For one thing, it’s the first time ever that all of my schools have been using the same learning management system — LMS — for their online components. That’s led to some confusion for the students, and a sense of unreality for me. For another thing . . . I simply wasn’t ready to give up my summer. Not yet. I want to fight for it. Grab on to every last molecule of every last sunbeam, dig in my heels, and refuse to let go until the first frost arrives.
At 38, I’m finally realizing that the summer is not as long as it should be.
I always teach in the summer. Most college instructors do; as an adjunct, I can’t afford not to. This summer, though, my course load was a little less hectic, a little lighter. I had more time. More time to go running in the mornings, and stop along the way to take photos of all the fuzzy-wuzzies and creepy-crawlies that came across my path. More time to write. To start thinking about the next novel, pulling out scenes to keep and let my subconscious start mulling over the things that have to be created new. Time to research.
I rediscovered my love of rummage sales and thrift shops, and spent an inordinate amount of time digging through boxes and baskets, finding the treasures left behind by other foolish people. Most will end up in my online shop; others will stay with me. I’ve been learning about vintage jewelry, learning once again to trust my instincts and pick the good from the bad — and sometimes, when I’m really lucky, the extraordinary from the ordinary.
And I spent a lot of time on my first real porch swing, which I dragged into the shade and painted a beautiful shade of not-quite-white — it’s called Swiss Coffee — reading and talking to my friends on the cell phone. Every now and then they’d pause and say, “Where are you? I hear creaking. Are you on the swing?” And I would say yes, I was, and I needed to get some WD-40 for those chains and we’d both laugh because we both knew I’d never do it, because there’s something so comforting and calming and unobtrusive about those creaking chains.
No. I am not ready to let go of summer yet. I am not ready to relinquish the deep green carpet of grass for a deeper slush of snow. I am not yet ready to see the leaves turn yellow and gold and red. Though they will be gorgeous to photograph, they will also be sad.
Yesterday, it occurred to me that I have never known an August that didn’t mean the start of the school year, for me personally. My mom drove a school bus, so even before I went to school myself, I had that rhythm in my life. I went to preschool and kindergarten, and then first grade slammed me upside the head. I went to college, and for most of my adult life I’ve worked for a college in one capacity or another. What would it be like, I wonder, to live a life where August didn’t automatically mean school? Maybe one where August meant . . . preparing to take a trip to the lake? Or England? Maybe August wouldn’t mean the end of summer then, but something else . . . something gradual and good.
I set up for a photo show a few weeks ago at a local library, and I was telling the librarian about everything I do — teaching, the online shop, etc. — and she gave me one of those funny looks and said, “It must be nice to be able to live life on your terms like that.” That struck me as an odd thing to say because the truth is, I don’t feel like I live life on my terms. Is that how others see it, though? I feel like I live my life based on the vagaries of others. Will students enroll? Will the colleges give me classes? Will they give me enough classes? Will people buy the items in my shop? Will they like my photos?
But maybe I do. Live life on my terms, I mean. I haven’t come to a conclusion about that yet. I certainly lived this summer on my terms. Remembered things I’d forgotten I loved.