Yesterday, for almost no apparent reasons, I found myself on the verge of tears. It were as though some invisible shadow passed over my scope—and whether because of falling leaves mingled with uncharacteristically warm weather, or because another year folds over into an almanac of remembrances…I don’t know. But a sorrow resides at the heart of this lethargic Fall.
I am busy about the business of course evaluation critique for Institutional Assessment—a task as exciting as the lifeless description above. Not that I object to evaluative measures of effectiveness, but the paradigm of knowledge and transformation seem as much the inconclusive terminus of the current production-consumption model. Both exclude process. Consider: knowledge gained transforms, but it also reveals unknown ignorance which drives the pursuit of knowledge in exploration of further transformation. Learning has a beginning terminus, but it is the line of unbroken directionality: it never ends. Nor does the tree begin or end at the seed or the carcass of rotting wood, nor does one season mark the beginning and another the end, for each rolls into the other, transforming the face of earth and sky with the distinct strokes of color, hue, and shade.
Where once my recollections played back like a train of linear direction, now I find the seasons are self-contained transfer stations for remembrance. And so—watching Jonah descend the steps of his elementary school this morning—I saw myself at six, entering past the large curved exterior of Waynesboro Elementary School, over wooden floors in a hall that rose impossibly high for a first-grader. There—past offices and the special rooms of teacher conferences, past where a side hallway led toward the lunchroom—I turn to enter the door of Mrs. Porter’s room. In the framed outline of the doorway, I see her sitting behind her desk. Shane and Cain are already there. Turning back, I see the length of the hallway stretch toward the wide open space of outside and the shadow of my own father watching me, small, grow even smaller with perspective. And I am him and he is me and I believe he must be thinking about his childhood and entering the classrooms of his youth under the watchful eye of his father in a never ending repetition of father and son till at the dawn of time Adam stood in the morning sun and watched Able play among his tendered sheep.
God, these colors of Fall are a haunting shade of florescent orange and they call me out and in, down to the earthy places and up to the span of heaven. And where the brokenness of life breaks in—KS and her struggle with a brain tumor; and AB longing for you know what; a child bound by a self-imposed perfection that makes her sick; and a church looking for a pastor—I look for light in the darkness. Meanwhile, leaves fall in the stirring breeze, and if I venture to catch one, I will gain a wish (or so I pretend): a wish that freezes time and turns it back in a forward progression of growth and life apart from death and decay. A wish that makes me child and son while remaining man and father. A wish that lets the pages of the almanac live again.
This longing waits. I hold back tears. I fight them back.