch in with the work. One group harvested a basket of ripe mushrooms and helped soak and stack a number of logs that had been implanted with spores. These will start producing in the next few weeks. The other group followed Beth up to the garden to pick a bucket of cherry tomatoes.  All of the day’s harvest was being readied for the Cullman Farmer’s Market this weekend.


Following a hay ride through the woods, we were introduced to over 100 “happy chickens”.  The Haynes lovingly tend these chickens who freely roam a three acre patch and generously provide large quantities of wonderful eggs for the farm to sell. We were invited to sow oats for the chickens in one of the pastures by grabbing handfuls of oat seed from a bucket and casting them all around.  The scattering was a chaotic and fun chore for the children and will provide plenty of food for the birds this fall.   

We are thankful to Joshua and Beth for a rich and full outdoor day.  Look for them on Saturdays at the Cullman Farmer’s Market.






Excursion- Exploring the Neighborhood

As you know, the school takes frequent excursions on fridays, and for the first jaunt this year they were determined to explore the new neighborhood.
There is a garden here called the Jones Valley Urban Farm. They have moved to a larger patch downtown now, but they started out on a half acre lot just off 23rd Street, and behind Alabama Art Supply. One of the school's parents runs Nomad Supply, just across from the now fallow abandoned garden. He is a very compassionate and generous man, and this summer he undertook bringing that lot back to life as a community garden. (The Southtown Urban Housing Community borders the lot, and he want the residents to have a place to put their hands in the dirt, and help grow and harvest organic produce.)
So, first stop on the excursion was an hour pulling weeds in the newly defined beds.
There was a complaint or two ("I would rather be doing math sheets!") because it is August and this is Alabama. But the majority dug right in. They are used to hands on exploration of the local geography. As often as not you will find the different classes outside, walking down the block or all the way downtown.
The next stop, after a long trek to the other side of Highland, was Rojo, the local latin/american watering hole. Rojo is packed 365 days a year because the food is great, it's inexpensive, and you can sit outside. But they had no trouble absorbing thirty something students for corn dogs and quesadillas.
Back down the avenue to the Highland Store where everybody got candy or an ice cream, then a slow stroll home to First Lutheran.
That, my friends, is a good day at school.

New School Year

We are off to a wonderful start to the 2009/2010 school year, and all settled in our new home at First Lutheran Church on Highland Ave.
This year on the blog, look for stories and pictures about life at Red Mountain Community School.