Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How Was Your Summer?

We're getting to that time of starts on Monday, and everybody will be asking about each other's summers. Summer... those three months "off" for students and teachers. Of course, if one is a teacher or professor, one knows those three months are hardly a vacation! I relish summer of course, because I need the mental and emotional break and distance from all that teaching and being at University entails. Three months away from students, daily meetings, asinine emails, and the stuff that slowly wears one down is a wonderful and necessary span of time for mental, intellectual, and emotional refreshment. It's a time for re-establishing balance that so easily goes off-kilter during busy times, whether or not one is a student or teacher who follows the rhythms of semesters and academic calendars.

So how was my summer? Pretty great! It has been refreshing emotionally and intellectually. It was a time for doing all the things that needed to be done--that always need to be done--but that summer allows to get done. Indeed, while I love teaching and I love the stimulation of being among colleagues at a University 9 months of the year, I am extremely selfish about my alone time. There is so much constantly going on, not just 8-5, but evening events, weekend trips etc. etc. that summer allows the pace to slow down, allows one to be, to live, to remember that constantly plugging away or answering that email freak-out, or whatever actually doesn't matter that much. Because there is time. There is time for thinking. Time for doing. Time for being. The long days and the self-prescribed schedule allow each of us to expand our breathing into the space that increased time allows. Ahhhhhhh

I guess that's the point of a it vacation, really?

So how was my summer? What did I do? Even while it was relaxing, I still did a lot! In fact, what I do during the times I'm not on campus I find extraordinarily meaningful, and the experiences I have in my "free" time (is it free? I think it all relates to my being, purpose, and work...)  refreshes me for my students and my thinking and writing. The experiences I have off-campus shape what I do and how I think and how I teach during the year. Like sabbaticals, summers give us what we need, if we are aspirational and ambitious enough to know what it is we need--or as a wise former Dean of my college, quoting Madeleine L'Engle, said "Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it." Professors and teachers work in the summer, but it is work of different kind. Yes, summer or sabbatical is self-structured, so that helps. Summer provides breathing space, thinking space, and the opportunities for unexpected experiences and concomitant interconnected ideas that we allow our minds to link together in the spaces and expanded time without strict schedule, routine, emails, meetings, and classes. That space and time is absolutely necessary for the best work--the inspired work--to happen.

So what did I do this summer? Well, most importantly, I saved lives. Even though I want to say the highlight of my summer was the U2 concert in Chicago (ok, it really was!! Beer at a tap room and U2? Phenomenal!)

Really, lasting rewards are in the work with animals that also refreshes my scholarship. Not only did the school year end with the trapping of 11 cats and subsequent fostering in May and June of the remaining kittens (see June post), but we also are about to close the summer circle of cat care by trapping a few (hopefully 4-6) more black cats living feral on College Street for TNR. We are also fostering a darling 12 week kitten, Mona, who is available for adoption through Waverly Pet Rescue.
Mona--available for adoption!
I am sure that the black kitties scheduled to be trapped Monday are the relatives of Peanut aka Lil P, whom we found on campus last summer. I've also been walking tons of dogs at CBHS--they need so many walks--and I love that time. It can be stressful, in its own way, but it requires full attention, which allows my brain to relax, and solve problems my active mind couldn't. I find walking dogs extremely cathartic for that reason--much like running in "the zone." Total focus is required.

Somewhat satisfactorily, I wrote--a lot (always with the help of many friends and colleagues!). I wrote two IRBs (both approved!) and fellowship applications, a chapter for my next book, and the conference paper that summarizes addition to some reports blah blah blah. Less importantly, but necessary for my engagement with the modern world, I upgraded my material life. I bought a new (used) car (the first car I've ever purchased on my own! Shocking!) and I just finally upgraded to an iPhone. Ha! AND we're still in the throes of remodeling! AAND we put in a rain garden!

Goodness, we DID do a lot since May!

I ran a lot, too. I ran quite a few trail races--the Hawkeye 25K, Pilot Knob 15k, Grand Island, MI half-marathon, the Mines of Spain half marathon, and of course, other runs on the trails...[Taking Back the Trails was an important event this summer too, after a horrific violent assault in George Wyth State Park...]

I guess it's no wonder that the plantar fasciitis returned to my right foot, so that my running has been curtailed... even though mentally I feel refreshed after these three months, all this physical work afforded by the longer days has taken its toll on my human body! That...and all the running. Now to let that body rest while my mind works in class...

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