Beginnings & Endings
Spring is exploding this week. Two weeks ago, as I hunted turkeys I wore long underwear and gloves because each morning started at about twenty degrees. This week we had some sunshine and summer-like temperatures. All of the tree buds that had barely swelled until this point, suddenly plumped up and they are in the process of bursting open.
Leaves are amazing. They unfurl like miniature flags, each of them fully shaped and immediately recognizable. The sawtooth edges of the birch, and the calligraphy-like edge of the oak emerge from the bud. It will only take them from a few days to no more than a week to stretch out to full sized. By next weekend trees will be spreading out blankets of thick, cool shade beneath them on sunny days.
Some, like flowering crab trees in my front yard, and the lilac out my kitchen window are like those fourth of July fireworks that hide a second internal explosion. Their leaves are still unfolding and growing, but the flower buds are also clearly emerging. They appear most anxious to get this growing season underway.
While all this has been staging and now engaging, my wife has been contracting in a way. She will be retiring from teaching after twenty- plus years. So, each day she brings home some materials that she has used for the last time. Sometimes, it’s markers and colored construction paper that will be now be divided up among grandchildren. Sometimes it’s books that will get donated at some point. At the time of year when everything is growing and becoming larger, her classroom in a way gets smaller and smaller.
There are those she knows who only see the burden of daily work being lessened. “Are you getting excited?” they ask enthusiastically? As someone who has watched her spend some of every evening, sometimes most of the evening doing all of the reading and correcting and prepping and planning that is necessary to teach well, I know that I am happy that she will have more down time.
But I have some inkling as to the amount of her heart that she has invested into hoping to see the spark of learning, the light of understanding, the fire of imagination in the eyes of her students. I know that she has never seen this as her job. She sees it as her vocation, her ministry. And so, I see the quiet when the realization of the nearness of the end overshadows her. I see the eyes staring out into a future that suddenly seems so unknown. There is nothing that I can do about this ending except to assure her that I will accompany her. I will be there for a hug when needed, and I will be patient when it is space rather than closeness that she will need. I will share her smile when she is finally confident that she has brought everything with her that is necessary, and that she is confident in what she has left behind.