Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter - Death and Life

I must always consider this season greater than others.  I see rainy, sunny, cold, snowy, sunny Sundays in my Easter history.  It’s always in Spring – the season I dislike more than any other.  Spring has taken so much from me. Mocked me with its motto of new life by taking those who I love the most.  Taunting me with bright skies as it clogged the air, making breathing for this asthmatic simply painful.

For God to come to me over and again so personally in Spring is always a surprise.  

It was Easter season at a Lutheran Church when He spoke very clearly to me, “take up your cross and follow Me.”  I have no idea if anyone else heard Him, but I did.  I can still see the austere arched ceiling, hear the creak of the wooden pews, smell the 100-year old stale air.  Feel the pull of a Force I struggled to understand. 

It echoed the words of yesteryears when I, as a very young girl in Catechism class, went through the Stations of the Cross.  I recall standing before Simon wishing I could have been there.  I vowed I would have done the same. I wanted to be Veronica wiping the face of Jesus, caring for Him.  Easter promises never forgotten. 

Another year, another difficult season in my life, I made my way to church to honor Him for Easter Mass.  I remember the rain, the crowd, what I wore.  Alone in the crowd, the service did nothing to fill my emptiness.  I stood on the steps outside waiting for my ride and considered the fresh cleanness of the air.  Wondering if God could give my life some cleanness, some freshness.  Was I too deeply entrenched in sin that I couldn’t be forgiven anymore?

Through that year, He worked on my life and my heart.  Turning everything I knew upside down.  Conflicts, problems, situations compounded as I struggled to make sense of my life.  My survivor skills were in high gear that year.  Again and again I felt Him reaching for me until finally He compelled me to take a chance on Him.  Lay down my life.  Shift my paradigms.  Face the fear of rejection.  He showed me I needed to die for Him to breathe new life into me. 

A kind voice, a simple message, a clear direction.  Repent – die.  Be baptized – buried.  Be filled with the Spirit of God – born again. 

Simple, but profoundly life changing.  To this day, 32 years later, I can’t explain to someone what happened or how.  It’s my experience alone.  I can retell the story.  I can write about it, talk about it, draw about it.  But there are no words or pictures that can really describe the girl who went into the water and the one who came out.  Not perfect, but new. 

Now, so many Springs later, I still see the joy of life He has given.  Never breaking His word, never leaving me.  There have been dark and difficult days when it was hard to see how I would ever make my way through.  Poverty of love, money, abundance of heartache and lack of peace days. 

Never has He forsaken me, though I deserved to be left behind.  Never has He let go of me, even when I tried to pull myself away. 

The slightest whisper, the smallest gesture, the minimalist plea – He has heard.  Never turning himself away from me.    

Spring.  Easter.  Death and life all twisted together.  Thanks, God.  I am so grateful.  

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Quick Notes

Yes, I know I need to be writing more.  Yes, I realize there are people who benefit from my rambly words.  I'm sorry, really, that I don't stop still often enough.  But life is very full and rich and deep and I'm only now coming to terms with this season.

Back in Milwaukee.  Teaching amazing and brilliant students.  Working with a top-notch, class act staff of educators.  Part of a church community that is totally next level.  I am floundering in blessings.

I'll be speaking tonight at a Singles group and then Tuesday evening at a Mom's group.  I really just am beginning to realize that I'm old enough, experienced, enough to have something worth sharing.  Some things that will help someone else overcome a tough season.

As I was preparing today, I realized it is the anniversary week of my dad's death.  So many miles have been walked since then. So many very hard and very good days have been lived.  I do miss him.  Truly.

In his honor, I share again the most popular piece of my writing:  Daddy's Hands.  I hope that it will encourage you to tend the bridges in your life, hold someone's hand and forgive.

Here is the link :  Daddy's Hands

If you enjoyed this piece, you might also be interested in my books, The Book of Pages About Crossing Bridges  and A Friend Named Jesus.  They can be found on by following these links:

A Friend Named Jesus     The Book of Pages 

Thanks for reading.
God bless!

