Both as a kid and as a teacher my entire adult life, I have loved the summer. It symbolized freedom, adventure, travel, the healing powers of the beach or the lake and long slow days where time seemed to stop and the ring of the ice cream truck’s bells was enough to announce that heaven had arrived on earth. Later in my life, it also meant teaching the adult Orff courses that had all the fun of teaching kids minus the runny noses, explosive outbreaks, whiny complaints and occasional refusals to participate. (Well, all of that actually did happen in some adult classes as well, but a much smaller percentage!)
Now that has changed. Summer has some new associations and most of them are not happy. Fires in California. Hurricanes in New Orleans. Soaring temperatures in many places beyond what they’ve ever been. The various signals of a climbing climate change that have felt mostly dormant the other three seasons. Alongside possible Covid spikes and the predictable mass shootings if the politicians the NRA holds hostage don’t finally do something. Teachers trying to relax at the beach, but dispirited about returning to what has been. If they still have a job at all. The usual travel opportunities curtailed by both the echo of Covid fear and soaring prices for flights, for gas, for restaurants and hotels. My Jazz Course in New Orleans was cancelled because of low enrollment and the Orff Afrique Course in Ghana will happen with numbers too small to pay for the flight for me to join the teachers. Grateful that the annual Orff Certification Course in Carmel Valley is full, but it is the only course I’ll be teaching this summer.
So as the season turns on this summer solstice, the time when there’s usually an exhale of relief, I find myself holding my breath in mild anxiety about what might be around the corner. Worried about reading the news or waking up to the smell of smoke in the air. Wondering what we’ll have to do if Covid appears in our summer course.
And though that special sense of having the day before me to do what I will, freed from the school work schedule, has become the norm of retirement and doesn’t mean what it used to, yet still I hope for the best. Some rare time to enjoy San Francisco in the summer (fog and all), the Orff Course, the annual pilgrimage to the Lake Michigan cottage and the rituals of daily swims, walks on the beach looking for Petoskey Stones, climbs up sand dunes, bike rides on country roads, fresh corn and peaches, paddleball with the grandkids and at least one trip to the Cherry Bowl Drive-in Movie Theater.
“Summer is a coming in” says the old Medieval English canon and its text celebrating the cuckoos singing, the seed growing, the meadow blooming and the woods springing to life feels wistfully nostalgic, a time before the ravaging of the earth for fossil fuels so we can drive a few billion cars to the malls to buy things that we mostly don’t need, cluttering our homes, cluttering the earth with the debris we throw out when we’re done with our stuff, cluttering the air with exhaust and the seas with plastic. “We all sit down to a banquet of consequences” and summer’s banquet is not as tasty as it used to be.
Yet still we savor what we can. Happy summer!