Goodbye to Summer

I don’t usually comment on the photos I insert, but Chris Lawton’s image is evocative of this poem by Joyce Rupp. I’ve used Chris’ images in my work and I return to Sister Rupp every other year to intentionally reflect upon loss and grief.

Years ago, I spent a weekend in retreat with the book this poem comes from, My Soul Feels Lean, and I returned home after that readying time to have the unexpected conversation where I learned I’d divorce. Her book, Praying Our Goodbyes, helped anchor me during the grief after my father’s death. Rupp is one of my poet’s and one especially helpful for grief, an emotion that’s basic to the work of the life I live.

Grief happens when change happens. Good change brings it and, more obviously, un-good change brings it. A graduation can bring it just as a person missing from the actual celebration can. The good and the un-good in the same occasion. The emotional response to the good and the un-good is grief. We need language for it and sometimes that language is poetic. As Audre Lorde says, poetry gives us a “distillation of experience” and offers structure to what is “nameless and formless.”

Every unit of CPE, every group of students in a class, all the rhythms of my work and the rest bring me to seeing people and things which change. Every change – semesters that end, courses that are graded, students different from the last ones, and all the other relationships and connections which change – offers a fresh turn away and a new turn toward.

I hope this poem carries meaning and strength for you:

Impermanence, transformation,

seasonal change, goodbyes.

Call it by whatever name,

its bound to leave a crusty mark

on my reluctant spirit.

The time has come to end

my light-filled summertime

when I floated on emerald wings.

Now I stand here by the patio door

looking out at naked trees.

Overnight, determined rain pressed

nearly every leaf to the ground.

Only a landscape of emptiness remains

where once there lived contented fullness.

I take a deep breath, give a sigh

of resignation, gather my precious

remembrance of those succulent months

while my memory takes one last, grateful look

at summer’s dewy dawns.

Now is the time to yield, to enter

the next turning, accept the stark contrast

of barrenness in place of fullness.

As I turn away from the emptied trees

I take my generous basket of summer

with me, trusting it has stored

enough to see me through

until the time of melting snow.

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