Monday, August 14, 2017

NYC Memories

Sitting here in front of my keyboard avoiding the words that are all piled up in my head. 

And then.

There is no time to do anything else except write.

Adjectives and adverbs crowd the air fighting for expression.

And so.  Let me tell you about my journey into the past this summer.

My friends asked me if I wanted to join them as they toured pieces of the east coast.  We had talked of it as a distraction many, many months ago while we were all in Moscow.  Time passed.  Life beckoned.  Finally, two were in Moscow, one in Virginia and I in Milwaukee.  Still, the dreamy idea floated above us as a thread unbroken pulling us to share our love of travel, history and culture.

I’m not sure which of us was more excited and amazed as the travel details came together.   New York City, Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and a side drive to Appleton and Thorp for good measure.  It would be epic!

But I think each city needs its own blog post.  They were much too full to cram into one story. 

First.  New York City.

She welcomed us with open arms.  Hot, sticky, crowded, friendly, generous, laughing New York City.  We went up Freedom Tower, down Wall Street, into The Met, around Time Square and on the Staten Island Ferry.  We made new friends at every turn.

There were many memorable conversations, but one which makes me smile immediately happened as we walked Manhattan looking for breakfast.  We thought perhaps TGIFriday’s was open since the door was open and it was almost lunch time.  No.  They were not.  We continued to a sandwich board up the street, but nothing seemed interesting on the menu.  We mumbled amongst ourselves trying to decide on a plan.

A man in chef’s apparel approached us.  “You lookin’ for a breakfast place?  I know a place.  You go to the corner and then take a left to the next corner.  It’s called Georgie’s.  Best breakfast in New York.  You’re gonna love it.  It’s my friend owns it.  It’s a great spot.  This way to the corner and then left.  Georgie’s.”

He was absolutely right.  Great breakfast.  Decent prices.  Great service.  America on a plate. 

We found a Trump building and stood before the girl who challenged the Bull on Wall Street.  We laughed at the antics of children in the splash pad at Battery Park and discussed the rich stories of settlers there. 

I could hear the whispers of history loudest, however, as we walked a side street toward Freedom Tower.  I saw the Calatrava beckoning at the base of the skyscraper and felt the wind chill my bones. 

I’m not sure what the others were doing or seeing or thinking.  I was lost in reverie as we approached. 

My mind’s eye went immediately back to the first time I was at this site.  The gaping wound in the ground, the scarred buildings surrounding, the twisted metal cross standing firm.  The dust still seemed to permeate the air.  And the sadness!  Oh, the deep sadness on my friend’s face as he spoke of the tragedy and its devastating aftershocks.  That day so many years ago, I stood beside my sister as we tried to process what this might mean for our country. 

I wished for her to walk with me again to this site.  I knew she would understand this wave of emotion in my heart as I stood looking into the black granite pools.  Names of the lives shattered line the granite as water pours forever into the base.  To me it looks like a million tears seeping into oblivion.

A poem began writing itself in my mind as I slowly walked past.  Where were you the day America cried?  Its words spilling from my heart into my own ears and marking my heart. 

I can’t express to you how deeply moved I was standing there. 

Sadness gave way to American patriotism as I looked up into the monolith of Freedom Tower.  Like a giant fist thrust into the sky and into the faces of our enemies, she taunts.  We took the Freedom tour from the basement to the top watching the history of the city on a panorama in the elevator.  Incredible, beautiful, majestic, awesome, inspiring. 

Tangible proof that out of the ashes we rise.

There were other great events in New York City.  Great in their impressions upon me. 

The Met, for example.  What an immensely beautiful and amazing place!  A quick stop in a series of several stops in one long, marathon day.  I stood amazed at the clean, white lines within and without. 
I caught a quiet moment one day to jot notes and pour out some of the words absorbed from the people of New York City.  Sitting at a deli window, I watched lives stream past me.  Rich, poor, busy, slow, young, old all scurrying somewhere important as I, from my fish bowl, observed.

