Last Friday morning on my way to get coffee in the kitchen, I stopped dead in my tracks, sniffing the air. There was a cool breeze blowing in from the open living room window, the sunlight was already slanting down through the huge old tree in front of our house. It was early. I could hear the voices of kids outside.
"It smells like something. What does it smell like?" I asked Court. She froze just as I had, narrowed her eyes, sniffed a few times, and waited. "It smells like school," she said with eyebrows raised.
Yeessssss! That was exactly it. The edge of coolness, the smell of lawn mowing in the neighborhood, the smell of morning. It makes you want to buy new pens and note cards, doesn't it?
Today the roomie and I cleaned up a storm. The kind of cleaning where you wipe down your weird tiled kitchen ceiling and scape leaves out of the window sills, make everything fresh, rearrange the slip covers, dust the baseboards, clean out behind those catch-all radiators, evict the spiders that have taken residence behind shelves and in dark corners. How satisfying.
School starts Thursday, and I think this cleaning frenzy is a form of nesting. Going to school is a bit like having a baby--there are some things you can expect and know will be hard, some amazing things that you never could have known were in store, some things you will learn about yourself and others that are great, and some things that will be revealed about yourself and the world that are not so great. Getting ready for the flurry of activity, the full weeks and many books to read and meetings to attend. Making space, organizing. Mentally, emotionally. There is build-up, there is anticipation.
A group of us in what I have recently decided to name "the western edge of the eastside" (which sort of works, depending on where you are in St. Louis) are setting up a carpool group. There is talk of community dinners before some evening classes. I think that, yes, I am excited for school to start.
The faculty moved into offices in the new building on campus, one that they have been working on for the past year. It was needed, since the other building is sort of falling in on itself. At the same time, walking through to drop something off to a professor sort of gave me a heart ache. The building is quite lovely, quite expensive and smelling like fresh paint and newness.
But I think I am just kind of ruined. My office with the new job will be in this beautiful building, but there is the reality of the rest of the world that is a low hum (sometimes a loud screech) in my brain that makes just going through daily activities of living uncomfortable and saddening. I actually posted another thing like this a while back, but took it down because I felt like a real Debbie Downer. But it still sickens me: I see this, and I can't help but think of this.
As I sit in classes learning about counseling, I focus my mind on the thin, sorrow etched face of the woman whose living room I sat in in Ethiopia. A woman whose eyes looked exhausted, whose life for the last several years has entailed caring for her husband, who is now in the process of dying. About a month ago, we sat in this living room and prayed with this man who is in the final stages of AIDS, whose brain has been affected by the disease. He sat up in a chair and light poured in to their tiny corrugated metal home through a sunlight cut into the roof. It came down right on him, as if he were being illuminated by Light Himself. His face became golden with the light. I felt like I was catching a glimpse of some sort of transfiguration as we prayed for healing and comfort for this family. It was a sort of bizarre, holy and life-transforming thing that you don't soon forget, that induces mourning and hope at the same time.
Lord have mercy.
So. As the school year begins, there is anticipation, there is sorrow, there is frustration, there is thankfulness for friends and community. And there is the hope that with all of us God breaks in and captures our hearts for a vision of his Kingdom that is more than classrooms, more than maddening discrepancies, more than situations that feel hopeless, more than what we personally can or can't do. I reflect back over years past, and the ways God has confronted, transformed, challenged, healed, chided and beckoned. And I guess as the school year starts I sort of know what to expect from myself and from Him: I have no idea what it will look like, but I am looking forward to more; asking him to show us more.