The heat and humidity are overpowering. Reluctantly, we retreat into our air-conditioned house, with the thermostat set to a guilty 82 °F. most of the time. We had a cold winter here, for south central Indiana, with six blessed “snow days” extending the school year to a palatable June 1 release. Now, we are having an early, hot summer. The contrasts are stark. (Thoughts of global warming are inescapable, and the BP disaster continues to pump unprecedented quantities of spilled oil into the Gulf of Mexico.)
Every year, I approach summer thinking it will be a blessed contrast to the school year, relaxed, giving rise to a completely different frame of mind for a good 6 weeks. This habitual misapprehension is, in part, a ruse to distract myself from the accrued losses of departing students, friends, and hard-won routine at the end of each academic year. I have always, from a young age, found myself reluctant to move beyond the comfort I have achieved (not always easily), with teachers, classmates, living situations, by the end of the spring semester.
Having lived my whole life in academic communities (to my utter surprise), I still have not come to terms with this sense of loss, and the corresponding anxiety that accompanies the peeling off each spring of certain friends and acquaintances into other communities, other destinies, distinctly “other” paths of life.
I remember my childhood summers as endless, in a mostly positive way, allowing for a gradual accretion of sameness and satiation of my own direction of my own activities, preparing me to once again subordinate myself to the tutelage of teachers, music instructors, and peers. I miss this sense of vacillation between structure and non-structure. The divisions seem sadly blurred in modern life.
So far, this summer has brought extreme fragmentation, between the various pursuits of my 10- and 14-year-old daughters, the international travel of my husband to various conferences, visits to our aging parents (from whom we have strayed geographically about as far as possible within the continent), and my attempts to hold a work life together.
As I drove my youngest to yet another violin engagement the other day, she commented on how, with the trees all in full leaf, it is almost impossible to imagine how bare and stark they were not long ago. The contrasts are hard to process, yet one has almost to work to not acknowledge them. Indeed.
Mary, for the Poplar Grove Muse