It was Tuesday evening when the comparison started to form in my mind.  I was sitting in a theater on Broadway watching Cats.  It’s whimsical funniness holding me in a grip of amazement.  I loved the music and the personalities and the costumes and the set and the lights!  Wow!  All of the pomposity faded, however, when Grizabella began the first note of “Memories”. 

The tale she sang of a future haunted by the present resonated with me.  She begged to be noticed, to be loved, to be sought after as she had been once.  Humbled, thrown aside, and humiliated she begged the morning to wait until hope returned.  Then it happened!  She found herself standing at the brink of dawn in a new day, a new life, restored.
I heard myself in her voice.  I saw my past and present reflected in her words.
The first time I traveled to New York City my life was perched on a precipice of change.  I was unsure of every step and without any form of confidence.  Critical voices had twisted my self-image into a heap of fear.  I begged God to help me out of the abyss, and He did. 

Now, many years later, I view my future from a much different perspective.  It was impossible for me to walk the streets of NYC without seeing younger me darting in the shadows. 

I laugh at her fears now.  Each of them have been addressed, renounced, walked upon.  Afraid of getting lost?  I’ve traveled internationally alone.  Afraid to be poor?  I have gained, lost, gained, lost and found I need very little to be happy.  Afraid my reputation will be ruined?  I have made my own name.

Well, not me, really.  Not without the help of God and many, many friends.

A sense of strength grew in me in New York City on this trip.  A sense of identity.  Able to speak my own thoughts.  Able to identify my own ideas.  Able to make my own way. 

Just as I see the twisted metal cross imprinted in my memories as a sign of His presence in the middle of our nation’s tragedy, I hear the strains of “Memories” lifting my eyes away from yesterday and towards tomorrow.

“If you touch me, you’ll understand what happiness is.  Look a new day has begun.” 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Flying Time

Funny how time flies.  They say it’s when you’re having fun and it moves faster as we age.  Does that mean we have more fun as we get older?  Or do we somehow learn to treasure each moment for the jewel that it is once we learn how quickly the sparkle fades?

I’m a writer who hasn’t written much of anything for almost a full year.  My words and my time have been wrapped up, tangled up, caught up and filled up with teaching.  A new curriculum.  A new system.  A new set of colleagues. 

And readjusting. 

In the last ten years I should have become accustomed to change as it has been the only constant.  From Milwaukee to Minneapolis to Thorp to Moscow and back to Milwaukee.  From legal secretary to teacher and back around again.  I’ve added age, pounds and a degree to my status.

In all these ten years, I never expected to live in Milwaukee again.  Yet, here I am.

I thought it would be easier because so much was familiar.  Teaching Middle School is where I have the broadest experience.  My apartment is within a few miles of where I spent the first 40 years of my life.  The church I attend is filled with acquaintances I’ve known for years.  The language is English!

And yet, so much had changed in my ten years hiatus that nothing was the same except the street signs.

On occasion, I pulled the strings of my history in an attempt to find my bass line.   It was like walking into a familiar old building whose stone steps and hard wood rails hold your imprint.  Standing outside you look at its façade and you know it.  You remember when the rain changed the color from white to grey.  You see the dip of a thousand hands which have smoothed the finish on the rail.  You climb the steps, pull the heavy wooden door, peer inside the familiar, cool entry only to find someone has taken the day guard station and replaced it with an electronic check-in system.  You look to the left, but the news stand is gone.  Where is the gum?  The water?  The Grebe’s sandwiches?  Instead, there is only an empty space.

While I was away, time kept moving people and things - rearranging, renovating, reinventing the common spaces.

 Of course, I knew this would happen.  I expected it.  I tried to imagine what I might see.  I had visited Milwaukee during those years, but it’s different to live somewhere.  Visitors see only the party make-up, not the morning face. 

