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, we can have free time once again.
Summer is a time of 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.
When I was teaching, summer was a time to fill up with life outside my classroom. I also took classes every summer, in whatever interested me. I just wanted to feel like a kid again, and a student, open, fresh, playful. I wanted to take in what I could and let go of the rest. We all need this. So that even in winter, we 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.
We can notice and accept change. Summer is, after all, just a label. A season is a rhythm of nature. Rhythm is the pulse of change. So, feel that pulse and all the different rhythms of your life. There are biological rhythms. There is the circadian (around the day) rhythm, the 24 hour sleep-awake cycle controlling core body temperature, pulse, blood sugar, motor control and such. 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. What other biological rhythms do we have? Menstrual (infradian rhythm). Our blood has tides. Even cells oscillate. And all around us, cycles of the moon and sun, cycles of trees and animals. Cycles within cycles.
Why all these cycles? Maybe they 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 (sunlight), 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.
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. My old school, the Lehman Alternative Community School, tried this and it worked well.
The metaphor of a dance is fitting. As T. S. Eliot put it—“…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.” So, let’s allow ourselves to enjoy summer and dance with the rhythm nature has given us.