Angelina & The Lupine Lady

“That is all very well, little Alice,” said her grandfather, “but there is a third thing you must do.”

“What is that?” asked Alice.

“You must do something to make the world more beautiful,” said her grandfather.

“All right,” said Alice. But she did not know what that could be.

In the meantime Alice got up and washed her face and ate porridge for breakfast. She went to school and came home and did her homework.

And pretty soon she was grown up.

Barbara Cooney, from Miss Rumphius

Before bedtime, we pick out “long books,” the bigger picture books in the living room, as opposed to the little board books in the bedroom. Luci’s opinions aren’t as strong about these books, so I choose two of my favorites, Barbara Cooney’s Miss Rumphius and Angelina Ballerina, by Katharine Holabird. These books, published in 1982 and 1983, respectively, glimmer like jewels in my often-hazy childhood memories. There were four of us then, a little church on an island, pebbly beaches strewn with driftwood, and books. Always books.

Snuggled under the blanket my grandmother crocheted for Luci two years ago, we start with Angelina Ballerina. A young mouse who longs to dance above all things, Angelina sometimes forgets to do anything else. When her dancing ways get out of hand, her father suggests ballet lessons. Angelina is thrilled, goes to the lessons, practices and reforms her chore-forgetting ways, and eventually grows up to be the renowned Mademoiselle Angelina in a mouse ballet company.

I smile at the pictures, remembering how much I loved an Angelina Christmas ornament I got one year, and how when I was just a little older than Luci I imagined that I, too, would be a “real ballerina” when I grew up. I started ballet lessons hopefully, learning positions I can no longer remember, and dreaming of the day I’d wear a pink tulle skirt in an actual recital. And then we moved away from our little island. I learned to ride a bike and explore the forest, and new passions took hold.

Next we meet Miss Rumphius, the tale of Alice Rumphius, who longs to “see faraway places, and come home to live by the sea.” As a child, her grandfather tells her that there is a third, more important task for her: she has to do something to make the world more beautiful. She grows up, travels the world–riding camels and climbing mountains–then comes home to a cottage by the sea, wondering how she’ll make her already-splendid world even more beautiful. Quite to her surprise, she finds a passion for scattering lupine seeds around the dunes and dales of her little seacoast, and grows into a wise, old lady, making the world more beautiful with her stories and flowers.

And while Angelina had my heart as a child, it is the Lupine Lady who speaks to me now. Perhaps I find some kinship with her, a woman who loves books, learning and exploration. Perhaps I’m still traveling to faraway places, and am wondering where my home by the sea will be. Mostly, though, I share her longing to “do something to make the world more beautiful,” even as she admits, “I do not know yet what that might be.”

A few weeks ago, a colleague shared an article titled “You’ll Never Be Famous–And That’s O.K.” In it, writer Emily Esfahani Smith discusses Middlemarch and the value of a quietly well-lived life, contrasting two of the protagonists and their different routes to success. One is materially successful, yet unhappy in marriage, while the other eventually marries her true love, yet never realizes her wide-reaching dreams. The second ends the novel satisfied, as the author notes, “Rather than succumb to the despair of thwarted dreams, she embraces her life as it is and contributes to those around her as she can.”

I haven’t read Middlemarch–though now I’m a bit closer to an attempt–but these stories remind me fondly of Tootsie Clark, who died at home at the age of 95 last week. The proprietress of a restaurant in my childhood hometown of Marblemount, Washington, I still remember her well, the cheery old lady who made the biggest, stickiest cinnamon rolls in the world. We’d go there for birthdays and holidays, for a special treat or a Date With Dad occasion. Tootsie would be there, baking her famous rolls and cracking jokes, sharing the same genial warmth with the passing-through tourists as the locals she’d known since they were my age. Last May, hers was the first car over Highway 20 when it opened for the spring, a tradition she carried on even in the last months of her life.

I can’t know how happy Angelina will be as a ballerina¹, but I’m pretty sure now that I won’t be her when I grow up. There are only a handful of career paths to “famous teacher,” and they almost all lead through the jungle of educational public policy, far from the roads I’m likely to tread. As for “famous wives and mothers,” well, I’m not planning to review baby monitors or turn this blog into a lifestyle brand anytime soon, though maybe Timmy and I will someday rival John and Abigail Adams in lively and learned correspondence. After a decade of teaching, almost four years of marriage and almost two of motherhood, my most valuable callings are also the most commonplace ones.

