The school year is nearly over. Walt's last day with kids is next Tuesday. And so ends my first year out of the classroom. Even though I knew last June that this year would not unfold in the way I was picturing at the time (because nothing does), I wasn't prepared for just how different the reality has turned out to be.
This has been the year of closed doors, explorations run into dead ends, and more quiet and stillness than I've known in decades. It's been a year of shedding old roles and identities, and living with the naked discomfort of the space before new skin grows back. It's been a year of redefining God.
And the closer I get to the end of the year, the more I struggle with the fear that I've wasted the time and opportunity and gifts. I have no concrete evidence that the year was a success – or a failure. What I seem to have is a vast expanse of myself, and possibilities I don't understand, and that still small voice in the softest of whispers reassuring me that this is exactly where I need to be.
Yesterday I was walking Toby, soaking up the warmth and shifting sunlight, and I looked for my owl friend as we came into the clearing where he's appeared before.
A week after I saw the fledgling for the first time, I saw him again, perched on top of one of the flag poles that back the fire pit and benches where campers gather for evening ceremonies. I sat then and watched him for the longest time, thrilled beyond words at the luxury of meditating on this amazing bird. I looked for him there every time after that, and hadn't seen him again.
Until yesterday. And even though I was looking for him, I was startled to see him perched exactly where I expected to see him. And sleeping. His head was turned away and he didn't turn around until Toby crashed through the brush. He blinked a few times, watched me for a bit, and then went back to sleep.
I quietly called Toby to me, left the meadow as quickly as I could, and trucked up the hill toward home. I grabbed my camera, hooked a confused but happy Toby back up to the leash and headed back down, praying he'd still be there.
He was. Still sleeping. Although he woke up and watched me warily when I started taking pictures. When I was done, I sat on one of the benches, and just watched him.
It was at that point, on a random June Monday afternoon, sitting in sunshine and a kissing breeze, in the company of my dog and an owl, that something shifted for me. The freedom of time and no schedule that allowed me to be in that place and time. The stillness that allowed me to not only see the owl, but to be with him for as long as I wanted. The knowing that this was my new normal, a significant part of God's voice and presence, a gift beyond price.
A year has passed, unfolded, been lived. The success of it cannot be measured in work accomplished or test scores or a book born. The success is experienced as being a person able to be in complete presence, awe and gratitude at the wonder and magic of whatever the world has to offer.