Reflection in my Backyard
For the past ten years, since my children left for college, I have mowed my grass and done the other yard work which I am able to do. Every weekend is my time alone with my earbuds and noise reducing earmuffs when I have time to think and reflect. Songs of my generation – I listen to Dan Fogelberg sing the best ever “dad song” – Leader of the Band; I am reminded of the power of presence as Playing for Change unites on Stand by Me and I am motived to “stay just a little bit longer” by the enduring lyrics of Jackson Browne.
Being outside every week also gives me a feel of the changing of the seasons. I notice how the year progresses. Away from screens and technology, the changing landscape helps keep me in a rhythm of life.
The Glory of Springtime
My backyard is full of azalea bushes. I planted them myself years ago. And alone I have nurtured them with water, fertilizer and careful pruning. I am proud to say that in the springtime around the middle of April, they all bloom together in a glorious sea of rich pink. That time is the height of their season and I wait for it with anticipation. It is the time when all the work culminates in a vivid display of their very best.
The blossoming of the flowers reminds me of what is happening in the schools about the same time. After nearly a full school year of learning and hard work, in the Spring we see the students have blossomed and show their very best. No matter the grade, they have grown from who they were in the Fall to who they have become in the Spring. Like my azaleas, every year they grow stronger and fuller with more vibrance. They are ready to move on to the next level.
So, too are the dads groups in full array. Since their first meetings in the Fall, they have woven themselves into the fabric of the school. They are expected participants in car pool line. They have moved furniture, they have monitored lunch time and mentored kids. In the Spring they are as busy as ever, trying to squeeze in additional car lines, working field days and spring festivals, March Dadness and one more clean-up day before the year-end events. Like my azaleas, each year they become a more visible and enduring part of the landscape.
Then, in a couple weeks, summer will begin. The dads and the students will leave the scene. Like my azaleas, they will not show their colors for a while. The dads will look to rest and revitalize. To soak up the sun, to stay cool from the heat and work to reload their energy. I will carefully tend to my flowers, making sure they get enough water and feed too, in hopes they will be ready for their next blossoming.
Perennially, as the summer draws to a close, my yard whispers that it is time for the season to turn once again. As I mowed my grass this week I saw the first sign of re-awakening. My azaleas are the “encore” variety, so they blossom twice annually. This week I saw the signs of their second act. The first pink blossoms poked their way into the sunshine. Once again, in their own way, they reminded me that it is time to move on. Others will soon follow. It will again be their time to shine.
And so it is with our dads. As they see the calendar turn to August, the group leaders are beginning to poke their heads up. They are beginning to wear their colorful shirts in hopes that other dads will soon follow. They are meeting with the Principals and PTA leaders to receive their annual watering, feeding and encouragement for the upcoming season. Soon their groups will begin to flower along with them. As older sturdy branches, fifth grade dads will show up first. Then the new tender green shoots – kindergarten dads – will emerge enthusiastic, but bewildered. The older dads will welcome the “new guys” and show them how to be part of the bunch. Like other flowers across the city, each group will display different colored shirts on different school grounds; but they all will be rooted together in the broader landscape where they can impact the lives of many children. Together, throughout the school “season” they will help nurture the children towards their glory in the next springtime.
My azaleas. They keep my life in rhythm. They remind me that the seasons turn and life marches on. If I am willing to be present, each year the same bushes, will become stronger, larger and more handsome. And so, my dream for the dads groups is the same.