And yet this life doesn’t feel commonplace, not at all. In fact, I feel unbelievably rich, even as I’m undeniably not famous. I long to grow more like these childhood heroes of mine, fictional and real, Miss Rumphius and Tootsie, making the world more beautiful and investing in their communities. I scatter words instead of seeds, and bake chocolate chip cookies instead of cinnamon rolls. I’m still learning. And by the grace of God, using His gifts, I aspire to do something to make this broken world more beautiful.

And I don’t always know what that will be.

 

¹Probably very happy, since she’s a cartoon mouse in a children’s book, likely without the physical and emotional toll that fame takes on the rest of us.

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More Beautiful Than It Has To Be

Sailing for the first time with my mom and sister on Lake Washington.

Sailing for the first time with my mom and sister on Lake Washington.

The air was cool and fresh. Ten thousand brilliant stars arched across the sky. But what transfixed us was the phosphorescence. Every little wave rolling into the cove was crested with cold fire. The anchor rode was a line of fire going down into the depths, and fish moving about left trails of fire. The night of the sea fire.

…Neither of us spoke, not so much as a whispered word. We were together, we were close, we were overwhelmed by a great beauty. (69)

A Severe Mercy, Sheldon Vanauken

The wind, so elusive on the calm August afternoon when we left the marina,  picked up by the time we reached the other side of the lake. This was our first time on a sailboat, my sister’s and mine, and we were delighted by the novel feeling of leaning into the wind, our sails and selves askew, tacking around the edge of Lake Washington.  A new language tickled our ears; here, ropes were called “sheets” and the words “port” and “starboard” echoed back from childhood Peter Pan viewings. My hand on the tiller, I learned to feel the wind above and waves below, so unfamiliar to this mountain-raised child of the Cascades.

Sunset on Lake Washington

Sunset on Lake Washington

We skimmed the surface of the sun-brilliant lake, and the boat’s owners told us the history of the boat, intimately linked to their own history as a couple and then as a family. They told of John’s buying the boat, before they were married, of dates on the boat that almost ended in nautical collision. They recalled leaner times, when moorage was costly and the boat lived far away, visited by the young family on summer weekends, “boat camping” with two small children. They remembered fondly how they considered selling it, again and again, but held onto it in the hope that they could, someday, share with others this experience that their family loved so much.

And as we turned again towards shore, the sun setting over this city I’ve grown to love, I recalled a phrase that comes to me nearly every time I’m in a stunningly lovely place.

More beautiful than it has to be.

Sunrise in the North Cascades

Sunrise in the North Cascades

Up on a glacier with my siblings, enjoying a sunrise. Riding the train home from Frankfurt Airport, under wide skies heavy with summer clouds I’ve missed so much. Watching the sunset from a series of attic windows, the glory not spoiled even by the telephone wires that bisect it.

I’m struck in these places by the extravagance of beauty lavished on them by the hand of a liberal Creator. Even though almost no one sees the glacier, few people bother to look at the clouds, and plenty of us go to the movies instead of watching the sunset, still they are beautiful.

And whether we’re created to love and notice beauty, or God created beauty for us, the ones He loves, either way it’s a gift. A luxury, but not in the frivolous way we talk about chocolate and Lexuses. A loving luxury, this gift from Creator to created ones.

I remember this today as I return to my classroom at Black Forest Academy and prepare it for the new school year.  A professor told me, a long time ago, that decorations in a classroom didn’t need to look nice. How a classroom looked didn’t matter, she said. It was to be a place of function, not beauty. The message was clear–and chilling–to me at the time: education is serious, and beauty is not.

Classroom ready for the year to begin!

Classroom ready for the year to begin!

I laugh about it now as I fix the curtains and arrange the pillows on the seats below my tall classroom windows. I cover the bulletin board with blue paper and decorate it with string and pages from old books. I hang up quotes that inspire me next to bright canvas landscapes of nowhere. I hang paper birds on a tree branch and stick magnetic words to the closet door. More beautiful, this place, than it strictly has to be.

Of course there are poetic device posters that will go up later, rules that I will dutifully print out and post. They’re there, part of the classroom like pencil sharpeners and white boards, and not one notices them. But the quotes begin conversation, the paintings rest eyes tired of words. I’ll hang up their work on the decorated bulletin board, and a few times a year they’ll bunch up in the back to read and admire one another’s work. My students will come in three weeks and sit in the windowsills, where they’ll look out at falling leaves or snow, back in at the classroom, where they’ll read or squirm and invariably pull down the curtains I put up so carefully.

