On the dawn of our farewell celebration, it is with sadness and delight that we post the letter written by the Twilight School’s heart and soul, Bruno Lettieri.
Flows of Bruno Emotion
22nd November, 2016
Dear friends of Twilight School,
It seems fitting, as my goodbye, to return to my first literacy, letters and letter-writing, as I begin to sort out, clean out, tidy up and prepare for take-off. Letters have always been nourishing, exciting, calming and possess some element of frisson. I have kept half an expectant eye on the letter box all my life.
There are flows of Bruno emotion in all kinds of weird and wonderful and poignant ways. They create mixed states. One moment, I’m half yelping with joy because I will have my travelling swag ready and only minimal possessions, and next, half-wondering whether chances like Twilight School will ever come again. Alice, my friend, recently visited my upstairs office in the mansion and wow-ed her incredulousness at me. “How can you give this up?!”
Parts of the day, I’m still scrawling improbable ideas on to post-it notes and arranging them on the window sill like miniature seedlings waiting to burst into sturdy growth. Other parts of the same day, I’m surrounded by never-diminishing bundles of handwritten notes, emails, fountain pens, ripped out bits of magazines and scrap books large enough to be a helipad. Half thinning out; half adding to the bundles so there is no discernible progress. Truth is, I’m happy when my floor is so splattered. I love snooping here and re-visiting there. Savouring slithers of beauty and delight. Transcribing random bits of poetry or letters or testimony. Making new bundles for friends or students. Truth is, I’m home in the clutter.
So you are sensing that this is all beautifully scrappy. And self-inflicted. And necessary. As T. S. Eliot says, “A lifetime burning in every moment.”
Twilight School had an improbable beginning. Szymborska, the poet, tells us that every moment has a flamboyant past. I love to remind myself of that. And if I had time, I could lay out those strands that interwove to make such a living thing. And pay tribute to all those who opened up a path or laid a stone in the wall or added their creative and loving dimension or labour to its communality. Space, grandeur, possibility, gumption, goodwill, hospitality, vibrant colours and creative freedom are Twilight School’s essential elements. I thank Mark for dreaming up the job and putting my initials next to it. It’s rare, I suspect, in our overly-proscribed times to give such latitude. I’m deeply appreciative.
But if no audience deigns to come there are just window-baked post-it notes full of scrawl. It’s only a lifeless thing.
So Michael Leunig and Alice Pung came, because we asked them and because we needed to announce that something was happening. They would catch some attention. Our audience would be immersed in something called Twilight School and from that taste know something of what it was. Twilight School had such organic beginnings. And around those nights of conversation, we wove Italian lessons with Marisa who graciously bought the biscotti and vino and animated teaching, and cooking with Helen who opened out her school kitchens with generosity, and Margaret of the mansion welcomed it and nurtured it and let it all unfurl around her with great calm and acceptance. She also contributed her own series of teaching and hosting. Some courses took off; some stuttered and some sounded good on paper but didn’t fly at all. I wholeheartedly thank all those tutors who gave generously and sought nothing for themselves. There was an unmistakeable convivial and welcoming vibe to it all. Salesian College in Sunbury was learning how to fling open its doors.
Photo credit: Amanda Piper
“A secular gathering, in such a special room at Rupertswood, in pursuit of truth, is a spiritual experience,” Father Bob wrote in a handwritten illegible-I-imagine-to-a-younger-generation note that arrives via a scanned attachment. I nearly do laps of the grounds when I receive his note. For its handwritten-ness. For its insight. It was a gift. I’d never seen the words secular and spiritual accommodate each other so well in one sentence. He’d shone something valuable back at us. I wanted to whirly-twirly him in thanks and exultation. Mind you, you never felt you were driving the microphones when Fr. Bob came to town.
You don’t always fully know what you’re doing and what its effect and reactions might be. I reckon that’s a good thing and a healthy thing. And so it was with Twilight school.
Ailsa Piper, one of our earlier guests and later a patron, used the metaphor of the lighthouse to capture the essence of our project. And the beam going out was, “enlightenment to guide us towards knowledge and inspiration. And joy!” You would never have dared to put those words into a mission statement, not that we ever even tried to write one. You would not have dared even hope for something like that. It takes others to see from the outside and whisper back their findings.
Dear Twilighters, my job and office is set deep back here in the gardens of Salesian College, but I always feel that my compass setting is townwards. Outwards. Sprawling out through the imposing gates and wandering in all directions. I felt that I could pop in to Sunbury Community Health or U3A and it was all part and parcel of Twilight School’s community – or we were linked to them. We belong(ed) quite easily to each other. We are borderless in an age of border anxiety.
I think I know by sight every person who has graced our nights or brought some newcomers. Our audience grew and held steady at its core. It was both knowable and ever-changing. A sizable batch of hands went up at every gathering whenever I asked who was new. At our last conversation, I sensed that a quarter were new to Twilight School. We were still growing. Petit beams of the Ailsa variety were still going out.
Leunig reckons the world is divided into those with a twinkle in their eye and those without. We were lucky at Twilight school. You seemed to all arrive with that twinkle at our mansion nights, breakfasts, photowalks, Salsa nights, choir sessions, language classes, gardening sessions down at The Patch or our Good Man gatherings initiated by Dan Walsh near the lake – or wherever!
I will miss the nights terribly. I will miss the company of you all. I have been changed and blessed immensely by you all. I feel very grateful for the pleasure of your company.
Bruno Lettieri is the heart and soul of the Twilight School. We’re all tremendously blessed for the job he has done in knitting together this diverse and wondrous community.