November's This, That & Other

St John Academy

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

~ G.K. Chesterton

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November Greetings II

November 20, 2018

I hope this note finds you well and preparing to enjoy a great Thanksgiving feast with family and friends (and some of you--with deep fried turkeys!).

No matter the year (or school), I often hear from the mouths of many educators: "We made it to Thanksgiving!" Indeed, here we are!

Time and a school year have their own kind of fits and dizzy spells, this past week featured a fit of winter (a joyful "dizzy" day for many), a kindergarten feast, and a lovely day with grandparents--filled with beautiful songs, singing, and a profound sense of family.

As a school and educational community we seek to be persons who can truly celebrate a feast--with fun, festivity, and meaning. All feasts call for gratitude and a gathering of family and community--this feast calls for it by name. It also draws our eyes (and maybe ears) to focus on the history and founding of our country.

It seems simple to answer a call to give thanks, especially when surrounded by loved ones--and so many good things to eat! But, it can be easy to forget that we're not just giving thanks to some abstraction--the clouds or the earth or some vague collective sense of history, or simply recalling reasons to be grateful. We give thanks to persons, and a Person. And our own call or expression of gratitude is perhaps better when not simply a one-way expression or made with ear muffs--it may be better as a conversation.

I can't help but think that woven in that kind of conversation is a loving and demanding call to remember who we are--as persons and as a culture--the best, the most true of who are and might be, and the gifts we are called to give--despite past failures or successes. Perhaps there are also notes or intimations calling for a more daring faith and more daring dreams.

A story that comes to mind when thinking of these things (which may something about the books I read) is from the children's book The Carrot Seed. It tells a story of a young boy who planted carrot seeds, diligently watered them even though they were underground and unseen, and trusted a carrot would come up from that mysterious dark of the earth--despite the continual expressed doubts of older wiser ones: "It will never come up." It did come up--much grander than just any carrot.

Below you'll find little gifts and things from various American artists who set their talents and efforts to help us remember, purify, and continue to make the American story--including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, NC Wyeth, and a quiet masterful cartoonist (and his Charlie Brown!)

Happy Thanksgiving!


Jeffrey P. Presberg


Saint John Academy

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What's Up...Next Week and so


Dec. 4 - Open Coffee with Headmaster

Dec. 7 - Picture Retakes

11:30 DISMISSAL for P/T Conferences

Dec. 14 -Christmas Concert

10:00 a.m. Grades PS - 2

7:00 p.m. Grades 3-8

Report Cards: Report cards will go home with students on Friday, December 7th. 2018.

Parent/Teacher Conferences: We will have an 11:30 dismissal on December 7th for Parent/Teacher Conferences. A sign-up genius will be available to parents next week. If you find that all slots are full when you try so sign-up for your teacher(s), please email the teacher to find a mutually agreeable conference time. An email will be sent to all parents in grades K-8 on Monday with instructions for Parent/Teacher Conferences.

Please join us for the annual St John Academy Christmas Concert Friday December 14th. The evening performance at 7:00 p.m. is for grades 3-8 and the morning concert is for grades Preschool-2 at 10 am. We are looking for any Christmas elves who are interested in sharing their time and talents to assist with the event. Please contact Mrs. Kuker with any questions at Bring your family and friends to share our Christmas joy!

Please update your picture dates on the Magnet Calendar as follows:

Retakes - Friday, December 7

Club/Candids - Friday, February 8

Spring Pictures - Tuesday, April 16th

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Our first weekend of tree sales has brought us to 12% our goal! We are excited for the next few days and are anticipating a big weekend of sales. This busy weekend requires a lot of help.

We ask that you sign-up for this weekend for a shift or two to help reach our goal for this year.

This effort is only made possible by the selfless giving of time by each and every volunteer. Please be generous and help us reach our goal!

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Finding the Thanksgiving Feast with "Ol' Sly Dog" Charlie Brown...

Gifts from an American storyteller: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A Psalm of Life


What The Heart Of The Young Man Said To The Psalmist.

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,

Life is but an empty dream!

For the soul is dead that slumbers,

And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!

And the grave is not its goal;

Dust thou art, to dust returnest,

Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,

Is our destined end or way;

But to act, that each to-morrow

Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,

And our hearts, though stout and brave,

Still, like muffled drums, are beating

Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,

In the bivouac of Life,

Be not like dumb, driven cattle!

Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!

Let the dead Past bury its dead!

Act,— act in the living Present!

Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us

We can make our lives sublime,

And, departing, leave behind us

Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,

Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,

A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,

Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,

With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,

Learn to labor and to wait.