And after 8 years, covering a board with paper is still the hardest thing about being a teacher.

And after 8 years, covering a board with paper is still the hardest thing about being a teacher.

Sometimes I think of the time I put into setting up my classroom as a gift to my students, and other times it seems like a foolish luxury, the chocolate or Lexus kind. Mostly, though, I do it because I’ve learned more how God loves me from the grandeur of a glacier, or the perfect green of an avocado, than the function of a service or intense study. This creativity is love, extravagant love, new every morning.

My decorated classroom, prepared for a new set of eleventh graders, is just a pale copy, not to be compared with glaciers or even avocados. But it’s what I have for now, the time to invest in this love for students I’ve not yet met.

This Is The Day

Snow

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice, and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

“I’m not that sporty,” I said one day long ago, walking around Greenlake with a friend.

“You didn’t do sports in high school?”

“No, I did. I ran cross country for three years. I didn’t really like the running.”

“So why did you do it?” he asked, incredulous.

“I liked being outside, in the fall. Running through the forest, you see more than walking. It was a good excuse to be in the forest, running with friends, safe. It was really beautiful. That’s what I loved.”

It’s this conversation I’m remembering today, foggy Sunday afternoon, when I cinch the laces of my hiking boots and head out into the snowy forest. I’ve always exercised  for social or aesthetic reasons. I’ll play a game inside with people I like, or I’ll run outside alone. The best scenario is enjoying nature with others; the worst running hamster-like on a machine, trapped in a too-warm room, inevitably with too few windows.

Here in Germany, this has meant that my running routes–a capillary network of trails that provide almost infinite options–depend on the weather and time of day more than anything else. Clear days, I’ll climb to some vista to see the view. If it’s late afternoon, I’ll make sure I’m running west into the setting sun, drinking in as much orange light as I can. If it’s cold and rainy here in Kandern, I’ll run up into the hills, searching for snow at higher altitudes.

Today it’s too foggy for views anywhere, so I head into the forest. The Black Forest–mysterious, deciduous–is a place of magic in the winter, unexpectedly bright and barren. Since an ice storm last night rendered all the paths too slippery for running shoes, in hiking boots I’m traveling slower than usual, seeing more. I look up at slender trees, zebra-striped with snow, their lacy tops disappearing into the cloud. Lower down, the forest is breathlessly still, only the terra-cotta orange of unfallen leaves interrupting the monochrome scene.

And the forest lures me into metaphor, as it has so many times before. I think of my decision to abandon the high hills today, since their expansive views are shrouded in grey. I think of how much there is to see up close, when I’m moving slowly enough to look for it.

I think of how often I’m so busy looking for views of the future–either for events to look forward to or possible disasters to worry about–that I miss being present today. Lovelier than even this winter forest, this present life is rich with the gifts of people I love deeply, a place that restores and a vocation that challenges and delights me daily.

The broad views are exciting–days when we daydream of how it could be, someday–but it’s foggy days that remind me to slow down, thanking God for this day he’s made, not just a stepping stone to the future but truly a gift in itself.

There Are No Lakes Till Eternity

We are not permitted to linger, even with what is most
intimate. From images that are full, the spirit
plunges on to others that suddenly must be filled;
there are no lakes till eternity. Here,
falling is best. To fall from the mastered emotion
into the guessed-at, and onward.

Rainer Maria Rilke, from “To Hölderlin”

A valley filled with fog.Photo: Emily Kelly

A valley filled with fog.
Photo: Emily Kelly

We walk down, in the dark and the snow.

This first weekend of Christmas break, I’ve come to Schladming with Timmy and Emily Kelly to visit my father, who is finishing a week of teaching at Tauernhof. Schladming, Austria, is a summer place for me, a sleepy town in which the kids begged the mayor to dig a swimming hole in the river, and he acceded gladly. It’s a valley of lazy outdoor concerts and ice cream eating, all under the meditative gazes of the sheep and cows who graze the pasture mountains all around. In the winter, I find it transformed, busy in preparation for the upcoming ski World Cup, held here in February. Still, it’s good to be here, to spend time with family and old friends, and to show Timmy and Emily these places about which they’ve heard so much.

At the end of a long day of visiting, exploring and ski-jump watching, we have dinner at a mountain hut, partaking delightedly in Tauernhof’s staff Christmas party. It’s a merry feast in this glowing room of friends and strangers, tables heaped high with food while little children run around at our feet.

