In 2005, many first-days-of school ago, I watched my 7-year old son walk into his kindergarten class with tears stinging my eyes. I felt stuck in place, unable to leave, and was surprised to see another kindergarten mother walking quite snappily back to her car. It struck me as somewhat unseemly, her sprightly air. The kindergarten teacher, a wise and, I would come to learn, hilarious woman, looked at my weepy-mommy face and winked. “This isn’t her first rodeo,” she said, smiling.
Now, eight years later, with two sons in high school and one starting 1st grade, this impending school year is no longer my first rodeo. Which is why there are no traces of sentimentality left around one of the critical steps in gearing up for 1st grade: the School Supply List.
Long gone are the days when school supplies held the air of freshly sharpened pencils and sheaves of blank, potential-filled paper. Long vanished is the fantasy of cheerfully picking out pencil cases, notebooks, and new crayons with my sons. And good riddance.
Hello and Happy September everyone! A friend said to me recently that the seasons, particularly the spring (and particularly the rabbits in his yard in the spring), affirm his belief that “life trends towards hope.” I like this idea, though not, perhaps, for the reason my friend does. Seasons are cyclical, and cycles don’t really “trend” towards anything except repeating themselves. So one could suggest that the exuberant hopefulness of spring is not more or less important or meaningful than the still darkness of the winter. And vice versa.
Medieval Seasons by Carol McCrady
[Note on the art pictured here: it is a photograph of a print by Carol McCrady that I have in my office. It’s called “Medieval Seasons,” and you can see more of her exquisite art on her web site.]
This isn’t a depressing perspective; just a realistic one, and one that I’ve learned a lot about from writers like Parker Palmer and David Whyte. They talk about the danger of human beings’ desire to accept only those parts of ourselves that are light, expansive, “up.” We do a deep disservice to ourselves when we live this way, because we’re making very little internal space for the times when we are not all these things. In the words of the fabulous singer songwriter John Prine, “That’s the way that the world goes round/up one day the next you’re down/it’s a half an inch of water and you think you’re gonna drown/that’s the way that the world goes round.”
I love the line: “it’s a half an inch of water and you think you’re gonna drown” because it’s so ridiculously true. I had to remind myself of this in the last few weeks when our entire university town was going through the transition from summer to fall: no students/no school—> thousands of students/lots of school.