Ode to Brother Steve

Cadwell Family Reunion in Maine, 2016

Cadwell Family Reunion in Maine, 2016

We have had a wonderful summer and a hard summer. We have savored beautiful moments with our sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren over the July holiday and in Maine. Sun kissed, sparkling, green mountains in Vermont and sails on the shining sea and mountain hikes in Acadia. And precious time together.

All the while, Ashley’s brother, Steve, had brain cancer and declined steadily since we were with the extended family in July. Steve was at home in hospice care surrounded by loved ones until August 29th when he died peacefully. Ashley is one of 6 brothers and they are a close and lively clan. Observing them together and being a part of their family is a privilege. They all gathered round to help and love their brother in every way possible.

Steve was a therapist, married to Joe, father to Isaac, beloved writer, poet, composer, musician, director, performer, community member, activist. He was a force of life undaunted. He has taught us all to be more fully alive, who we are, and comfortable in our very own skin. On Steve’s website he writes, “I empower all my clients (gay and otherwise) to discover their own power to be different, to claim their pride in their difference in order to make a difference in the order of things.”

Cadwell Brothers (wearing sweaters and shirts made by their mother), with their Parents, circa 2005

Cadwell Brothers (wearing sweaters and shirts made by their mother), with their Parents, circa 2005

Last May, all of Steve’s brothers, Joe, Isaac, and other family were present when he received a life time achievement award from the Northeastern Society for Group Psychotherapy. Steve was one of the pioneers of group therapy with AIDS patients and care givers. He co-edited a book on psychotherapy about gay men in the age of AIDS.

A few weeks ago, August 23-26, the 5th annual Middlebury New Film Makers Festival was held. Last year at this time, Steve’s film, “Wild and Precious,” was featured at this festival followed by a panel discussion including Steve and associate producers, Tommy Hyde and Bjorn Anders Peterson. “Wild and Precious” was filmed at the farm where Steve and his 5 brothers grew up and it is about growing up gay in the 60’s and 70’s. It is beautiful and real and heart breaking. In its first iteration, the film was a one man show. You can see it here as Steve performs it at his alma mater.

Steve wrote 2 poem memoirs. The first is the basis for his show and film, “Wild and Precious.” The second, poeMEMoir, Volume 2, Hope Springs Internal, Steve wrote after he was diagnosed with cancer in April, 2018.

Steve and Joe with our grandchildren, July, 2019

Steve and Joe with our grandchildren, July, 2019

I will always remember Steve sitting at the grand piano that a neighbor gave him, in the barn in Vermont where he grew up, last July, playing his own music for the gathered family, reading his poetry and celebrating all of life and all of us. At a recent memorial service someone said…our lives are like fireworks, we are launched, we explode and send our colors and fire across the sky, and our sparks continue to rain down on everyone after we are gone. At Steve’s memorial service last Sunday, Rabbi Darby said, “Steve was not just a flame. He lived as a splendid, fiery, colorful display of fireworks. Those of us who have seen and witnessed the beauty, color, and energy of such fireworks are forever changed.” Steven Allen Cadwell will always be a force of creativity, courage, play, joy, and love. May we all embrace the force of life as Steve Cadwell has. May we all be fireworks in the course of our one wild and precious life. May his memory be for us a blessing.

from Radical Acceptance: Faith; Amazing Grace

by Steven Allen Cadwell


ENTRHALLED with The Other.

Holding the other’s gaze; holding connection which trauma only temporarily

interrupts. Reconnect. Sustain Contact. Respond. Receive.

Return again and again.

Over and over practicing recovery in Love.

The center holds. The core Self.

Amazing Grace. Bless Sings out about

the constant internalized object made subject.

for the mindful mind’s eye:

“I.I.I.” to “Thou. Thou. Thou.”

The Eyes have it and How! Wow!

Raise them up heavenwards singing.

Praise be! Blessed be!

Hallowed be I and Thou Named.

Our little Kingdoms come and go.

