For teachers (and students), and anyone else who works in a job where summer is synonymous with a more relaxed schedule, and fewer obligations, summer often arrives just as we are frayed around our edges. In those few weeks before the end of the school year, hallways are filled with snippets of conversation about plans for the summer. Those conversations convey our weariness, too, and the expectation of rebuilding our psyches and energies for the next school year — which seems miles away in those late days of spring.
It’s here now — summer, that is. Well, not technically since the solstice hasn’t arrived. But summer feels like it is here, finally. After a few days of sun, beach, grilling, playing in the yard, mowing the lawn, going to parades, it seems that we need no longer anticipate, but instead, we can revel in the sweet moments of summer.
Despite the sure signs — parades, beach, grilling, ice cream making — I find myself caught in a moment of uncertainty about what I am supposed to be doing. Summer hasn’t changed — it is me, and what I bring to summer. The promise of summer’s freedom from work, obligation, and stress is just that — a promise. Like most promises, it is dependent either upon the chaos of the universe for its fulfillment, or upon letting go of expectations.
It’s a shift — this movement to a slower pace, to no scheduled classes to teach, meetings to attend, children to retrieve. Even though summer’s character is carefree and effortless, paradoxically, summer requires some input.
This different way of thinking, of moving in the world, is taking some adjusting.
Our favorite summer beer, Bell’s Oberon, whose named was plucked from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, made me think that my anxiety needs to be spirited away, too. Rather than think of summer as filled with lazy days, implying that there is something I should be doing, I should fill them with unexpected adventure, with wanderings, with plans not made, with chance encounters and surprise visitors.
Like the fairy who answers Puck’s question — “wither wander you?” — my answer and my summer should be:
Over dune, over sand hill,
Through farmer’s market, through wine tastings,
On hayrides, through grape fields,
Churning ice cream, chasing children,
Through waves and over sandbars,
On moonlit walks, and over sun-rippled waters,
I do wander everywhere.
That is my promise for summer, and here on the eve of Midsummer, with frozen Oberon and strawberry sour cream ice cream as my witness, I pledge to begin the revelry.