THURSDAY, AUGUST 25, 2011
It Is I, Yaro, On Beginnings and Endings.
It is I, Yaro, returned and remedied by a sojourn to our cabin in the Beehive State. We love it there, the long casualness of days and evenings, Mrs. Yaro and I, a stray cat or two, a coyote who howls from a distant mesa.
And I am in my office, a place I've not seen for months. It is suddenly a light shade of green, and I had completely forgotten the work orders and such - in the manner - that helped us all arrive at the color decision.
The desk is clean and tidy, the books back in their rightful spots, yet someone - in haste, no doubt, not out of malice - has dripped tiny droplets of green paint on a row of oft-read and loved books on a top shelf. This is no disaster. The pages turn still, the contents remain unchanged, open, ready for unlocking.
And I am in my office just moments past a visit to Spiros, my favorite Dean, a man of infinite good humor and friendship, someone who - I must say - has been to my home to tip lager and discuss his attempts at fishing. Spiros took a meeting with me in this week before class at my request, a request to discuss a major matter that I have ruminated on over the summer, in our cabin, Mrs. Yaro at my side - both literally and figuratively.
It will be my last year at the university, and despite my long and intense preparations for the discussion, I felt unnerved and shocked as the words left my mouth.
I am not a young man as I, Yaro, once was. It is not the sort of news that will turn the college populace on its end. There will not be a cry or havoc over it. I am of the age when this sort of thing likely crosses one's mind, as in, "That so-and-so Yaro, he must be nearing the end of his string, do you think?"
But Spiros and I hashed out the details, and I have agreed to consult with a search committee for a position in my stead for next year. We - and I must confess this was not the usual end of a Dean's meeting - poured a finger or two of a fine, aged amber into heavy glasses in Spiros's office and we toasted our years together, my teaching and service, and I confess it brought a small tear to my eye - and to Spiros's - so much so that when we shook hands, Spiros pulled me into a bear hug - for what other animal would so capture our manner or body shapes at that time.
I walked across the quiet campus to my office with a mixture of such desperately clashing emotions.
I love this place, despite some angers and dismays from years past. But it has been my college, and the notion - suddenly realized and made formalized - that I am on the last slope of my teaching career has rocked me some, more so than I had imagined, more so than the same notion which Mrs. Yaro and I hatched struck me during our summer respite from the world.
I am not sad about the future. I, Yaro, have long reckoned on an escape from the academy, and thankfully our preparations for retirement are established and reasonable. Yet it has freighted this semester's new beginning with such stout cargo.
My new charges will wander into classrooms next week, and I will endeavour to bring them into my world for a time, imparting what I hope will excite and interest them, and - above all else - ready them for future challenges in the academic and real worlds - although I tend to believe my lessons are better suited for the former.
I remember my own college days now, and the images of past professors, many now dead, but still alive in resplendence and passion in my mind's eye, old characters in jackets and ties. They seemed older than the rocks themselves, taller than the giant trees. I am, of course, as old as they were, older than some were then. And that is how - of course - my own students will see me in this last year, an old character, a rotund and bald-pated figure from another age, another time, roughly trying to keep up with them.
There is no smell in this room. How can one have a freshly painted office with no leftover odor of the industry? Splendid.
I have set aside today for copying, messing about, unlocking the cabinets of my memory for the preparations of next Monday's classes. I have several sheets - our wonderful departmental assistant has left them for me - showing me the names of my new charges. Each name is fresh, new, unknown to me. For these years I've been blessed to watch rooms fill and empty, fill and empty, in the manner.
One more year. Mrs. Yaro wrote this on the side of my brown-bag lunch this morning. I, as is often the case, cheated around 10:45, opening the bag early to extract a splendid and hearty oatmeal raisin cookie. (One must keep one's blood sugar up.) And I saw her careful handwriting. One more year. And she had drawn a heart next to it; I did not need to tell you that, did I? Yet I did.
You are all my friends. I send you all a gesture of welcome and good fortune to a great year, a first year for some, a straining climb for others, a gentle pass through the words and ideas and young people that have been the great consecration of my working life.