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Evergreens During Stick Season: Relationships That Endure

Scott Allenby

During November and early December, the time of year old New Englanders refer to as “stick season”, the contrast between deciduous and coniferous trees on the mountain landscapes around Proctor is stark. On Proctor’s logo is an evergreen tree, outwardly representing Proctor’s deep commitment to the natural world and our belief that relationships, like the green branches that stand out during stick season, last through even the longest of winters. 


Wellness Department Chair Megan Hardie shared THIS piece sharing the history of this year’s “People’s Tree” to stand on the west lawn of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC. During the tree lighting ceremony, 4th grader Coche Tiger from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) shared the Cherokee Legend of the Evergreen (as described in article above): 

The Cherokee Legend of the Evergreen begins with a contest from the “Great Mystery” or “Creator.” The Great Mystery wanted to give a gift to each plant and tree species but didn’t know which would be most useful to each. So, the Great Mystery told each of the plants and trees to stay awake and watch over the earth for seven nights.

On the first night, all the plants stayed awake from the excitement and opportunity to watch over the earth. The second night a few of the young plants fell asleep as dawn approached. On the third night, they all tried to whisper to each other to stay awake, but many fell asleep. On the fourth night, many more fell asleep, and by the seventh, even the Larch wasn’t immune to sleep.

The only plants still awake by the seventh night were the cedar, the fir, the spruce, the holly, and the laurel. The Great Mystery was very proud of them and bestowed upon them a very special gift for their endurance. The Great Mystery gave them the gift of remaining green forever and explained to them that they were now the guardians of the forest.

“Even in the dead of winter, your brother and sister creatures will find that life is protected in your branches,” the Great Mystery told the evergreen trees. From that day forth, all the other plants and trees lost their leaves and slept through the winter while the evergreens stayed awake and guarded the forests.

At Proctor, we see the relationships we form with our students and their families as the evergreen trees of our lives. They stay awake and guard the forests of our hearts and minds as we navigate all of the complexities of life. Our students become part of our families, and we a part of theirs. When we are able to gather each December for the Boston Holiday Event, we are reminded of the power of the Proctor experience on a deeply emotional level. 


On Tuesday evening, roughly a hundred alumni, current parents, former parents, faculty, staff, and administrators joined together at The Exchange in Boston to spend time sharing stories, reminiscing, and learning about the vision for Proctor’s future. It was a time of connection and celebration. 


While it is impossible for all of our teachers to make the trip to Boston for a midweek event (school must continue to function!), their impact on the greater Proctor family - current and past - is significant. Sometimes teaching at a boarding school can feel a bit like pulling the back to back all-nighters described in the Cherokee Evergreen Legend, but the reward of lifelong connection to our students, just like the branches of an evergreen, serve as a reminder of why this work is important and life-changing for both our students and us. 


Thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate Proctor at this year’s event and to the Barkan and Guerster families for hosting! 

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