September, Slowed Down

I started school when I was five years old and finished high school when I was eighteen. I went to university for four years. Teaching is my present profession. So, with the exception of a few years off with my kids when they were small, I have been in school in some capacity during most of the Septembers of my life.

Since becoming an adult, I have sometimes found myself lamenting “missing” September. For teachers, September is probably the busiest, craziest, most hectic month of the school year: new routines to establish with the students, timetables to iron out, long-range plans to hand in, parents to call, letters to write, meetings to attend, units to plan….the whole month goes by in a speed-warp. When you are a parent as well as a teacher, home-time is consumed with school start-up as well. I often found it a little sad, because September seemed to be such an incredibly lovely month. Being in school in September and glancing out a window is like sitting on a speeding train, watching the scenery blast by.

But this year, I am not in school. This year, I am on sabbatical. And here I am, in September. Really in it.



I have to say, it was strange at first. There are things that are hard-wired in us over time, and not being at school at the start of a new year felt very odd. When school began this year, I was in Ottawa with my daughter, helping her to get settled for a c0-op position. We walked past a school every morning on our way to the bus-stop, and the yard was filled with kids, running and calling out–the universal sound that a crowd of children makes; I would know it anywhere. I saw teachers out there in their yard duty vests. I heard bells ringing. Buses parked in single file. I moved out of the way for kids who were late as they tore down the sidewalk, wearing backpacks as big as they were. And it all had nothing to do with me. I am not a teacher right now.


So, there I was in Ottawa for the first week of school, hanging out with my daughter and my friend Karin, walking down by the river, and having my picture taken against the backdrop of the Parliament buildings. Karin drove me around the city to see the sights–riverside lookouts, the Prime Minister’s mansion, embassies and museums. Not a kid in sight.

On a day when I would normally have been teaching computer classes, organizing book exchanges in the library and patrolling the school yard in an orange vest, I was in the car for eight hours by myself, with only the GPS for company, as it guided me back home from Ottawa. Eight hours of silence (with the exception of navigating through feeder lanes in Toronto–I wasn’t quiet then) on a Friday. It was like a weird dream. But the scenery outside was beautiful–rocky outcrops crowned with the occasional Inuk-shuk, vivid blue skies and a surprising amount of colour in the trees. And here I was, coming back from an adventure in Ottawa in the middle of a September day.


I’m home again, and the days are so long and still. I hear things in this September that I haven’t heard in other Septembers. The crickets’ chirring is thinning. The birdsong is sounding a little sleepy. It’s still warm, but the winds have picked up. The leaves in the trees are starting to rattle a little.

With the humidity leaving the air, colours have become more brilliant. September grass is greener than green. My garden is drenched in red and yellow. I can sit and read in full sun, basking in warmth without melting into a pool of sweat. September clouds are profuse, and blindingly white against the deep blue of the sky. There is colour starting in the maples. And the fields are all bronze and golden.

In the mornings, I putter in the house and yard, hang laundry in the fresh fall breezes and gather fall bouquets from my garden. I think about things like, What should I make for dinner? I should go out for lunch this week. I need a new book to read. I should practice piano. In the afternoon, I lose myself in hours of writing. I take the laundry off the line in the late afternoon, dry and fresh and warm from the sun. September nights are deep and dark and cold. Breezes from open window waft through dreams, and the moon shines hard and bright.

The first weekend after school started, I wasn’t frantically dashing around, trying to cram a week of chores and errands into two days. I was wandering through the apple orchard, noticing that a branch filled with apples made a bower over my head. I was enjoying my daughter’s company and crunching on apples, and not for one moment thinking about what I needed to do next.


My speculations about September being a lovely month were one hundred percent correct. It is a lovely month. For once in my life, I am experiencing September one beautiful moment at a time.