I didn’t expect it to take me so long to settle back in and find my way around.  I lost my voice and couldn’t make my pen work right.  It kept me from writing. I needed to find new words to say the old things. 

First, it was my work.  I expected words to fall from my heart as they always had before.  Instead, I found a new Kris sitting at an old table with nothing to say.  My heart was poured out a hundred times a week to students whose parched lives drained me.

Second, it was my place.  I struggled to find familiar spaces to get my bearings.  Instead, I tired of hearing myself say, “I remember when this was that.”  My memories had flown away in the lake breeze and no one was there to notice. 

I’m not exactly sure why God has brought me back to this place at this time, except to do this work.  I have lost two close friends suddenly this year.  Women whose lives were integral to the success of others. Women whose families have a gaping hole in their absence.  Taken without warning or planning.  Everyone was healthy and happy and good one day, and the next found a new chapter being written.

All of these experiences this year have lead me to believe I have some responsibility, some work, some thing I must do.  I feel the weight of it.  I pray I don’t disappoint God in its achievement.  I long to be home with Jesus and yet…. Some weighty chapter holds my feet to the line.

Love lavishly.  Seize the day.  Be the change you wish to see.  More than Facebook status phrases for me.  It’s my current life description as the clock ticks.  What’s yours? 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Another First Year

Sitting still to write is just not my thing these days.  The seasons are flying past in a blur!

My days are longer now than they have ever been and filled with constant, constant, constant teaching.  And learning.  Paradigm shifting is giving me mental vertigo.

But it’s good.

It makes me feel very alive.  Enjoying the deep richness of the sun when it shines.  Drinking in the quiet evenings when the crisp air makes the stars twinkle more brightly. 

I love being on the front row in the Learner’s Audience!  Watching a new concept, a new confidence, a new ability blossom is a teacher’s true reward. 

God is good.

I also find myself working to not compare and contrast the last First Year to this.  I know that retrospect makes everything rosier.

“Remember walking the beautiful promenade of Red Square?  The brilliance of a million lights decorating GUM Department Store?  The proud stateliness of The Kremlin?  The stunning colors of St. Basil’s?  Drinking coffee at Double B?  Dinner at Le Paine?  Gorky Park with all of it’s chaos?”  Flashes through my mind on the dreary days.  And always surrounded with laughter and conversation because I never went there alone.

Easy to forget the thick dusty, dirty air.  The crowds of pushing people.  The undercarriage of uncertainty in everything spoken.  The absolute weariness of Moscow life with its long days, short nights and energy draining activity.

America seems so much simpler. 

I remember telling someone last spring that one of the first things I was going to do was to get in my car, drive to a grocery store, buy as many things as I could with $100, put all the bags in my car and drive home. 

Ah!  Such a simple, mundane task in America!  An impossible feat in Moscow!  Not only did I never have the ruble equivalent of $100 to spend on groceries, but to carry them home!  I don’t have enough arms or strength to manage that task.  Oy!  And who is buying all those bags?  Bags aren’t free, you know! 

The irony is that American grocery stores with their aisles and aisles of choices overwhelm me now.  Who buys all that stuff?  I prefer to go to the little Italian vegetable market around the corner from my home.  I walk there.  It’s only about 10 minutes away.  I bring my own bag.  Fill it up with what I can carry – mostly fresh vegetables and bread - which usually lasts a week or so. 

I didn’t expect Russia to leave such a deep mark in my lifestyle.

Another funny thing is where I go when I want to walk just for the sake of it.  Milwaukee has a lovely downtown area.  Skyscrapers mix with old architecture declaring a storied past.  There are shops and restaurants and coffee shops galore!  French?  Italian?  Cuban?  It’s there.  Not so different than a Moscow neighborhood.  Smaller, yes, but still diverse and interesting.

Where do I go?  The lakefront.  Long, stretches of paths with few interruptions and miles and miles of open, clear water and air.  Expansive emptiness.  Complete contrast to Moscow’s miles of high rise apartments and congested traffic.

