Light in a Dark World: Sources of Inspiration

People that have influenced me and given me hope

“As I listened to the daily newscasts about students, parents’ and teachers’ frustrations with ‘pandemic..learning’ my first reaction was, ‘Worksheets?‘ for those with no or little or limited access to distance learning tools…What about questions that help students to create their own questions with inquisitive thinking, ‘Outside my window’ and ‘I wonder…’ questions?”

Carmela Gomes

2020 has been a hard year; I am sure you can relate. The discipline of gratitude has helped me get through this difficult time. As I navigate my own work and my own children’s schooling, I find myself drawn to and appreciating older friends and mentors. We do in fact have resources amongst us to help guide us to better and higher places.

Carmela Gomes

Retired Teacher, Educational Consultant, Curriculum and Instructional Designer, and Community Organizer

“I have always taught children of working parents, some of them children of workers who worked alongside their parents in Los Angeles County, other children whose parents worked at manufacturing jobs in north Central Jersey, children of inner-city families in Newark, New Jersey and children of Northeast Los Angeles Schools.”

Carmela Gomes, September 2020

I had the good fortune to meet Carmela in 2015 at The River Runs Through It: Charles Lummis and the Culture of the Arroyo Seco,” a professional development teacher training workshop in Los Angeles. This amazing educator began teaching in New Jersey and came out to Los Angeles where she has lived for 20+ years. She settled in the Highland Park area and is active in the Northeast Los Angeles Community.

She is all about genuine learning; she knows standards come and go. Real history does not; to exemplify this — she is on the Board of the Lummis Day Community Foundation. She always takes an active role in inspiring others and pointing to organizations in the community that bring people together. For families in other parts of California, Charles Lummis was an early California pioneer in the style of John Muir and Mark Twain. He”tramped” to California from Cincinnati, on foot, through the Sierras in 1884 to become the first City Editor of the LA Times. He later became the City Librarian at the LA Public Library.

Carmela has facilitated countless workshops to inspire teachers, who in turn inspire their students. In fact, it was during a workshop I attended with her that I got a sense that I had a California history curriculum I needed to write. Had I not met her and been blessed by her enthusiasm for learning, California Out of the Box might not have come to be.

What I most admire about her: She believes no one should be a stranger. If you are walking down the street, she will say “Hi!” and ask your name. And she does this to everyone! That is why she truly knows everyone. She knows that each individual has a gift; something beautiful to offer the world.

Brother Will Brown, OHC

Monk, Order of the Holy Cross (Episcopal)

Brother Will Brown and my daughter Camille at Mount Calvary, 2006

My friendship with Brother Will Brown began in 2000, while my husband and I were on retreat at Mt. Calvary, an Anglican Benedictine Retreat House in Santa Barbara. Somehow one of the brothers found out I was a florist. The next thing I knew, I was being approached to co-lead a flower arranging workshop with Brother Will. A few months prior to the weekend, as we planned for the workshop at my home, he said — “I have a personal question for you Christine. How old are you?” At the time I was 27. He replied – “Well, that only puts 50 years between us.”

Brother Will came to the US from the UK when he was 19 years old. (And, yes, he still speaks with a wonderful British accent!) After spending time in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, he became an Episcopal monk and lived in the monastery in West Park, New York. He has a background in horticulture. When I met him in 2000, he spent lots of time gardening on the grounds of the monastery. He volunteered at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, and was a frequent visitor to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (–whose property abutted the “new”Mt. Calvary). Volunteers at both of these locations loved a visit from Brother Will. Like Carmela, he never wants anyone to be a stranger. He says “Hi!” to everyone he meets!

One of the most extraordinary things about him: In November 2008, Mt. Calvary Retreat House burned down in the Montecito “Tea Fire.” At the time Brother Will was 83 years old. Can you imagine loosing everything at that age? I actually visited three days prior to the fire, and Br. Will showed me around the place and the careful and artistic ways they had just renovated the guest rooms and the chapel. So how did my friend handle this? He joined a poetry group – “Healing through Poetry”! At 83 years old he got creative. I love this, and this is something that I can always remember to cope: Be creative.

At Thanksgiving

You've lived with two good views -- she said.
Yet despite the loss of mountain top -- 
I am thankful --
for what I see in the morning light
are mountains bathed in golden glow
and topped by veiling mist.
Is this the way to start the day --
in tranquility -- and yet
the challenges will come --
remembrance of a time now past 
that was a joy.
And memories come flooding in
-- the little things of life
now missed
of loved ones gone --
of things destroyed --
and yet the morning dawn
brings hope of things to come
and Blessings.

Brother William Brown, 11/24/14

Postscript: In 2009, Order of the Holy Cross bought a nice property next to the Santa Barbara Mission, St. Mary’s Retreat House. In 2021, the order will end their ministry in Santa Barbara and move to West Park in New York.

Kathy Wilkie

Educator, Trip Organizer, and My Mother

My mom Kathy Wilkie at “La Miniatura” by Frank Llyod Wright, Pasadena
My mother’s hero – Vincent

My mother, Kathy Wilkie, taught for 40 years at a private school in the Los Angeles area, Laurel Hall School. Preschool, and then art for 18ish years. The thing about her I most admire: she spent the time to give my sister and I a body of knowledge. What do I mean by that?

She took us on hikes, road trips, museums, classes, etc. Like many children, I honestly did not have an understanding of how much I learned from her until after she passed away in 2013. I believe, for each person that is really in love with the world, when they pass and are no longer here, all the energy they embodied moves on to the survivors. There is a void, and others must move in to fill this void.

Though at the time I resisted the trips (and when I was a teenager I sort of rolled my eyes…), every last one of the events was amazing. I wish I could go back and remember all of the places we went. I wish I kept a log book. I am completely indebted to my mother; her legacy is great, deep, and beautiful. What would I say if I saw her now? “Thank you mom! I miss you very much.”

My mom and I with my 3rd child

How did having the mother I had, impact me now?

I have always been a person that takes the opportunity to go camping, visit a museum, or get to the hard to reach place. When I think about all the risks I took in visiting places like Sonoma and Santa Cruz last year, prior to Covid, I am grateful I took each and every opportunity available. I imagine my mother would have done the same thing. (And I know this because the morning we received the news of her fatal brain tumor, she was to be on a plane to Ireland.) The lesson: Always do what you can and never stop doing stuff!

Principles for a Covid World:

  • Never let anyone be a stranger.
  • Inspire others with what you know and love!
  • Grieve creatively.
  • Never stop doing stuff!