I walked home today in the dusk. The bright of Kenya’s greenery stark against an overcast sky. Walked home in the knowledge that the year is almost done. Home in the relief of exams graded. Of a to-do list shrunk to an odd assortment of final bits and pieces: more textbooks to collect, a graduation to attend, some portfolios to grade. And then it will be Friday, and I will be closing the book on this particular chapter of this particular story. This particular combination of weeks, and months, and essays. Of students and lessons and whiteboard markers. Of all the odds and ends, victories and defeats, joys and exhaustions, that make up a school-year. Make up the life of an English teacher.
If this was the year of any one thing, it was the year of AP Language and Composition. The year I spent every Saturday, without fail, grading at Dormans — the quietest of the local coffee shops.
A week ago (much less a month) I could not quite imagine today. Could not quite see over, or around, the terrible to-do list that demanded that particular day’s attention. Couldn’t think past the scattered, frantic, fullness of my brain.
And, even now, I know that pressing just beyond the borders of this coming Friday, and the boundaries of my teaching responsibilities, there are other lists demanding my attention. Travels to plan, emails to write, details to take care of.
And, most terrifying of all, in two short months, it is time to start all over again.
But I cannot think about that tonight. Tonight is not for beginnings. That is what the morning is for. The morning, with its sun tipping over the horizon, and spilling brightness new-born into the world — restoring hope to all new things.
Tonight is for all of those words read. All of those papers graded. All of those comments written. Tonight is for remembering. For setting aside a moment to acknowledge what my students and I did this year, what we created, in that awkward space that exists between the quest for perfection and the acknowledgement of failure. That space where all living happens.
Sometime in July the College Board will let me know what my students achieved. Sometime in July they will pass on their judgement. But I really don’t care what the College Board has to say. Because I know what we achieved. What we strove for. What we overcame.
And so I will leave you with an evening poem. A poem for tonight — for the gathering dusk, for the dark. A poem for endings, and for the grace that undergirds all things.
Let Evening Come
by Jane Kenyon
Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.
Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.
Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.
Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.
To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.
Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.
“Let it come, as it will, and don’t / be afraid. God does not leave us / comfortless.
* And yes, this post does include a link to every one of my AP students’ blogs. And no, I’m not sorry. Not even a little bit.