It’s never too late to change the pace.
Oh, how the days creep up on you,
But the goodness is something you don’t have to chase
‘Cause it’s following you.
And all you’ll hear is the music.
And beauty stands before you.
And love comes back around again,
It’s a carousel, my friend.
Vanessa Carlton, “Carousel”
Tuesday morning we return to Black Forest Academy, dressed in our finest for Opening Ceremonies 2011. Outside the school, our brand-new seniors carry the flags of the 53 nations represented at BFA this school year. I’m delighted to see them, these former Juniors that made last year rich and interesting. More than that, I’m delighted to know them, here at the beginning of the year.
I’ve thought a great deal in the past weeks about what it means to return somewhere, and how it’s different from the linear path we’re led to believe all our lives take. A professor in college used to tell us–while lecturing on Dante’s Divine Comedy and Homer’s Odyssey–that life moved in spirals, a great labyrinth that never went the most direct course from points A to B. We return, again and again, to places we’ve been before. But it’s not Groundhog Day, not even the carousel in the song above. We come back changed, looking at familiar places through slightly different eyes, and every cycle is slightly different, larger and richer than before. We see the minor changes around us, notice fresh coats of paint on walls, and new hair, cut or dyed. Sometimes, changes are greater, and the end of the summer reveals radical transformations of personality, belief, relationship. No matter what, we’re not turning back time, but we are wheeling back around, making another circle as our spheres of knowledge, influence and relationship grow wider and wider.
Our director, Phil Peters, speaks to us about life as a journey, one in which we help one another, struggle and keep moving forward, while students, parents and staff fan themselves with programs on the hot August morning. As the doors open at the end of the ceremony, the courtyard fills with the sounds of community. Everywhere I look, our students are locked in embraces of farewell or greeting. Parents bid their children farewell for a few months; and students fling themselves jubilantly at their friends.
I’m struck, again, by the length and depth of relationships at BFA. It is a risk to invest here, in this community that shifts dramatically with every new year, but everywhere I look I see signs that staff and students do just that. Jesus told his disciples that this would be their distinguishing feature, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). This is God’s love, not ours, and it fills this place.
We can all imagine what this next year’s circle will hold, poring over schedules and remembering “how it was last year.” But really we don’t know, can’t know, what surprises are in store for us. We’ve just taken the first few steps, but on this brilliant still-summer day, we’re sure of one thing. Wherever we go, whatever happens, it all happens in the security of God’s grace, in the company of faithful friends.