LOVE Will Be for Now and Forevermore.

Last Rites of Passage And Testaments.

For the Love of Life.

stV be Leave, see you again real soon.

poeMEMoir, Volume 2, Hope Springs Internal. performance, June, 2019

poeMEMoir, Volume 2, Hope Springs Internal. performance, June, 2019

Principia News: Teaching Transformed

Rachel and Sue’s Classroom, Principia, April, 2019

Rachel and Sue’s Classroom, Principia, April, 2019

We were delighted to receive an article published in Principia News featuring a teacher with whom we have worked for 3 years. We will continue our work with Principia this coming year, 2019-2020. Rachel Soney is a preschool teacher of four- and five-year-olds at Principia School in St. Louis, Missouri. We have been fortunate to work with Principia teachers and administrators for 4 years and we are thrilled to continue. The greatest satisfaction and joy of our work with schools and teachers is witnessing transformation and new energy and excitement for learning in teachers and in children. The rest of this blog post is excerpted from the article: Experienced Teacher’s Perspective and Practice Transformed in Principia News. We encourage you to read the whole article and view the slideshow that is included. And while you are there, explore the Principia website, to learn more about an inspired school founded in 1898 for Christian Scientists preschool through college.

Rachel Soney joined the Preschool faculty one year into the School’s transition to a Reggio Emilia-inspired approach to instruction in the early grades. Soney wasn’t familiar with this approach, but she was open to the guidance the Cadwell Collaborative (a consultant group) has been providing as the School makes this transition. “The more I opened up to what they were saying, the more my practice grew and blossomed,” Soney says. “It has transformed my teaching more than 20 years into my career. I’m so incredibly grateful.” In fact, Soney is so inspired by this new approach that she can’t keep it to herself—she shared her experience at two conferences recently, one in St. Louis and one in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The Role of Student and Teacher

Central to the Reggio Emilia approach is the teacher’s view of the child, not as an empty vessel to be filled, but as a protagonist, collaborator, and communicator—whole, complete, and capable of owning his or her learning. Rather than trying to fill the student with knowledge, the teacher is a partner and guide in the child’s learning journey.

Along with this nontraditional student/teacher relationship comes a dramatic shift in the curriculum and classroom. Predetermined lesson plans no longer drive learning. Instead, the curriculum emerges from the children’s interests. The teacher provides invitations or "provocations" to pique curiosity, and the children are free to respond based on their inclinations. Following a conversation with the children about rocks, for example, Soney and co-teacher Sue Huddleston set up a table with pictures of cairns (rock sculptures), a basket of rocks, paper, and pencils. Some children stacked the stones, others drew them, some did both. And before long, a couple of children moved books about rocks from the book nook to the cairn provocation to serve as research guides. That level of choice in activity and the freedom to manipulate the environment are hallmarks of the Reggio Emilia approach.

Stone Study Documentation, Rachel and Sue’s classroom, April, 2019

Stone Study Documentation, Rachel and Sue’s classroom, April, 2019

Cultivating a Love of Learning

“We’re teaching them to be thinkers,” Soney explains with delight. In the process, they develop traditional academic skills as well.

Each class creates an alphabet—out of twigs and leaves, perhaps, or buttons and beads—and a number line up to 20. These are on display throughout the year, becoming touchstones for the many books they create. Last year’s class of 16 children created 87 individually authored books, in addition to those coauthored by groups of children. The illustrations are always the children’s—as is the narrative, which the teachers write down. The children choose and write down the book titles themselves, along with their names. In this and other purposeful, organic ways, they learn to identify letters of the alphabet and write them.

Student made alphabet, The College School preschool, 2014

Student made alphabet, The College School preschool, 2014

“Instead of doing ‘drill and kill,’” Soney explains, “we're helping the students build background knowledge, phonological awareness, vocabularies, and number sense. By the end of last year, all the students knew the uppercase letters, and many knew most lowercase ones, too. Some knew up to 20 letter sounds, and several were beginning readers.”

