ACW

ACW

Friday, 2 September 2016

Back to school

It’s back to school week.  The beginning of September.  Everywhere, parents are doing last-minute school shoe shopping, ironing name tapes into uniforms, hunting for packed lunch boxes and water bottle, and wondering why they didn’t start doing these jobs sooner.  (No?  Only me?)



In France, the supermarkets make a whole season of it, called ‘La Rentrée’.  No uniforms there, but the aisles are filled with school supplies, and due to my long obsession with stationery I stand transfixed, my fingers hovering over academic journals, notebooks with enticingly blank pages, special handwriting pens in fourteen different colours and all sorts of other things that I no longer need to buy every year.

You’ll laugh at me, but to me this season is magical - and like Christmas, its magic is almost entirely due to the magic it held for me as a child.  I don’t think there was another child in England who looked forward to going back to school so much after a happy summer holiday.  What was it?  The freshness of the weather, the new neatness of my uniform, the sharpness of the pencils, the fact it was nearly my birthday?  Who knows?  The September air still feels like the edge of a big adventure to me, full of promise that those new pens might write perfect poetry in purple ink, and those new notebooks be filled cover to cover with stories.

Too irresistible!

Of course, these days there is a bit of a disconnect.  Not only do I not have a need for a uniform or an academic diary, I am in fact just on the verge of finishing one of my writing projects.  My to-do list is too colossal for starting anything new, so all that blank-notebook energy is falling flat.  As a seasonally driven person, I’m feeling somehow wrong, as if I’m eating an Easter egg on Christmas morning.  The season only reminds me of how very, very eager I am at the beginning of any project, and how quickly the sensation wears off and leaves me tired.  That accounts for all the ‘novels’ on my computer with three or four chapters each.  All those notebooks I buy end up with one page filled and the rest left blank.

As I began writing this blog post, a short phrase came into my head.  ‘New every morning’.  “Wow”, I thought, “wouldn’t it be great to feel new every morning, to have a daily ‘Rentrée’?  I wonder where that comes from?”  So I googled it, and look!  It comes from Lamentations 3, verses 22-23:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
   his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.

There, right in the middle of being steadfast, faithful and neverending, God manages to be new every morning.  The passage I thought was about newness is, in fact, about perfect oldness: keeping on without an end.  A unique and paradoxical combination of tenacity with freshness, perseverance with surprises: that’s how our creative God loves us.

I turn away from the supermarket shelves.  I’m not at school any more, and I never really needed all those things anyway.  They weren’t what helped me to become a writer.  I think it’s time to sharpen one of my old pencils, turn a page in an old notebook, and work out how to carry on in a new way.

15 comments:

  1. Very well said and I'm glad I'm not the only person with a stationary obsession. Who can resist the lure of a new packet of colouring pencils? Not me, that's for sure

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps it is a common writer thing to drool over pencils?

      Delete
  2. 'perfect oldness' – I like that idea. It's a God-idea.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! In fact, a few months ago I was reading a book by Brother John of Taize about exactly that.

      Delete
  3. 'perfect oldness' – I like that idea. It's a God-idea.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wonderfully written, Amy. I have also been looking at my partly filled notebooks! Sue

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exciting! I challenge you to fill one ;) I don't think I have ever managed to get to the end of a notebook - not once!

      Delete
  5. Exactly how I feel, even down to the birthday in September. Thanks for the blog, I need to be reminded to be new every morning. May God continue to bless you xx

    ReplyDelete
  6. Me too - this time of year always feels like a fresh start. It is Jewish New Year, of course, but I think my feeling is more to do with memories of starting uni and being more free and independent, as well as the gorgeous autumn colours and often an Indian summer in the weather.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I should have known that it was Jewish New Year - and yet somehow I didn't. Thank you.

      Delete
  7. My kids used to roll their eyes if I dragged them round a stationery shop and say, 'Mother, STOP fondling the notebooks. It's so emBARRassing.' I still have that 'new term' excitement about new stationery, but from a teacher's point of view. I love getting my new teacher's planner and mark book.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Lovely post Amy! It reminds me of the lines from one of my favourite movies, You've Got Mail, where he says to her as September approaches, 'I'd like to buy you a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils' :) I love that Lamentations verse. Thank you for reminding me of it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  10. It was always having a brand new exercise book that was the magic for me. That first page had to be perfect. Usually it wasn't though - and that broke the "magic" of having something new to write in!

    ReplyDelete