It’s the middle of August and already I feel a change in the air. It’s both predicted and expected. This change has been a little more difficult to appreciate in nature this year because the trees and grass in our little Midwestern town in America are suffering from the continued drought. The trees may still be green and much of the grass is yellow from the dryness, but in another month all will change and be replaced by the most beautiful hues in nature.

          There is a sense of expectation, a realization that this change is coming. All summer the sports fields at the local college have been lying dormant, waiting. As I drove past these football practice fields and soccer fields during the past month, I noticed the water sprinklers were going full tilt in anticipation. Change is coming.

          And now, little by little, more cars are appearing, parked in lots on the college campus. Students are back for “pre-season” programs and others are trickling in for various jobs and training. Sunday the football field was filled with players, back for the scrimmages and workouts that will lead to the next season of college football. Cars are unloading with student belongings, only a few at a time these days. It isn’t yet the chaotic move-in day when they all return at once, packed to the hilt with boxes, rugs, technology, refrigerators, and clothing. Some arrive with U-Hauls. But for now the campus is slowly beginning to hum with life and activity.

          Driving to another town yesterday, I noticed the local high school’s Titan cross country team trotting back into town from their long run to the golf course north of town. Funny, they all look so young to me these days. But, in the best of youthful health, they are working out in the pre-season, waiting for the first meet. Eager for the year to begin, they dream about what wonderful events will unfold.

          I remember that feeling–the idea that anything is possible.

          In the stores I visited yesterday, I saw parents and kids packed throughout the school supplies and fall clothing aisles. Armed with their trusty lists of what is needed for each grade, the parents were filling up carts and totaling up the bottom line. I am not sure I miss those shopping excursions from so long ago with my children, but I do hear the similar woes of those children of mine as they march their own children off on shopping trips this fall.

          On Facebook, I gaze at the pictures of my “friends,” whose children are starting off to school for the first time. Their faces are filled with joy as they look washed and scrubbed and ready to start on that great adventure that is “school, finally.” And, oh yes, the parents are eager and filled with joy too. I can almost hear the collective sigh throughout the country.

          I remember quite clearly the first day my oldest headed out for preschool the first time. We walked there with his sister in her stroller. He was primed and prepped to like school and he willingly let me leave. Unlike him, I cried most of the way home. He was the first. There would be two more first days with his siblings. And when he left for college, I was fine until I locked the door that first night and knew he wasn’t coming home. Such deeply emotional times for a parent, and so very long ago for this one!

          And now, with the anticipation of a new fall, a new school year, I will be watching as others go off to school, books in backpacks and lunches packed. In my own life that has happened forty-two times as I left that first day to teach. This year, however, will be different and, like nature, I’m ready for the change. No wistful glances at “first day of school photos” and no sadness that I’m being left behind. It feels right.

And now despite being left behind, I still have that feeling of anticipation, that thought that, yes, anything can happen. It’s a new year.