On Snow, Compassion, and Savoring The Moment

When our first snow day of the season arrived last week, like many of us I was grateful for a chance to rest and recuperate. So with an extra cup of coffee in hand, and slippers on my feet, I sat down at home and took in the winter scene outside my window. Within moments my mind had traveled back in time to being a college student in Minnesota, where snow-ins were the norm, and I found myself mentally stumbling over an old poem from Horace that was a favorite of mine back then. It took some time to locate my crimson red edition of Horace’s Odes, but when I did the book practically opened itself to page 37 and to Ode 1.9. It was a small moment, standing in the living room with an old book in my hand watching the snow fall, but I knew it was one worth keeping with me for the week ahead.

That poem, with its call to notice the small moments of life, has now followed me around Moravian Academy for a week. It was there on Friday when the crowd of students was waiting in line for the ski bus, laughing and helping each other carry their too-large bags. These 84 Middle School students were going to have a wonderful night full of bravery on the slopes and with their ever-changing friend groups.

When I sat in Chapel and heard the third grade deliver their virtue meditation on compassion, which included a Moravian recipe for compassion cookies (see right), I saw in the their faces a peace with each other and with the world. For that moment, as we celebrated love and Presidents’ Day and the children sang "Lean on Me," everyone knew we had happy days in front of us. For me, the words of Horace echoed throughout The Old Chapel.

Then on Saturday, I watched Upper School students build snowmen and chase each other with snowballs around the Merle-Smith Campus. I thought about Horace, and his poetic call to put another log on the fire while we are young to keep the cold snow of old age at bay. I wondered if Horace understood the flames of youth included compassion, and love of community, and support for those who are fighting cancer. Our Upper School students clearly knew this. They were not there just to raise $4,000 for pediatric cancer research (which they did), or to shave Mr. Axford’s head when they reached their goal (which they did), they were there to show their compassion and their admiration for their teenage classmates who are fighting cancer right now.

On that snowy morning I had picked up the 2,000-year-old Horace poem to think about enjoying the small moments in life. After spending another week with our caring, compassionate, and fun-loving students, I realized my favorite poem is about more than appreciating the beauty of small moments. It is about believing that even on the coldest days a love for humanity can make the oldest poems, and the oldest schools, young at heart.

The English below is adapted from the translation of another college student named Nathaniel Solley, and it captures many of the nuances from the Latin. The cookie recipe captures much of the creativity of our third graders. Enjoy!
Compassion Cookies

ecipe from Ms. Berkenstock's and Mrs. Harshman's third grade students)

  • First you will need 4 cups of love and understanding. This is the biggest ingredient in our mixture.
  • Having patience is very important to our recipe, so make sure you add at least 1 cup.
  • A handful of curiosity and hope would be best to add next.
  • Don’t forget 2 heaping spoonfuls of joy.
  • A pinch of humor and personality is essential if you really want the best cookie.
  • Next you will need 2 cups of effort to help combine all the ingredients together.
  • Lastly take a cup of kindness and a sprinkle of respect to finish off the cookies.
Now you must combine all the ingredients with a helpful hand and a loving heart. Mix and serve with a smile.
Horace Ode 1.9 (Latin)

Vides ut alta stet nive candidum

Soracte nec iam sustineant onus
silvae laborantes geluque
flumina constiterint acuto?

dissolve frigus ligna super foco
large reponens atque benignius
deprome quadrimum Sabina,
o Thaliarche, merum diota.

permitte divis cetera, qui simul
stravere ventos aequore fervido
deproeliantis, nec cupressi
nec veteres agitantur orni.

quid sit futurum cras, fuge quaerere et
quem Fors dierum cumque dabit, lucro
adpone nec dulcis amores
sperne puer neque tu choreas,

donec virenti canities abest
morosa. nunc et campus et areae
lenesque sub noctem susurri
conposita repetantur hora,

nunc et latentis proditor intumo
gratus puellae risus ab angulo
pignusque dereptum lacertis
aut digito male pertinaci.
Horace Ode 1.9 (English)

You see how Mt. Soracte stands tall, brilliant with thick
snow cover—how the straining forests no longer
support their burdens and the rivers
slow with sharp ice.

Melt away the cold, replenishing dry branches
amply upon the hearth, and more generously
let flow the four-winter nectar, o Thaliarchus,
from its two-eared Sabine jar.

Entrust all else to the divine, for as soon as
they have smoothed over the storms that battle
on a seething ocean’s face, neither cypresses
nor ancient ash trees are disturbed.

Cease from asking what tomorrow may bring, and
tally the profits of whatever days Chance grants you;
reject neither sweet love,
nor dancing, for you are a boy

still in bloom, and the mulish grays of old age stay
away for now. Now let the Fields and the plazas
and the delicate whispers beneath nightfall
be revisited at the agreed time—

now too the captivating laugh of a hiding friend
echoing from an intimate corner, betraying her,
and the passion plucked from an arm
or from a finger barely resisting.

Merle Smith Campus

Downtown Campus