The school where I am teaching appears to be a complete opposite to that which I left behind.  Moscow’s elite ambassador/business children compared to Milwaukee’s urban youth.  Many children who have every gadget and fashion accessory they want compared to some children from homes without enough of anything to go around. 

Yet, the children are the same.  They hunger for attention, affirmation, affection.  They search for ways to have someone notice their value.  They shine at unexpected moments sharing grace and compassion when we least expect it. 

They listen to the same music, read the same books, laugh at the same jokes.  They are, after all, just kids trying to find their place in the world.  And I am just a teacher trying to help them spread their wings.

I am hopeful this first year will really be as lovely in retrospect as my first year in Moscow.  I hope I remember only the new friends I have met and the laughter shared.

The frustrations with my limitations, the self-doubts created by my failures, the growing pains – those things I will put in the same box with the other hard First Year memories.  I will take them out only to remind myself that I am not alone.  It’s like that poem Footprints.  In those difficult “I-Can’t-Do-This!” days the strength of my Jesus is made perfect.  He is carrying me and helping me to be the best possible version of myself.  Through Him, I can do all things.  Through His grace, I can manage the heartaches. Through Him I can see the negative actions with eyes of love. 

This First Year is almost over. 

What do I remember most so far?  The chapel service when the Spirit of God moved in and grace filled the air and all of the students felt it.  The book discussions where their imaginations took them beyond their neighborhood and into another world.  The art work which surprised them and blessed the school.  The writing!  Oh, the writing!  The evolution and growth and expansion of ideas and perceptions. 

How I love to unpack their words. 

Spring is in the air and summer is beckoning.  But not so fast, please.  There is more learning to happen this First Year.

Friday, December 30, 2016

One Chicago Day

 A whirl.  A spinning, twirling, flitting whirl.  That’s what my year has been. 

Facebook reminded me this morning that one year ago I was on a train going to St. Petersburg, Russia.  One would think by then it would seem common for me to travel alone in a foreign country.  I should not feel a thrill of victory at my independence and ability at all.  Yet, there I sat thanking God for making me somehow have the skills to manage it all.

The image of my face in the train window came to me again yesterday on my way to Chicago.  I was meeting a friend to have breakfast and then head to the Art institute.  I had been told the impressionist works there would make my mouth water.

The comparison to the year before was continually walking through my memory.  I had gone to St. Petersburg, in part, to meet a friend.  We would visit The Hermitage, filled with breathtaking works.  I was reading Natasha’s Dance, a cultural history of Russia, at that time.  Internalizing the history of Russia while walking among its remnants was especially poignant for me. 

The conductor’s voice brought me back to present.  I am still sometimes surprised to hear the English language in unfamiliar public places.

The train in America is not a common form of transportation and so it wasn’t very crowded.  Mostly holiday travelers who, like me, didn’t want to drive to Chicago and pay exorbitant parking and tolls.  I spent much of the trip listening to two women behind me talk loudly about personal business – theirs and other’s.  A sharp contrast to the near silence and hushed movement of the Russian Rail.

Chicago’s Union Station rivals the greeting station in St. Petersburg.  Its marble stairs dressed up for Christmas were festive and welcoming.  The crowd was friendlier to a stranger, but that could be due to language and my own comfort level.  Perhaps if I spoke Russian I would not have felt distanced from the crowd of St. Petersburg.  Or perhaps it was the warm greeting of my friend waiting for me in the center of the grandeur of Union Station. 
We walked briskly from the station catching up on each other’s lives.  I always enjoy the company of my brilliant young friends.  I am sure they make me smarter just by osmosis. 

I was flooded with memories as we sat in the European café, Le Pain Quitodien, on Michigan Avenue.  The chain was a favorite in Moscow.  An easy meeting place.  “how about Le Paine at Park Kultury?’  “We could meet at Le Pain at Red Square and walk from there.”  “There’s a Le Pain near the Metro.  Let’s stop there.”  You could expect a good bowl of coffee, fresh bread and pastries and quick service.  It was not fast food, but always fast and fresh.