When the party ends, late at night, we walk back down the mountain to where we’ve parked the cars. The day was foggy, and dizzy snow fell during dinner, but now the sky is icy black, extravagant with stars. A few inches of new snow soften icy footsteps, as we slide happily down the hill between snow and stars.  Below us, over the sharp edge of our snowy path, the valley is brimming with glowing cloud. It is a night of velvet and diamonds, as light and dark, smooth and sharp, dance together in these mountains.

Surrounded by the bilingual voices of people I love, suspended between a warm mittened hand on the left and this sea of beauty on the right, I’m so deeply content. It’s a moment I can’t photograph–lacking both skills and equipment to capture it properly–and I doubt that a picture recall the peace and joy of this moment, anyway.

This weekend in Austria has reminded me of the linearity of life, how I may spiral back to the same places, but the past never, ever repeats itself. Life is running on, circumstances shifting and people growing, keeping me busy learning, always, how to live and move in this ever-new world.

It’s tempting to sigh about this, how many gifts seem to vanish so quickly, but I can’t. The longer I follow Christ, the more certain I become that I don’t need to cling to each shard of loveliness He brings my way, terrified of losing them in the valleys of busyness and distraction. There will be love and beauty, laughter and rest, around each new corner, and even in the darkness, He walks with me. He is my shepherd; I shall not want. So I’m thankful for this time, fleeting as snow in Kandern, but even more thankful to know the Creator of all such beauty.

In the Forest

In the woods, is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is grey November, a Thursday afternoon, and to my great fortune I’m sitting on dry leaves by a meadow, watching a stream gurgle by with extreme laziness. We call it “the river,” the Kander river from whom our town gets its name, but it is simply a brook, muddy and indolent and good-humored.

Around me, scattered across a strip of adjacent land that BFA recently purchased, are my students. Some are sitting, like me, on the leafy grass and rocks. Others lean against trees, looking up into the golden ends of autumn, and a few choose to wander, keeping their feet and minds moving as they examine all corners of the field. I’ve sent them out here armed only with coats to ward off the insipid non-chill of a mild November day and two slips of paper, one bearing a quote from Emerson’s “Nature” and the other a passage of Scripture concerning God’s creation. Those, and the instruction to “Be in nature. Just to be.”

We’ve been studying the transcendentalism this week, with Emerson and Thoreau, that bizarre amalgam of philosophy, religion and art that has produced nature-loving, interior-gazing Americans for the last 150 years. My lesson for today sounded more than a bit silly when I wrote it down a week ago. Thursday: Transcendentalist Walk. And the students, they felt the oddity of it this morning, when I first brought them outside, giving strange directions as we walked to the creek.

“You’re seeking solitude! Don’t talk to one another. Avoid each other! Try not to see any buildings!”

For a while they drifted aimlessly, blown like the leaves from the trees, resting in one place for only a second before moving on, seeking better inspiration. But once they stopped, really stopped, they put down roots. This class of students is dressed in the muted colors of autumn, the maroon of dying leaves and the grey of cloudy skies, and after a few minutes their unmoving figures blend into the surroundings. They are still, my students, for one quiet minute at rest.

We’re tired these days, students and teachers, stretched by projects and commitments, worn out by late nights, long rehearsals and tournaments. It sounded whimsical last week to spend part of a class “being transcendental” outside; today it feels almost necessary. We all need to slow down a little. Or quite a lot.

After a while, I gather them back again, as gently as I can pulling them up from the solitary rest they’ve found for a while. Back inside the classroom, I play Sigur Ros while they write about their time outside. I don’t know what I expect to hear. I never get the impression that our kids–or any kids, really–love the outdoors as much as I did when I was their age. I’ve accepted that I wasn’t the norm, even then, but still I wish I could share it, this solace I find in the uncomplicated routines of the natural world.

At the end of class, we share our reflections. Students speak of rest, forgetting for just a short time the stresses of past, present and future that weigh heavily on teenagers. They confess to never having spent time outside, and wonder why. They marvel at the originality of their Creator, the artist of autumn. They wish they could have spent longer.

And I remember, again, the deep loveliness in which we’re invited to take part. I’m thankful to share it with these people I love, and glad that, if only for a moment, we found in the forest quiet and rest.

There And Back Again

Noah and I with Grandma Nadine

Nobody tells you when you get born here
How much you’ll come to love it,
And how you’ll never belong here.
So I call you my country,
And I’ll be lonely for my home
And I wish that I could take you there with me.