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The Courtship of Miles Standish: a Pilgrim Ballad

The Courtship of Miles Standish


(illustrations by NC Wyeth)

I. Miles Standish

In the Old Colony days, in Plymouth the land of the Pilgrims,
To and fro in a room of his simple and primitive dwelling,
Clad in doublet and hose, and boots of Cordovan leather,
Strode, with a martial air, Miles Standish the Puritan Captain.
Buried in thought he seemed, with his hands behind him, and
Ever and anon to behold his glittering weapons of warfare,
Hanging in shining array along the walls of the chamber,--
Cutlass and corselet of steel, and his trusty sword of Damascus,
Curved at the point and inscribed with its mystical Arabic
While underneath, in a corner, were fowling-piece, musket, and
Short of stature he was, but strongly built and athletic,
Broad in the shoulders, deep-chested, with muscles and sinews of
Brown as a nut was his face, but his russet beard was already
Flaked with patches of snow, as hedges sometimes in November.
Near him was seated John Alden, his friend, and household
Writing with diligent speed at a table of pine by the window;
Fair-haired, azure-eyed, with delicate Saxon complexion,
Having the dew of his youth, and the beauty thereof, as the
Whom Saint Gregory saw, and exclaimed, "Not Angles, but Angels."
Youngest of all was he of the men who came in the Mayflower.

And so begins the epic Pilgrim poem and story...

Another kind of song with Cake

SOUL CAKE English folk song with medieval roots, performed when children and others went "souling" on All Hallows Eve, dressed in a variety of imaginative costumes. In return for the delicious cakes, the "soulers"--later called "trick-or-treaters"--prayed for the loved ones who had died from the cake giver's family--something we can still do! (The past soulers also traditionally went a' souling for such cakes during Christmas...echoes of which you'll find in Sting's version of the song).


A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Missus, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry,
One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for Him who made us all.

God bless the master of this house,
The misteress also,
And all the little children
That round the table grow.
Likewise young men and maidens,
Your cattle and your store;
And all that dwell within your gates,
We wish you ten times more


Down into the cellar,
And see what you can find,
If your barrels are not empty,
We hope you will prove kind.
(We hope you will prove kind,
With your apples and strong beer,
And we'll come no more a-souling
Till this time next year.)


The lanes are very dirty,
My shoes are very thin,
I've got a little pocket
To put a penny in.
If you haven't got a penny
A ha'penny will do;
If you haven't got a ha'penny,
It's God bless you!

A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Missus, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry,
One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for Him who made us all.

Rediscover and Share a Couple of American Film Masters: Capra & Hitchcock



The Screwball Comedy: Arsenic & Old Lace (The Coen Bros are current masters of that genre---Raising Arizona, Oh Brother Where Art Thou?)


The first film to win all 4 major academy awards: It Happened One Night


39 Steps...Rebecca...Rear Window...North by just name a few...
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Because I could not stop for Death


Because I could not stop for Death –

He kindly stopped for me –

The Carriage held but just Ourselves –

And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste

And I had put away

My labor and my leisure too,

For His Civility –

We passed the School, where Children strove

At Recess – in the Ring –

We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –

We passed the Setting Sun –

Or rather – He passed us –

The Dews drew quivering and chill –

For only Gossamer, my Gown –

My Tippet – only Tulle –

We paused before a House that seemed

A Swelling of the Ground –

The Roof was scarcely visible –

The Cornice – in the Ground –

Since then – ‘tis Centuries – and yet

Feels shorter than the Day

I first surmised the Horses’ Heads

Were toward Eternity –



for Harry Caudill

In the place that is my own place, whose earth

I am shaped in and must bear, there is an old tree growing,

a great sycamore that is a wondrous healer of itself.

Fences have been tied to it, nails driven into it,

hacks and whittles cut in it, the lightning has burned it.

There is no year it has flourished in

that has not harmed it. There is a hollow in it

that is its death, though its living brims whitely

at the lip of the darkness and flows outward.

Over all its scars has come the seamless white

of the bark. It bears the gnarls of its history

healed over. It has risen to a strange perfection

in the warp and bending of its long growth.

It has gathered all accidents into its purpose.

It has become the intention and radiance of its dark fate.

It is a fact, sublime, mystical and unassailable.

In all the country there is no other like it.

I recognize in it a principle, an indwelling

the same as itself, and greater, that I would be ruled by.

I see that it stands in its place, and feeds upon it,

and is fed upon, and is native, and maker.

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You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

~ Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

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Top illustration by NC Wyeth

Top Painting: Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall

Bottom Painting: On the Saco by Albert Bierstadt