From the Junior School head's desk: 19 November 2021

Sarah Warner

In the autumn of 1664, when the plague shrouded the world in a deadly pandemic and universities sent their students home for a quarantine the end of which no one could foresee, a young man besotted with mathematics, motion, and light returned to his illiterate mother’s orchard, where he watched an apple fall. A revolution of understanding rose in its shadow – he fathomed the mechanics of a mystery that had enchanted humanity for epochs: how bodies can act on other bodies, attracting one another impalpably and invisibly across space and separation, as if by magic. Religions had called it grace. Science, with the young Newton at its helm, called it gravity. (Maria Popova, “Gravity, grace, and what binds us when we love” from The Marginalian newsletter

In the summer of 2021, 357 years later, as we begin to show signs of emerging from our own deadly pandemic and a quarantine that kept us at a distance from each other for too long, we remain besotted with the whole, wholesome, wholehearted education of your children on a campus that is gradually returning to full life again.

The Junior Primary gala, one event among many in years gone by, felt sumptuously festive this time last week: the sight and sound of you and your daughters together at the pool on a beautiful Johannesburg afternoon was a spectacular sight and reminded us, vividly, of the togetherness we once took for granted. How wonderful.

And how wonderful and spectacular too was the inaugural Grade 7 fashion show, a practical research project that grew out of the girls’ study of how fashion has changed throughout history. In addition to designing a period costume (including Elizabethan, Victorian Steam Punk, the Edo period) from recycled materials in teams, the girls also had to elect one of their number to model their couture for an audience of bemused teachers and peers, gathered in the Junior School Close for the occasion. Their challenge: to complete a full circuit of the Close with their entire outfit (accessories included) intact. Anyone watching the show recognised play at its riotous, improvised best.

The last two weeks of school are filled with occasions that hover somewhere between the new and the old. The pandemic has pummeled us into seeing, thinking, and doing things differently – its one lovely gift – and we invite you to join us at celebrations that are smaller in size but somehow larger in spirit as we look back on a year of remarkable continuity and change.

We ask that you accept our invitation to spend time with your daughters and their teachers on our campus, marvelling at the force that kept us grounded and grateful as a community at a time of mandated seclusion and distance. We remain connected to each other, held

together “impalpably and invisibly across space and separation, as if by magic.”

At St Mary’s, we call this mystery love.

If you are travelling this holiday, arrive safely at your destination; make the most of time spent with your family, and return to us, rested and restored.


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