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22+ years of schooling have hopelessly wedded me to the idea that the year begins in September (ergh, late August — depending if you’re on quarters or semesters). While this may put me at odds with Pope Gregory XIII’s more accepted — though surely pesky — method of keeping date and time, it has resigned me to the idea that fall serves as a point of origin and genesis: from fall, comes everything.

So, today marks our first day of school, and though the aesthetics of the place speak more to death than birth — piles of dead leaves beginning to accrue on the cut, a flattened brown square in the grass where once an orientation tent stood — I cannot ignore that old familiar feeling. Tomorrow they’ll have names and absences and poor scores on quizzes, but today my students are anonymous, fresh-faced, and inspiring. Today they leave me with hope and anticipation. And there’s newness to be found elsewhere: we here in the English department recently moved into our new digs, a row of subterranean offices in a building actually dedicated to engineering and engineers, where Pergo floors try to be hardwood and cinder block walls try to um, not be cinder block. Or at least they’ve been finished and painted tan, which helps a little. And the carpet still smells like new, stinky carpet.

I remember a collection of “first days of school” from my youth, mostly thanks to my mother who always insisted on snapping my picture in the same position — next to the front door, backback (later, book bag, then stylish messenger-like satchel) over one shoulder, standing next to some potted pansies. Then as now, I get ticklish at the idea of starting over again, at the prospect of “this year will be different,” because, in fact, it always is.

I begin my comp. exams in four days; my band’s first CD comes out in two weeks; everything happens in the fall and it’s already happening. Here’s to a new year.


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