This is my second summer writing blogs. Do we all grow up with a longing for summer? Even if we have no connection, as adults, to the school system, summer can remind us of childhood, the celebration of the end of the school year, warm weather, and vacations. And if we’re teachers and don’t have summer school or don’t have to work a second job, (or maybe even if we do) we can have free time once again.
The longing for summer is a longing for renewal. What does that mean? This morning, I woke up early and went outside. Two crows were screaming as they flew past. Our home is in a small clearing surrounded by trees, flowering bushes and flowers. The shade from the trees was vibrant, cool and fresh, the colors sharp and clear. The light so alive it wrapped the moment in a mysterious intensity. Time slowed so deeply that once the crows quieted, the songs of the other birds and the sounds of the breeze just added to the silence.
This is what I look forward to. Even now that I’m retired, I so enjoy summer. It doesn’t matter to me if it gets too hot and humid or if it rains. This is it. I actually hear my own life speaking to me.
When I was teaching, summer was a time to fill up with life outside my classroom. A big desire was to visit beautiful places, to see an ocean, mountains, and forests. I meditated every day. I also took classes, in whatever interested me. I wanted to learn something new and meaningful, feel like a kid again, and a student, open, fresh, playful. I wanted to take in whatever I could. We all need this, so we can renew our ability see beauty even in winter; so even when there is too much to do, we can know moments of freshness and quiet exist. Not just as memories but reminders. Renewal can happen at any time. We can let go. Time can dissolve into silence.
Summer is a season, a rhythm of nature, a pulse of change. Because of the beauty of summer, it’s hopefully easier to notice and accept change, and thus ourselves. We are alive thanks to change. To breathe, our lungs expand and contract. To eat or speak, our lips change position. We can feel the pulse or all the different rhythms of life. There are biological rhythms. There is the circadian (around the day) rhythm, the 24 hour sleep-awake cycle. There is the ultradian (within or beyond the day) rhythm, a 90-120 minute cycle controlling things like dream cycles and which hemisphere of the brain is dominant. There are monthly cycles. What other biological rhythms do we have? Our blood has tides. Cells oscillate. And all around us, cycles of the moon and sun, cycles of trees and animals. Cycles within cycles.
Cycles help fit us together. Not just us, people to people, but everyone to everything. Our internal rhythms can, if we pay attention, link us to external ones like time of day (sun cycle) or time of month (moon cycle). The more in tune we are with nature, the more in sync with ourselves. So this is another part of renewal, to feel this pulse, rhythm, and move with it.
T. S. Eliot wrote: “…at the still point, there the dance is …/Except for the point, the still point,/There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.” We can use the stillness of summer to refresh ourselves, maybe learn things like how to dance better, how to better relate with others and our world, and how to teach our students to do the same.
P. S. One example of not being in tune with nature is the starting time of many secondary schools. High School students in this country are seriously sleep deprived. Their natural rhythm is to stay up later and wake up later than adults. Several studies show that starting schools at 9 a. m. instead of 7 or 8 a. m. would improve student alertness and performance and decrease absences and depression. Students at several schools, including the Lehman Alternative Community School where I used to teach, brought such studies to the school board and were successful in pressuring this welcomed change in policy.