It is the first day of September and I have climbed the stairs to a perfect, golden, early-autumn morning. The cows are back; they’ve returned overnight and are strung lazily across the valley: sturdy calves quieter now: smaller forms of their placid mothers. Their burnished hides glisten as the sun warms them; their shadows long across the pasture.
The sun is up but still low, and in this month of equinox it will no longer rise quite as it once did when summer was at her height and the sun climbed high with arrogant exuberance. The light is gentle. Of course this hasn’t happened overnight, but with the turning of the month it feels to me like it has – for September is a significant month, and not only because it happens to contain my birthday and is also the month when I first became a mother.
My most favourite months? September, May and December. My most significant months? September and January. September is the only month in both camps. She is a month of excitement and anticipation and beginnings: so much changes in September. With the autumn equinox comes that moment of balance, and balance is important to me. But most importantly, September marks a New Year. As a birthday it marks a new year of my life. As the month in which my first child was born it ushered in a chapter beyond expectation. And as the new school year it carried significance as a child, as a mother, as a teacher.
Even now, when that significance should no longer hold good, the notion of the new school year is strong in my mind. I remember well the mingled dread and anticipation of returning to school as a pupil: the ratios of those two ingredients determining the recipe for any given year. I remember even more clearly walking home as a mother, having seen the children off to their new classrooms. And in later years, the empty house as they all tumbled through the door to make their own ways back to school, no longer appropriate for me to hold their hands. I enjoyed having them home for the long summer holidays. I enjoyed the change of pace and the relaxation into freedom. Those first few days of a new school term were always bittersweet. I was never desperate for them to go back to school. I missed them and their squabbles: the noise and the energy they offered. But as the new term began after the long hiatus I relished the silence also, and the peace and clarity it brought.
When subsequently I became a teacher myself, my most favourite day of the year was always the first day of the summer holidays – much more so than as a child or as a mother. The delightful prospect of all those weeks stretching ahead … Never mind that I was responsible for writing the timetables – for the next few weeks at least, there was no timetable, there was only freedom. As the holidays waned, the approaching term would weigh me down with the prospect of another whole year before I’d feel that sense of freedom again and of time stretching endlessly ahead once more. I quickly learned that this feeling passed. The moment school was underway again the adrenalin flowed and energy focused. But yes, the start of September has always carried a particular resonance.
And what of now? How does it feel now, in this, another new chapter in my life? It feels magical! It is surely merely a coincidence that September once again marked the start of a new chapter? A year ago at this time I was starting my final week of work. A gentle, part-time job admittedly, but a commitment on my time nonetheless. A part of the reason for giving up that job was to focus on the plans for moving here: without this dream of Bernie’s I may perhaps still be working there now. I still have issues with using the word ‘retirement’ but the fact is that I don’t have to work anymore unless I choose to. And that is a huge privilege.
And we are here: in our new lives, in our new home. The slate is wiped clean. The sun is shining softly; the cows are grazing peacefully; the silence is broken only by birdsong.
The view from here is wide open.
We Have All the Time in the World*.
* Yes, one of my favourite songs. But I hadn’t seen it coming until the words were on the screen…