Almost, but not yet

The lilacs here in Keene are swelling and reddening, but they haven’t yet opened, unlike their counterparts further south in Newton. This is the last week of classes at Keene State–today, I teach my last three face-to-face classes of the spring semester, followed by a week or so of end-term grading–and I feel a bit like a lilac bud, waiting, waiting for a fragrant freedom that feels mere moments away.

This morning as I was prepping tonight’s final discussion in my Literature of Birds and Birding class, I found myself getting misty eyed as I reviewed a particularly poignant passage in Brad Kessler’s Birds In Fall, where one of the central characters, an ornithologist, releases a cluster of now-grown sparrows she had captured and studied as juveniles. The scene plays upon the themes of migration, love, and loss that echo throughout the book, which focuses on a plane crash off the shores of Nova Scotia that killed the ornithologist’s husband. As the old saying goes, sometimes you have to let your loves fly away like birds, and the ones that return to you are true.

“Dear God,” I found myself muttering. “Get me through this day without weeping in front of any of my classes!” It’s a prayer that any instructor can probably relate to at this time of year, when were all tired from end-term deadlines and we all feel a peculiar kind of Zugunruhe, the restlessness of migrants that pushes birds to fly, flowers to blossom, and both students and instructors alike to seek freedom outside the cage of classroom walls.