I’m up this morning before the rest of my family, as I am most days. I love these solitary early morning hours with coffee, reading, writing, and Facebooking to keep me company. The air outside is cool and the windows are open wide. If the window fans aren’t running, I hear birdsong.
Under the eaves on our front porch hangs a barn swallow nest. Mama and Papa barn swallow have already raised one batch of chicks this summer; the babies fledged about a month ago. Just a week after the babies flew, Mama and Papa were again taking turns sitting on the nest, and this morning I see them carrying food to a new brood of ugly, cheeping chicks. Do these babies need feedings throughout the night? Are Mama and Papa weary?
It is now August. In two or three weeks our maples will begin to turn red at the tips of the highest branches. Too soon this second batch of barn swallows—the last for this year—will grow feathers and fly away. Maybe I’ll avoid looking up, so I can ignore the changing leaves and the empty nest. I’m not ready for it to end.
This is a change for me. Summer has never been my favorite season—I love autumn and am always rushing the season, pulling out sweaters and boots as soon as school starts, adding pumpkins and apples and spice to my recipes long before the days have cooled enough to make baking a comfort.
My eldest daughter enters high school this year. She talks of college more and more, of leaving home, of a life apart from us. As each of my daughters grow toward the women they will be, I am also in the process of becoming the woman I will be without them.
A week from today I’ll be driving to the campus of Pacific Lutheran University for my graduate school residency, beginning my final year in the Master of Fine Arts program there. I’ll be in Washington State for ten days, and by the time I return to Newberg the barn swallow nest will be empty and the leaves on the tips of our maples will blush, whether or not I look up to see them.
It’s too soon to say goodbye to summer, to babies, to this season of life. But in knowing how short each season will be, I am learning not to rush; I’m learning to love this season that for me has always been hardest.