Thursday, June 3, 2010

The End is Near

The campus is empty today. Academy exams are over. Teachers are squirreled away in their offices finishing their grades. Outside, where there are normally people in movement all day every day, the birds have more or less taken over. The summer sun bakes down on empty fields. Over in the gym, someone is playing a ragtime recording, and the sound is carrying over to my office. Every once in a while a graduating senior will pop in to say goodbye. At the junior school, many teachers are packing up their rooms in preparation for the great migration, as all of our K-1 teachers move up the hill to the new K-1 facility.

Tomorrow we have our end-of-the-year meetings, followed by lunch at the President's house for those who are perhaps reluctant to let go of the year, or who want the chance to say good-bye before heading off to do whatever it is that they will be doing this summer.

I've always felt strange about the end of the year. The start of school is a pure pleasure, a fresh start, a time of anticipation and eagerness, a chance to renew ties and catch up. The end of the year is pleasurable as well, bringing closure and perhaps some sense of satisfaction, but it is also tinged with regret, both for being what it is (as opposed to what it might have been) and for the saying of goodbyes.

I've never been good at saying goodbye. I tend to shuffle and mumble and feel like whatever words I can come up with are inadequate to the occasion. If I can find a plausible excuse for ducking out, I'm gone. I was talking with Tim earlier today, and he was saying he likes to hold the idea in his mind that he will cross paths with everyone at some point later. I like to believe that too, even when it seems unlikely. There's a song by Eric Anderson that has a chorus that has stuck in my mind for the more than forty years since I first heard him sing it:

If it comes that our ways don't touch together
'Cause our roads you know they just don't meet again
I'd be pleased to know that you still think about me
I'd be pleased to count myself amongst your friends.
But now I only stop myself and wonder
If you ever think of all that's gone behind
Yes I wonder just how things are going for you
I wonder does it ever cross your mind.
That lyric, with its guarded optimism and its reflective wonderment,  pretty well captures my feelings at the end of the year.

Of course, the all-time mega-über-maximum-full-tilt goodbye lyric is the Donne poem I was asked by my English teacher to commit to memory when I was a sophomore in high school myself. If there's a more artful and fully realized poem in the English language, I don't know what it would be.

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning         

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
   And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
   "The breath goes now," and some say, "No,"

So let us melt, and make no noise,
   No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
'Twere profanation of our joys
   To tell the laity our love.

Moving of the earth brings harms and fears,
   Men reckon what it did and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
   Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love
   (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
   Those things which elemented it.

But we, by a love so much refined
   That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
   Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
   Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion.
   Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
   As stiff twin compasses are two:
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
   To move, but doth, if the other do;

And though it in the center sit,
   Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
   And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
   Like the other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
   And makes me end where I begun.

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