That level of kindergarten readiness is a ringing endorsement of a Reggio Emilia-inspired program. More important to Soney, though, is the students’ never-ending eagerness to learn. “Things happen organically,” Soney says, “which puts a fire in their belly for learning.”

3D self portraits, Rachel and Sue’s classroom, April, 2019

3D self portraits, Rachel and Sue’s classroom, April, 2019

Thoughts on Creativity by Loris Malaguzzi


We are fortunate to have befriended Harold Gothson from Stockholm, Sweden.  Harold visited St. Louis for a conference in our early years working with the St. Louis Reggio Collaborative, we have been with him in Reggio Emilia several times and he has worked with us in Vermont.  A few summers ago, we visited him in Sweden and also Gunilla Dahlberg.  The Swedes have been good friends of the educators in Reggio Emilia since the 80’s and founded the Reggio Emilia Institute in Stockholm in 1992.  Harold gave us a film produced by Carlo Barsotti entitled, “The Man from Reggio Emilia.” I just watched this charming film and feel as if I have been following Loris Malaguzzi around town and on his travels.  It turns out that this film was made right around the time that we lived in Reggio Emilia in 1991-92.   We know many of the people in the film who have become our friends. And, they look the way we all did roughly 25 years ago.  I feel I have been in a time warp. 

I was so fortunate to live in Reggio Emilia when Loris Malaguzzi was still very involved with the schools.  He was very much a presence, especially at Diana School, and I was lucky to attend many meetings small and large with him and the teachers.  He died January 30th, 1994, just as the film was being completed. 

The film shows many endearing and also tough sides of this brilliant man, the founder of the Reggio Approach.  He says of himself, “I have a huge ego and I don’t like to loose a fight! I like to win!”  Carlina Rinaldi, President of the Reggio Children foundation, speaks of the challenges and rewards of working with him.  Vea Vecchi, atelierista for many years at the Diana School and author of Art and Creativity in Reggio Emilia, says that she enjoys fighting with him “marvelously well!” Their arguments are not personal, rather they entered into deep dialogue about ideas.  

Watching this film and listening to Malaguzzi speak reminded me of his list of beliefs about creativity that was part of an interview with Lella Gandini in 1990 on the meaning of creativity. We printed them in the epilogue in the second edition of In the Spirit of the Studio: Learning from the Atelier of Reggio Emilia.  Here are his thoughts…good ones to ponder as we all have leisure time to relax, let creativity into our own lives a little more, and nurture and renew ourselves for creative work with children when fall returns.


As we have chosen to work with children we can say that they are the best evaluators and the most sensitive judges of the values of creativity. This comes about because they have the privilege of not being excessively attached to their own ideas, which they construct and reinvent continuously. They are apt to explore, make discoveries, change their points of view, and fall in love with forms and meanings that transform themselves. 

Therefore, we do not consider creativity sacred, we do not consider it as extraordinary but rather as likely to emerge from daily experience. This view is now shared by many. We can sum up our beliefs as follows: 

1.      Creativity should not be considered a separate mental faculty but a characteristic of our way of thinking, knowing, and making choices.

2.      Creativity seems to emerge from multiple experiences, coupled with a well-supported development of personal resources including a sense of freedom to venture beyond the known. 

3.      Creativity seems to express itself through cognitive, affective, and imaginative processes. These come together and support the skills for predicting and arriving at unexpected solutions.  

4.      The most favorable situation for creativity seems to be interpersonal exchange, with negotiation of conflict and comparison of ideas and actions being decisive elements. 

5.      Creativity seems to find its power when adults are less tied to prescriptive methods, but instead become observers and interpreters of problematic situations. 

6.      Creativity seems to be favored or disfavored according to the expectation of the teachers, schools, families, and communities as well as society at large according to the ways children perceive those expectations. 

7.      Creativity becomes more visible when adults try to be more attentive to the cognitive processes of children than to the results they achieve in various fields of doing and understanding. 

