Sunday, September 25, 2016
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.