Like any good franchise, it was much the same in Chicago as Moscow or St. Petersburg.  The same coffee bowl, the same chocolate chip cookie stack at the pastry counter, the same salt and pepper shakers even.  It was good, comfortable, like finding an old friend in an unexpected place. 

The Art Institute felt somehow familiar, too.  Similar to The Hermitage, I was greeted by a long queue waiting for tickets.  However, the American version moved much more quickly, happily, loudly.  Within five minutes we were at the doorway to the collections. 

“Impressionists first?”  My friend asked.

“Yes, of course.” 

Monet, Degas, Renoir, Seurat beckoned us.  Swirls of color, light, dancers, flowers, absolute spring time embraced us.  I reveled in the joy of their brilliance.  At times breathing deeply as if I could inhale a moment of their greatness. 

Van Gogh looked slyly from the corner as if to question our questions of his use of colors and shapes.  “You don’t like it?  What?  You think blue instead of yellow for her face?  To me yellow was pretty, summery, light.  You can see it in all of my favorite pieces.  And why are you standing so long before the piles of grass?  I made those as a study.  Just a study!  They don’t mean anything.  Leave them behind.  Go, now, get out!” 

I was very surprised to find that I could recognize some of the artists simply by their works.  When had this happened?  This knowledge of art?  Where had I acquired this kindred-ness to the masters?  Was it at The Hermitage?  Tretyakov Gallery?  MMOMA?  The Garage?  The exposure to greatness had infiltrated and changed me. 
Phrases from Natasha’s Dance came to me as I noted Russian artists spattered in the Institute’s collections.  Especially true as I stood entranced before the Marc Chagall America Windows.  The blues, the lights, the peace, the breadth, the depth of the entire work pulled me in.  I was sorry he had lived through so much political unrest and discrimination.  I was selfishly glad the broad living had expanded his talents so I might enjoy them.

A boy of about 10 sat on the bench before the windows similarly captured. 

“Do you like it?”  I asked.

“Yes.”  He answered seriously.  He stood as though to leave and let me sit.

I continued.  “What do you like about it?”

He sat again and turned his head to take it all in again.  “The blue.  I like the blue the most.  And the small pictures.”

I nodded in complicity.  “Yes, I do, too.” 

“And the instruments.  I like the instruments.”

“Ah.  I see them, too.”

We continued comparing the big and small of the windows before us.  I could sense something special about this child.  An artist’s eye, a creative genius beginning.  He looked deeper into the art than most boys of 10 would bother.  He was patient to see the whole story. 

 A young girl came to sit beside him.  At first I think she was checking the conversation, making sure I wasn’t bringing some kind of harm to him. Then, realizing I was tapping into the young artist’s creativity, she smiled and quietly listened.  I wished later I had gotten his name.  I think I will see it written on a canvas someday. 

There were other such moments of awe as we flowed through the galleries.  Cubism, minimalism, impressionism, realism and a host of other -isms swirled around us.  My companion of the day is a brilliant musician who uses her talent as a teacher.  Her insight of the intertwining of art and music was fascinating.  We discussed the closeness of genres in Europe and America how music and art and literature reflect upon each other. 

After my friend left to catch her train, I roamed around alone for a bit basking in the city lights.  Much like I had done in St. Petersburg the year before, I sat at a Starbucks watching the locals.  Rushing home from work.  Stopping for a quick warm up.  Chatting together before going to some other event.

Last year it was a mall Starbucks which became my writing spot.  Amidst the glitz and glamor of holiday shoppers, I tucked into a booth while words fell from my hands.  Immersed in strangeness, it was still comfortably familiar.  I couldn’t understand their words, but their faces told the same story.  Love of family.  Joy of friendship.  Excitement of travel.  Weariness of work. 

