“Summer, you can feel it dying.” This is the opening sentence to Jerry Spinelli’s Space Station Seventh Grade. I use it at the beginning of the school year to show sixth graders I understand they’re losing something, freedom to play video games all night, sleep all day, wake up in time for dinner when their parents return from work, and start all over again. I also do it for myself. Spinelli goes on to describe summer as having a funnel shape, wide at the beginning and narrow at the end. You think it’s going to last forever and then it speeds up and gets narrower and narrower until you flushed like a bug down the toilet.
I agree. The end of the school year speeds up too. I always think I have lots of time to cover all a sixth grader needs to know about reading short stories, writing fiction and non, as well as all there is to know about ancient cultures from the Paleolithic Era to the fall of the Roman Empire. And then the testing starts, followed by open house, and the weather gets hot, and the students drop to the attention span of squirrels on crack, and so do the teachers’. I realize I’m walking around with lists in my hand looking for my list of what to do next. And then it all ends. When the frantic school year crashes to a close and implodes on its own weight, there is a eerie, detached silence to summer. I am addicted to my own adrenalin and its’ absence I free float. I walk around with a list that has one item, make a list of things to do during the summer. In my head I have grandiose plans to blog, design a website, write my second novel, study Buddhism, learn to meditate, write daily, communicate authentically, double the amount of time I run, and actually read the book club book.
At this writing, I have nine days of summer left. I actually have done fairly well. I hired, after several interviews that went nowhere, a website designer to promote my novel American Family; I’m a third of the way through The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche, and I ran most Tuesdays and Thursdays. Meditation remains unachievable; I solved the book club problem by dropping out and, as for writing, I’m writing this.
I am relaxation averse. I like being busy. I put tasks on my list that I’ve already done so I can enjoy the pleasure of crossing them off.
The excerpt from the Spinelli book ends with, “and I still didn’t learn how to spit through my teeth like Dugan.” There’s a Zen to summer time use. Maybe I’ve done the important things and the rest doesn’t matter.
What did you leave undone this summer?