Autumn has come late to Sydney. An almost-winter purity sidles quietly in amongst the bustle and grit of the inner-city suburbs. And even as the air crispens to cold nights, the days continue to be lit by a wealth of golden sunlight I’m sure we rarely appreciate as we should. We read about leaves —my newly minted homeschooling daughter and I —and how the reds and yellows that come out to dance at this time in the Southern hemisphere are the tree’s real heart colour hidden the rest of the year.
We’ve embarked on this new journey into off-the-beaten-track learning territory, and I feel it’s exhileration and newness with the intensity of beginning a new job, a new identity. I begin nervously each morning, rarely taking the time to move out of my dressing gown in my eagerness to make territory, a woman too easily chased by doubt and full of questions. Can I , will I , should I be able to do this? I worry what others will think. I realise how hungry I am for approval even as the levels shift depending on who I talk to. My family have far more faith in me than I do.
I’ve spent a lot of these last few weeks in the busyness of my own head. Questions. Battles. Judge. Jury.
I so badly want to do it right I may as well be using charts, marking off my own progress with stickers, or the absence of them. I look into my daughter’s impossibly long-lashed, sensitive blue eyes and tell her it’s okay to make mistakes as long as she tries. But I wonder, do I really believe this, not just for her, but for myself too?
E learns to read slowly, sounding out the new, unfamiliar lines and shapes of the English language, as I flounder around trying to learn how to teach her. I’m reminded, me who has spent her adult life studying words, how fragile and mysterious it is, this acquisition of language. And how beautiful too, how ceremonial, almost, to be able to pass onto another the keys to imagination’s hallways. I encourage her as she struggles, trying to impart the greater picture of it all: If you keep practicing, I say, you will be able to read on your own.
For introverts like me, and I guess her too, books, words, stories, are more than academic milestones, but rather lifelong companions that need to be met.
While E mouths sounds in print, Baby J finds his own speaking voice, fusing words and phrases with husky, warm,first -fruits intonation that charms us all. Even his precocious four year old brother, word-builder in his own right.
And Dr M and I also clear our throats after a long season of quiet uncertainty, of hard-earned, deep-felt learning, and seek to speak truth to one another about present and future, as we open our ears and palms wide in an effort to hear.
At the end of the year we will be finished here, at the theological college. The place, and many of the people, who have been our home these last few years will continue on, but we need to take the next steps. We have been so blessed in our time here. Neighbours,mentors, community. I hope the fullness of it all stays inside me somehow even as we move out. I think it will because so much of it has been about the sharing of stories, and these are some of the things I hold dearest.
Our daughter’s life isn’t the only one changing shape and direction—we too stand poised to make new moves, potentially big ones. And as with my daughter’s first steps into the world of language, and my own hubristic desire to control it, I am reminded of the mystery and fragility in any new thing. And this in turn turns me back to basics, to the one point we need never depart from, and yet that carries us forward, goes before and beyond us in any new venture, and secures all our flounderings in a certainty that leaves no room for pride in our own efforts, or fear of failings.
In the need to remind myself again of the faithfulness of our Father I am reassured that no bend in the road,no shift of seasons, dramatic or subtle, is beyond his care. He indeed is the turner of the leaves, the stirrer of our souls, and anchor of all future journeys.