“Land of My Sojourn,” Rich Mullins

It’s still dark at 5:45 AM when we land at Frankfurt International Airport. I’ve been traveling for almost 17 hours, and have about five more to go before Bus 55 drops me off in Kandern. With a yawn and last sip of bitter coffee, I peer out the window, back in Germany.

Several years ago, I was spending the summer in Austria when a friend from Seattle came to Germany for five days. He was attending a wedding (here in Kandern, oddly enough), and five days was the maximum of vacation days he could manage. At the time, I laughed. Who goes to Europe for five days?

The same people, I realize now, who live in Germany and spend a long weekend in California, for a wedding and a time with my brother, as I’ve just finished doing. Motivated by love rather than convenience, kept alive by caffeine, we traverse time zones with youthful impunity, vowing to sleep later.

Ashley and Kristi, bride and bridesmaid

I pull out my camera as we taxi to the gate, flipping back through pictures of the trip. My aunt and uncle welcome us in at 9:30 PM and bid us farewell twelve hours later, not before preparing two delicious meals and staying up past midnight with us, catching up around a patio campfire. My grandmother, Nadine, is shocked to see us on a surprise visit to her home in Fresno. I drive all over the tinder-dry, strip-mall rich Central Valley with my brother, Noah, filling miles of Highway 99 with conversations unhad for the sixteen months. And then, at the end of three busy days, I stand with flowers and a black dress at the front of a church, celebrating the marriage of my friend and college roommate, Ashley. Though weary, I am grateful to have gone, thankful for the years of relationship that led up to these intersecting moments with family and friends.

Looking out the window at pre-dawn Frankfurt, a foreign city in which I’ve spent no time at all, I’m thinking of what we mean by “home.” It’s nebulous for us, this community of global nomads, ever flowing in and out of this green valley in Southern Germany. Where is home, after all? Is is the country that prints your passport? The address where you receive mail? The place you retreat to on holidays?

I wrote to a former student, a few years ago, that growing up for me has meant finding that homes don’t cancel each other out, that many exist simultaneously, all over the city and world. It’s true. This weekend, even in California, had flavors of home. With my family, there is a history that goes deeper than the few precious days we’ve spent together lately. With Ashley, as she begins her marriage, there is a sense of future, looking ahead to what lies in store for her. Even so, apart from these relationships I felt somewhat alien there, in an unfamiliar part of the country, surrounded by strangers speaking English and busily buying nonsense from too-large drug stores.

We found a genuine California swimming hole in Chico!

No one is waiting for me in Frankfurt, so I collect my luggage and board a train heading south. It’s tempting to feel the sting of loneliness as I try to stay awake on the train, tempting to wish that there were other people here, telling me I’m welcome. Still, the sun begins to rise, and we slide over the misty sea of harvest fields, where rosy light is diffused through geometric orchards and mirrored against the glassy, meandering rivers that follow the tracks. And this, the incredible loveliness that God has lavishly poured over this place, feels like its own welcome to me.

Rainer Maria Rilke, visiting Rome and also exhausted by travel, once wrote of the soothing power of beauty like this, saying “There is much beauty here because there is much beauty everywhere. … One gradually learns to recognize the very few things in which eternity dwells, which one con love, and solitude, of which one can softly partake.”

I could make easy generalizations, could say that North America is relationships and Europe is beauty, but it wouldn’t be true. Because I’ve climbed mountains and watched sunrises in Washington, and because in Germany I spend long evenings in honest, rich community, another family. I’m thankful for both; both are home.

Because as there is beauty everywhere, home is everywhere. Christ is home, I wrote at the beginning of this adventure. It’s still true. In solitude or community, in beauty or barrenness, He is in every step, every moment. From one home to another, I travel in peace.

Sunset on our California Highway 99 road trip.

Capturing the Castle

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear.

Henry David Thoreau

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Yours Also Is the Night

Yours is the day, Yours also is the night.

Psalm 74:16

The day has already been long.  This morning, we walked up the 2000 meter mountain just behind our school, stopping only for a swim on the 30°+ C day before ascending to “the next summit.”  It was a narrow strip of grass underneath a wooden cross, standing out like a spoon in a green bowl.  At 3:00 PM, we began to run down the mountain, returning to school just in time for our 4:00 PM staff meeting.

I’m tired now, well past bedtime.  Half an hour ago, we woke up our students from where they were sleeping in tents in the yard.  We gathered in the darkened lecture hall to hear about Austrian Bible smugglers who brought Scripture over the mountains during the counter-reformation.  Then we sent them on their way, up the river and back through field and forest, high above the town.