As I considered my visage in the window of the night train I was glad for all of the living, stretching, breathing, learning.  I am thankful for a God who helps me to seize the day and allows me many opportunities.  I hope I am living as someone worth His investment. 

You may have seen a quick day trip to Chicago.  Now you know what was felt through this writer’s eyes.

Note to my regular readers:
Thank you for your support and encouragement.  For more pictures and insight, find me on Facebook - Kris A. Newman.  To order copies of The Book of Pages About Crossing Bridges or A Friend Named Jesus, please message me.
Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!  Let's unwrap 2017 together!
- Kris

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Autumn Winds are Blowing

Autumn.  In America.

New season.  New life.  New start.


Not completely new for me, however.

I am back in Milwaukee.  It’s where I’m from.  Where the story started.  Where I was standing when the miasma of wind blew into my life and I floated away to another place, another chapter, another life. 

In some ways everything is familiar here.  I know the streets, where to turn, where to walk, where to shop.  In others it’s all different.  I don’t see many of the same people, but I have made many new friends.  I don’t live in exactly the same neighborhoods, so I have new routes to drive.  I don’t go to the same church, but my new church has already welcomed me with open arms. 

I am doing what I love – teaching.  And where I’m teaching is both familiar and strange. 

The students are, of course, familiar.  Kids are kids no matter what uniform they wear or where they are born.  They all want to be loved and acknowledged and helped.  They both reject and accept their teachers on a minute-by-minute basis.   (One day this week I was told I look like Adele.  The next day, Mrs. Doubtfire.  I’m not sure I resemble either, to be honest.)  Their minds and hearts are open and I thoroughly enjoy them. 

The curriculum is different from what I’ve done before and so I am challenged in finding the right ways, the best ways, the most creative ways to present learning.  It requires a lot of energy from me and I see my days overflowing with the demands of it.  My mind and my heart are open to it and I thoroughly enjoy it.

Once again I am doing something I didn’t expect.  This whole idea of living for God and following His lead has some rather unexpected turns.

I thought at 50 I might be teaching, but never expected to come back to Milwaukee.  I thought at 50 I might own a house, but never expected I would own a house, but rent an apartment in another city.  I thought at 50 I might be writing more, but life drains me and writing sits on a shelf with all the other fun things right now.

I wrote once about autumn as a time when everything dies.  Colors are profuse, but for such a short time until the wind and rain destroy them.  I talked of the cooler air blasting the world with its chill. 

Last night I was at a bonfire with some of my new friends from work.  Much like Moscow, I am, again, somewhat of an outsider to their group.  It’s clear they have shared much of life together.  Their familiarity draws them into a tight bond.  They correct and love each other’s children.  Long standing jokes ripple through their conversation. 

The event was quite similar to those enjoyed with my Russian colleagues. I, also, was somewhat of an outsider there.  They had shared much of life together and enjoyed each other’s company.   Commonalities bound them together.

But this time I understood the language and the customs.  The same, but different. 

I wasn’t lonely on the outside looking in.  I didn’t feel left out.  I didn’t wonder what was happening around me.  It was nice, actually, to see my new colleagues through this lens and the warmth of their friendship.  I felt encompassed, surrounded, peaceful.

In the center of the clearing was a large bonfire fed by wooden pallets.  A ring of merrymakers were singing with a box drum, guitars and heavenly voices.  Beyond that circle were tag-playing children whose location could be seen only by the glow-in-the-dark bands about their neck or wrist.  Like neon lights they circled the space.  Above us, tree branch fringe laced the evening sky.

The wind was cool, but not harsh.  Leaves had begun to change, but had not fallen.  Many things have changed in Milwaukee these ten years I’ve been gone.  Especially me. 

It’s a new season, it’s true.  But I am not afraid of it.  I look forward to it with open arms and a curious mind.  What exactly will we learn here?  Who exactly will we meet?  How exactly will this chapter look at its conclusion?

This time, the writer doesn’t mind autumn. It’s nice.