8.      The more teachers are convinced that intellectual and expressive activities have both multiplying and unifying possibilities, the more creativity favors friendly exchanges with imagination and fantasy.

9.      Creativity requires that the school of knowing finds connections with the school of expressing, opening doors (this is our slogan) to the hundred languages of children. 

Often when people come to us and observe our children, they ask us which magic spell we have used. We answer that their surprise equals our surprise.  Creativity? It is always difficult to notice when it is dressed in everyday clothing and has the ability to appear and disappear suddenly.  Our task regarding creativity is to help children to climb their own mountains. No one can do more. 

From Malaguzzi, L. (1998). History, ideas, and basic philosophy. In C. P. Edwards, L. Gandini,, & G. Forman (Eds). The hundred languages of children: The Reggio Emilia Approach-Advanced reflections (2nded.;pp.49-97. Westport, CT: Ablex. 


Student Designed, Energy Efficient Home Under Construction

Rendering of 2 student designed Habitat for Humanity homes, Middlebury, Vermont. Image from Middlebury College

Rendering of 2 student designed Habitat for Humanity homes, Middlebury, Vermont. Image from Middlebury College

We are proud to be a part of an exemplary, real world project that has taken off at Middlebury College. Ashley is the chair of the Building Committee for Habitat for Humanity in Middlebury, Vermont. At some point in the summer of 2017 he had the idea that college students in an architecture class could design houses for Habitat for Humanity using their skills, innovative design ideas, and class community to support them. Ashley’s friend and architect, John McLeod who practices architecture with McLeod Kredell Architects teaches a class that Ashley thought would be a perfect choice. This month, construction has begun on this student designed home. Much of the rest of this post draws on an article posted in the Newsroom on the Middlebury College website.

John McLeod, assistant professor of architecture and a partner in the firm McLeod Kredell Architects, has worked alongside groups of undergraduates since February 2018 on a project that will place an Addison County family in their own energy-efficient home by the end of this year. A second Habitat home, also designed by students, has been permitted for the same site and will be built in the coming years.

“I had high hopes and expectations for this partnership and this undertaking, and I have to say it has even exceeded them,” said McLeod. “It is so gratifying for everyone involved. It is a win-win-win-win for the students, for Habitat for Humanity, for the families [who will be moving into the homes], and for the community at large.

“We are bringing to bear all of the motivation and energy and talent of a number of Middlebury College students in service to thoughtful, appropriately progressive design of affordable housing in this county. To me, it’s part of what architecture is about and should be about. And for the students, this has been a real-world experience about one of the most fundamental aspects of life, which is shelter.”

Energy efficiency and care for the environment were major concerns for McLeod and his students. After all, as the architect remarked, Middlebury College and McLeod Kredell wouldn’t have it any other way. “We are designing and building these two houses to the highest performance standards so both the impact on the environment and the operating costs to the owners of the houses will be minimized.”

House A, at 1,100 square feet, will contain three bedrooms, while House B, at 900 square feet, will contain two. Both will have a full bathroom, a laundry space, and an electric heat-pump system, and each house will meet Efficiency Vermont’s highest energy standards.

McLeod has been pleased with the motivation of his students, “who are learning on the job and essentially doing the work of professional architects and designers on this project. They have risen to the occasion time and again”—whether it’s been meeting deadlines, doing the research, putting in the hours, or appearing before the town’s Development Review Board—“and met every challenge along the way.”

And unlike a formal classroom setting with quizzes, papers, and exams, here the motivation is a real building project. “It’s a real house for a real family with a real budget. Habitat for Humanity is a real client, and there are real neighbors and real permitting authorities. We always expect students to rise to the occasion in an academic setting, but for them to do it in a challenge that brings together academics with the needs of a real-world community . . . that’s going to have a lasting impact on them and their future success.”

