By Craig Gemmell
Head of School
Pre-Christmas warm weather and green grass were supplanted in just a few days around the New Year with a crust of snow and clear, chilly air. Students migrated back on Monday to open water on the lake; ice came just yesterday in the inlet, and, early this morning, I could see an icy finger extending across the bay.
As with all molecules in the system that is our universe, water tends toward entropy – disorder. That’s why we can swim in it and drink it. Yet on the lake, today, anti-entropic forces are coming to rule as single water molecules bond with countless others in the big freeze underway. They are, literally, slowing down, crashing together, expanding, floating en masse. Soon, huts will get dragged onto the ice and bundled fishermen will auger holes, jigging for lethargic fish, and the rest of us will turn our faces from the west wind blowing across the bay.
Winter at a New England boarding school. Thirty years into my stint at three of these small universes and awash in my first at Brewster, I’m bracing myself reflexively; winter can be hard in these little hamlets. We find ourselves clustered together inside, the newness of fall mere memory, spring seemingly unreachable. Emotions tend to bounce around a bit more. At worst, ennui can spread.
And yet I’m new here and hoping the winter will be a highlight. I’m reminded of entropy, which derives from the Greek entropia: “a turning toward” or “transformation.”
Perhaps the key resides in our obeying a simple physical law: keep moving. Don’t freeze up. Relish the opportunity to slow down just enough to enjoy the act of being here, of being in close quarters surrounded by friends and learning and the warmth they provide. To do so, we all must engage in a turning toward others and savoring what there is to be learned, to be taught, to be experienced. We must turn toward the hard times and mitigate.
What is to gain from doing so? Transformation. Confinement becomes engagement; cold becomes a new kind of warmth. A fresher sense of community develops as we endure and grow together.
Here’s my hope. That this be our winter of contentment. How? Let our spirits made manifest through our actions lift those around us. Remember why we are here. Doing so will allow us to be here in full so that we’ll be all the better when spring and its inevitable thaw arrives. In the meantime, here’s to winter and all it will teach us.
Photo courtesy of Amanjeev