As they walk, I’m waiting on the path with another instructor, stationed to read verses from Romans and point the way back to school.  It’s a moonless night, and the stars above Central Austria are stunning, mostly unfamiliar.  I learn German names for constellations, squint to imagine the creatures they outline in pinpricks of light.  After a while we’re silent, and I’m only just aware of the hard ground, mesmerized by layer upon layer of stars usually hidden by city lights.

I’ve grown up in places like this, falling asleep under ceilings of stars before nearsightedness and streetlights ruined the fun.  And what surprises me–even more so in the wilderness but also here among people–is the deep, far-reaching beauty splashed out on the world.  In the darkness I am stunned by the overwhelming extravagance of glory around me, breathless to imagine the God who spent so lavishly to show it to us.  It’s surprising, beautiful and well worth staying awake longer than usual.

Bright Things (Come to Confusion)

So quick bright things come to confusion

Swift as a shadow, short as any dream;

Brief as the lightning in the collied night…

And ere a man hath power to say ‘Behold!’

The jaws of darkness do devour it up:

So quick bright things come to confusion.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (I, i)

I am ending the Ingraham ninth grade year with Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, hoping to escape from mournfully damp spring mornings into a lively night in the forest outside of never-ago Athens.  As with most of my curriculum decisions since coming to Ingraham, we’re reading this play because of a few fortunate coincidences.  If I had my way I’d teach Othello and Twelfth Night every year, but I often don’t.  We did encounter the jealous train wreck of Othello in November, but a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (put on by a talented Seattle Shakespeare Co. touring company) changed my spring plans.

I didn’t expect to find much wisdom in this play, which is beautifully written but remarkably silly.  Yet here is Lysander, an annoying lover of Romeo-esque levels of obsession, telling his version of Juliet that the best things, including their thwarted love, are as temporary as lightning.  So it probably won’t last, he shrugs with shocking stoicism for a Shakespeare character, but in the meantime let’s make it last as long as possible.

Though ridiculously out of place in this play (ten lines later he suggests that they spend the night together in the forest, en route to his spinster aunt’s house, where they can get married), the message is common enough.  Nothing lasts forever.

And I agree, but only partly.  Because moments are always slipping and fading, falling to pieces like clouds at the end of a storm.  I am always keenly aware of this at this time of the year, when the familiar interactions of the classroom have mellowed into something beautiful.

The afternoon is long and calm, and Period Five knows one another well.  They have heard each other’s stories, debated and discussed and listened and told.  N finally posts a poem on the poetry blog, triumphantly declaring it to the class.  D, J, and E win the class-level poetry slam, and we congratulate them, our representatives in the All Ninth Grade Poetry Slam next week. E tells me what he’s learning about the Trojan War in his recreational reading, and we discuss reading Homer’s Illiad this summer.  S is excited, again, about magic carpets and Taylor Lautner.  The class hums with quiet energy, and I am satisfied.

“Why do you have to leave, Ms. D?” a student asks, and it’s a good question.  I tell him about Germany, tell him about travel and being young and feeling like I’m supposed to be somewhere.  And then, “But you know I wouldn’t be your teacher next year anyway, right?”

We all want to hang on to something.  For him, it’s this class.  For me, it’s the weekend I spent with my family, driving with my siblings through greenest valleys, listening to music and feeling like this minute, this song, could last forever and I wouldn’t mind.  In every time of deep beauty, there is almost a painful joy in knowing that it won’t ever be this way again.

And yet… There is more to come.  I think of Ecclesiastes, the advice to enjoy the blessings that God has given, knowing that they aren’t forever.  It isn’t just one minute of life that I’m thankful for.  It’s a million minutes, each as different as a fingerprint.  Though I’m sure I’ve waited in the same lines a dozen times, taken the same harrowing left turns and mailed the same bills more times than I can count, the best times are never replicated.

This is what excites me, looking ahead.  I’m moving in three weeks, leaving behind most of what I know, all the material for the moments I’d like to keep.  I can’t imagine what I’ll love next, what it will look like, or even who will be involved.  The only guarantee is that I’ll soon enough find myself breathless with gratitude, loving the beauty of God in new faces and a new country.  Because Lysander is right–bright things do come to confusion, and quickly–but he spoke too soon.  As one bright moment fades away, another is already preparing to burst into firework brilliance.