Yesterday I did my last summer gig. Tomorrow is the first day of classes. Today I’m writing syllabi and trying to get ready for a Monday that’s come too soon. It’s been a good, busy summer, and as I play the highlight reel in my head I’m grateful for all the images that I couldn’t have imagined. Biking in the desert, train riding through the continental divide*, playing science with kids and adults, seeing concerts while drinking beer, hiking high trails and boating bays. Now it’s over. This isn’t a tale of woe, but of transition. I just think that this is feeling like a particularly drastic one.
Today as I should be prepping those upcoming courses and faculty events, I’m reluctant. Maybe another beer, or more coffee, or both, is in order. Right now I’m just trying to hold onto summer, even just the last few days. I got to see John Prine Thursday night — wonderful beyond words on its own — and also Carrie Rodriguez open and play along on the encore set. It was timely for me, whose daughter had just upgraded her violin that morning, to see such a talented fiddler playing double stops and slides while she was singing and stomping. When I told her about Anna’s new violin as she signed the CD case, she addressed the autograph to Anna and wished her “best of luck with your new fiddle.” I would have hugged her, but security guards were close by.
A day later we sent Grace off to Girl Scout camp, along with Karyn, a mother-and-daughter thing. She hiked, ate, slept (a little), canoed, made jewelry, and generally just had a great time in the mountains while we baked in the heat. Anna and I were left without a car and our own father-and-daughter task: working at a local county fair. With nowhere else to go, Anna had to join me and three of my students, transported via campus vehicle to the fairgrounds where we’d set up a tent, tables, and the typical loads of science play that we’d hosted all summer long. I’ve been semi-loathing this all summer long, not because of the task itself but because of the inconvenience of the timing — moments before the semester starts and when most students are away, a Saturday after all our stuff is typically put away or in transition towards storage.
But it was fantastic, and Anna was a great help. She carried stuff, was a good sport, went out to buy us $4 fresh squeezed lemonade, and (best of all) showed loads of people the miracle of insta-snow as she poured water into cupped hands with the magic powdery stuff that expands immediately. She delighted in the science and the importance of her volunteer position.
Best of all yesterday, and the closing image of my summer, was when the royal court, county queen and all her attendants, wandered by. (They were supposed to help, originally, but I suppose they were tasked with many royal duties throughout the day.) I introduced them to the messiest thing we had on hand, a corn starch and water mix we call Oobleck. And there they were, silky banners and hair, sparkly makeup and tiara, hands in the semi-solid, semi-liquid goo. (Thanks to the quick cell phone picture taking of Charla, who knew I’d want to capture this priceless combination.)
Even princesses need science, I suppose. A good end to their summer, I hope, and to mine.
* “Over” might sound like a better preposition for describing the route concerning the continental divide. But the train really did go under the divide, via a tunnel. There’s a lesson in that somewhere about finding alternate routes.