In an interesting twist, McLeod’s business partner, Steve Kredell, is working with seventh graders from Burlington’s Edmunds Middle School to design and build an 8-foot-by-24-foot storage shed in sections that will be assembled later this spring on the site. The outbuilding is for bikes, lawn mowers, and garden tools, and it will sit between the two houses and be shared by both Habitat for Humanity families.

Take a look at this short video to listen to students and to witness their engagement and dedication to this real project that will house real families in need in energy efficient, beautiful, small homes. So proud of Middlebury College for taking the lead in so many ways.

Student plan for roof framing of one of the Habitat for Humanity homes. Image from Middlebury College video.

Student plan for roof framing of one of the Habitat for Humanity homes. Image from Middlebury College video.

We're All in This Together: Bill McKibben Speaks About our Planet in Crisis


Last weekend was reunion weekend at Middlebury College.  We were hosting good friends so we decided to attend many of the programs even though it was not an official reunion year for either Ashley or me.  On Saturday morning, Bill McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, spoke to a large crowd of Middlebury graduates of all ages.  (This post references comments made at that talk given Saturday, June 7th, and an article from the Newsroom link on the Middlebury College website that covers a talk given by Bill McKibben on April 4th, 2019, also at Middlebury College.)

Bill McKibben published the first book on climate change for a lay audience, The End of Nature, 30 years ago when he was 28 years old.  Since then he has published 11 other books and worked tirelessly to wake people up to the science of what continuing to burn fossil fuels is doing to planet earth.  Together with seven Middlebury College young alumni, he founded 350.org, a global grassroots movement to address climate change. He’s been on the frontline of environmental activism in the United States and globally.

One thing I learned at the talk, which was new to me, is that fossil fuel companies with their team of scientists have understood the reality of climate change since the 1980’s, and yet have had the money and power to perpetuate what McKibben calls “the most consequential lie in human history, given the stakes.” 

The other thing that I learned is that we have the technology to power the planet with sun and wind and battery storage.  That solar panels are built ever more affordably and with smarter and smarter technology.

“This is a timed test, and time is passing really, really quickly,” said McKibben. “It’s a test human beings may not pass. Climate change isn’t a negotiation of the usual sort, in which politicians or activists might work toward compromise. Physics don’t compromise.”

We can be inspired and moved to action ourselves by the youth all over the world who are becoming leaders in this movement and this fight because they see that adults have failed and because they dearly want a future. The youth movement, inspired by the actions of 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist, Greta Thunberg, span more than 100 countries and 1,500 cities, and organized students to gather in the streets and at their state capitols to call for action on March 15, 2019.

The president of Middlebury College, Laurie Patton, has likened McKibben to a “quiet prophet” at work on behalf of the planet. “Being a prophet means waking people in a single sentence,” said Patton. “Bill does that, again and again, and he wakes us up through love.”

Despite the long odds, despite the changes already under way and inevitable as the planet warms, McKibben isn’t giving up the fight.

“We are messy creatures, often selfish, prone to short-sightedness, susceptible to greed,” McKibben writes in the closing pages of his latest book, Falter. “In a Trumpian moment with racism and nationalism resurgent, you could argue that our disappearance would be no great loss. And yet, most of us, most of the time, are pretty wonderful, funny, and kind. Another name for human solidarity is love, and when I think about our world in its present form, that is what overwhelms me.”

We left this powerful talk thinking, “Now what?” What do we do? Bill praised Middlebury College numerous times in his talk for being an international leader in moving the campus toward net zero energy consumption. Also for divesting from any investments in fossil fuels.  The movements of protest and calling for divestment are making progress.  Bill McKibben told us that globally 3 trillion dollars have been divested from fossil fuel companies. 

For the future, for our children, for our grandchildren, we must speak up and take the actions that we can, living on the planet ever more lightly and gracefully. We are reading Falter and encourage you to as well.  We just joined 350.org. (It’s easy, just go to the website and sign up and you will be informed.) We can all continue to join the swell of people of all generations nationally and internationally who understand what we must do to save our one wild and precious planet.