Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Summer Calendar

Seals and Crofts--"Summer Breeze" (mp3)

It is telling, I think, that I don't keep a calendar for the working months.  Oh, I try from time to time, write down key events and all of that, but the fact is that work is so all-consuming that it really just becomes a matter of showing up when neccessary. 
Work months tend to operate on the premise that there is probably something going on that I am supposed to attend, so those events rarely sneak up on me.  Most afternoons and evenings, I'm flexible, able to add a function without any trouble.  I just tell my family and they adjust.  We eat later, eat out, whatever.  I do my part or I stay for awhile or as long as necessary, and then I leave to go on to a different event or to go home.  That's the post-school day life.

But I don't even keep a calendar of meetings.  If I'm supposed to be at one, someone will call me on the phone and ask me if I'm coming.  Since most meetings don't require any preparation, it's simply a matter of picking up a pen, a piece of paper, and a coffee mug and walking next door.  If the meeting is in my office, well, there I am already and come on in and let's get started!

This only backfired on me one time this year that I can remember.  I was just about to dig into a barbecue-stuffed potato for lunch at Rib and Loin with my wife and daughter when I got a text saying, "Hey, are you coming to this scholarship meeting?"

Then, I panicked, wolfed down a few bites, and raced back to school about 15 minutes late for the meeting.  And no one cared.  But that was clearly the exception.  Most days, I'm just around, working on my stuff, and if I have to interrupt thatto do something else, well, so be it.

But the summer.  Oh, how different the summer is.

The summer is like a military campaign, or maybe several of them.  The summer requires "strategery" and planning, the gathering of resources, the disbursement of troops.  The summer demands that those troops be properly provisioned and settled into manageable accomodations. Those troops must know what they are working toward. The summer is about R + R, shore leave, 2-day passes.  The summer expects proper uniforms and gear to suit the weather.  Most of all, the summer depends upon scheduling, knowing who will be where and when.

So I'm late getting to it this year, but what I really want more than anything is a great big calendar, one that I can spread out on my kitchen table and use to plot out the precious two months or so that summer has been reduced to. See, the ever-shorter summer creates the need for more planning, not less. How else to fit in the festivals, the weddings, the holidays, the grants, the weekend trips, the full-fledged vacations?  How else to balance the work schedules, the meetings, the trials and the "must be there" days with the need to get out of town, the need to get away, the requirement of removing any work thoughts from our minds, however briefly?

How else to figure out how to do enough of something that we can earn some do-nothing time?

Summer is both a making up and a storing up.  I missed most of winter break and spring break being sick, so whatever psychic benefits I expected to gain from those breaks feels lost to me.  At the same time, I operate with the strong expectation that the summer will somehow "recharge my batteries."  So I want more from those brief days than I can possibly hope to get, but the attempt is still worth the effort.  There is no shorter summer than the one spent at home with no plans, each day bleeding into the next.  That summer feels like it's almost over before it begins.

Summer is free time, lost time, found time, precious time.  There are those few days, if you're lucky a week or even two, when the return feels so distant that you can wake up for several mornings in a row without feeling like you have to get back to anywhere, when your life, wherever you are, exists just for itself and isn't burdened by work or home or obligation. 

Those are the finest days of the summer.  But they don't just happen. And that's why, regardless of whatever else is going on in the present, in my mind, I am working on my summer calendar.

My job is fun, but my job is sad.  Every year at this time, people that I have come to love leave, rarely, if ever, to return, and never to return as they were when they were here.  It is a definite, yearly ending that most people in most jobs don't face.  And it makes the summer all the more important.  Let me go wherever I need to go to wash my mind and my emotions clean so that, next year, I can do it all again.  That is my wish for the summer.  And I can't believe that, whatever you do and wherever you live, you don't need the same thing.  Let's just make sure we make time for that, put it on our calendars.    

1 comment:

troutking said...

I love that first week of summer vacation where you don't have to worry that you're letting it slip away. It's fine to "waste" it, sleeping late, watching TV, reading the newspaper front to back for hours. After that, though, you're right. That kind of behavior is a recipe for a summer that slips away quickly in a unmemorable blur. Planning a summer chockful of adventures and time spent with loved ones is the way to go. There's a weird song from about 10 years ago by some group named, cleverly, Vida Blue titled "The Best Things in Life Aren't Planned." I think that's mostly false.