Posts Tagged ‘education’


An alchemist is somebody who knows, with infinite passion, patience and care, to distill the best from themselves and everything, mixing emotions and substances, experience and courage till they discover what they did not know before. … Every woman and man [has the ability] to learn the profound secrets of nature, in order to grow and transform oneself into a work of art, and have fun in the process.

                                             ~ preface to Tales of An Alchemist, by Falco Auradi

My Godmother had moxie.  Behind the moxie was also a hefty dose of pragmatic intelligence and a deep reverence for nature.

Katie came to the US via New York after WW2 along with thousands of other European immigrants from a rich diversity of cultures.  Knowing only one person—a university professor who was her key contact—Katie made her way to Chicago, got a job with the Music dept. of DePaul University, and shared a flat in a brownstone with a music grad who played with the young Ramsey Lewis.  Once settled, she wrote to my mother in Luxembourg, “Alles ist in Bereitschaft. Sie mag diesen Ort. So viel Lebendigkeit hier. Hier ist eine Welt voller Möglichkeiten.  Alles liebe, Katie.“ (‘All is in readiness.  You’ll like this place.  So much life here.  Here is a world of opportunity.  All my love, Katie.’)

My mother joined her shortly thereafter, arriving in the same way—aboard a post-WW2 emigrant ship.  Once the two re-united, their favorite times were spent walking through Lincoln Park and visiting what was then called the Chicago Academy of Sciences, a nature museum that had been around since the late 1800’s.  It was here where the two met William Beecher, a visionary nature and science educator, who at the time spent many hours contributing his discoveries of flora and fauna to the academy and loved sharing his findings with anyone who expressed an interest.  He showed them taxidermied birds that no longer exist today, such as the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.  I’m told he had a knack for sharing his findings with a ‘brilliant enthusiasm’ that regularly attracted Katie and my mother to the Academy.  William later became the Academy’s director.

Katie and my mother were flat-mates for some years, carefully saving their money for the bright future they envisioned.  Over dinner with friends one evening, the conversation turned toward the philosophical, and each person took turns ‘gift giving’ to one another—but not in the material sense; in the philosophical / intuitive sense.

Each expression that was shared was a reflection of the beauty, the budding talents and the genuine value—in the deepest sense of those words—of each person.  Sharing these incredibly close insights revealed a resilience that mirrored nature—something these friends shared with a deep reverence.  Here are some gems of pure alchemy that came out of that special night in 1952 ~

What if people recognized trees as the lungs of the world?

What if people recognized rivers, streams and lakes as the lifeblood of the world?

What if the ocean was viewed as the womb of the earth?

What if it was more important to ask questions than to answer them?

What if your education was not about what you know, but what you discover?


In those times, there was much newness to learn and much creative energy to forge in what was perceived as a new and vibrant world.

It was a movement of human consciousness to turn away from the horrific experience of war and towards the engagement of constructive energies of creation.  Yet the gemütlich (relaxed, unhurried) sense of the natural world was for these people, a vital link to the ‘new world.’

Today, these questions come alive with profoundly relevant and timely meaning.  Please share this blog with your friends and family.  Like Katie, my mom and her friends, we must do what we can to raise awareness in our lifetime while enjoying the gift of life.

~ * ~


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