A Kind of September
This week finds me visiting family in a far away, warmer place. This means that there are days that start earlier and end earlier, dinners that go on for many hours, trips to shop with mom and long explanations from dad about how he's marinated the pork on the grill or how to take a short cut on the way to the highway that will save me two blocks and forty-five seconds.
It also means that I am not at school. It means that I'm not teaching for the first time in four years. It means there are no clean notebooks and new pens, no well-intentioned spreadsheets and carefully-written lesson plans. For the first time in years, I'm not trying to learn 80 new names and make mental notes as to how to tell the four blonde Katies in my 4:00 section apart. I'm not having conversations with fellow teachers about the best way to convince reluctant students to speak or how we can possibly state our attendance policies strongly enough. There is a rhythm, a Septemberish rhythm, that is pounding fall days into new shapes, and I do not feel it.
I miss it. But I'm also thrilled. Next week, I'll take my first trip to a distant archive for research purposes. My writing is in free-flowing, rambling paragraphs full of sentences that I might not mean or believe. Sometimes my brain needs to try combinations of words and thoughts to see if they make any sense - sort of like making up a new recipe to see if it's at all edible when it's baked. This brings a bubble of possibility to my chest and I want to feel its promise. And I need this brain space to let a fairly amorphous dissertation take better shape.
I also need to miss teaching. I need to feel a little left out of September. I need to remember there are other autumnal rhythms that have meaning: the cooler mornings and darker nights, the occasional musings about still-distant holidays, the Halloween candy already taking up space on grocery store shelves. Today, my parents took me for a ride on their new boat and when we stopped at a little marina deli and filling station for gas, they discovered the store closes early now. There aren't enough boaters on the water on cool September evenings. Lives unfold in unfamiliar ways, just as my semester will unfold and my work will unfold. It's good for me to remember that not every September is predictable, to revel in this September's newness, and to store up a quiet list of things I can look forward to seeing again next year.