At the beginning of my last year back in August, I wondered whether each week would be a constant “the last time I went to the first staff meeting! The last Back-to-School Night! The last corporation potluck meeting!” And the answer luckily was, “No.” Mostly I’m teaching as if it’s just another year, with just occasional moments when I’m happy (not having to look at next year’s proposed schedule in the staff meeting) or a bit sad (watching a class of 7thgraders with an eye to who I’ll be working with next year and then thinking, ‘Oops!’).
But driving home from school yesterday, I was listening to Oscar Peterson and an unusual (for Oscar) song came on that I remembered hearing before. It’s called “Nighttime” and it’s on his album with Itzhak Perlman called Side by Sideand also on an album Live at Salle Pleyein Paris. It immediately evoked a feeling of sweet farewell and I began writing a poem while driving. A first draft is below and tonight I read it out loud with the music playing and it seems they need to go together. So if you’re interested and you can find that song, try reading it out loud. I’m a long 9 months from actual retirement, but when the Muse calls, you would do well to respond, regardless of the timetable. Here it is:
It is the nighttime of my many, many years in this place I have loved so long
The sun is setting
The moon is rising.
The day’s stories have all been told
And behold, they are good.
The fire is lit with the warmth of memory.
I see the long parade of beautiful children now grown
And leading the next ones forward, King Glory
going up the mountain.
Where the first one, the second one, the third
But now will follow me no more.
Now, someone else will be walking them through the promised land.
That glorious place where we traveled along, singing songs side by side,
Where we stumbled and fell, lost our way, huddled together in the cold,
circled together in joy and danced our way to happiness.
Behind me now, the bread crumbs of those lived years
are messages to the future,
beckoning others to make the long climb to unending beauty,
bubbling laughter, shouted exultation.
Here, paused on the peak, the sky is orange with the day’s close.
The owl and the whippoorwill fill the air with song
while the morning birds turn to sleep.
Tomorrow a new day will dawn.