Let Summer Begin…

Although contemporary kids (and their parents and the school boards) seem to think summer should begin with (and therefore school ends by) Memorial Day, I have always felt itʼs summertime once June arrives, as it does today. This year, of course, I have enjoyed the arrival of summer as not for 35 years — with no school, no play rehearsals (academic or community theatre) and with more than expected time for myself. The current/ending job has helped, too, as I got to drive across Jackson County at least three days a week through May, soaking in the lush greens against the blue sky. The advent of ninety-degree temperatures for a while back in April while I trained for the job also queued me for the æstival season (as well as the forty-minute drives to and from the training site and the long lunches — an hour, huge for someone leashed to less than 25 minutes at school — during which I wandered about observing the growth of young plants groping for full maturity).

My Life in Books

Now my job ends (I hope by Wednesday), so much like school terminating all those previous years, leaving me psychologically primed for the hot, fun times. I feel like rereading Ray Bradburyʼs wonderful, not-quite-a-memoir Dandelion Wine (a much-beloved book on the experience of summer for a preteen in a Twenties Midwest so full of flavors still available from my own youth in the early Sixties, but ancient history now). I started on that volume again six years ago, attempting to read in it as I enjoyed lunchtime outdoors at the Area Education Agency in Bettendorf (I was taking my required five hours of education courses to recertify for the final time), but the actual effort of the coursework distracted me before I was a full third into that sensuous, imaginary summer. Then Janet gave me the sequel, Farewell Summer (still unread), restimulating my interest. Maybe this June…

I am also being haunted by a summer book that I needed four rereadings over a twenty-year gap to begin appreciating — F. Scott Fitzgeraldʼs The Great Gatsby, which I felt (at first) that I had to teach once I took over the Andrew American Literature course. The first two years were dreadful (for me, probably for the kids as well) because I had to force myself to read that skinny little volume (partly because I was asking them to tackle too much at a time — two chapters a day!) and I wasnʼt partcilarly inspired by the shallow lives of those selfish rich people in a very different summer of 1922 (different from Bradburyʼs 1928, that is). I had hated it in college (Fitzgeraldʼs poetic style too dense for my immature science-fiction-bred tastes, I guess), and it wasnʼt until the third year using it at Andrew that I keyed into the fact that it was about a single summer and in its own peculiar way captured an essence of summertime in the experiences of the characters — and the readerʼs experience of the prose, too. After that the book began to blossom for me with more secrets and more revelations every year.

Huck himself: it really is good for someone like me to have to appreciate a poor-white-trash punk like Huck

(And I really did miss reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn — aloud to English III for a decade or more — this year, too. Thatʼs another wonderful summer, about eighty years earlier than either of the two already mentioned. Even though the reading-aloud occurred in January and February annually. I want to watch the PBS film of Twainʼs riverboating years, too, Life on the Mississippi; it always made me yearn for summer in the deeps of snow.)

Gatsbyʼs appeal still surprises me, but witnessing and experiencing the wonderful greening of the world this year, itʼs Ftizgeraldʼs phrases I recall… it was a warm season, and I had just left a country of wide lawns and friendly trees …And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer. There was so much to read, for one thing, and so much fine health to be pulled down out of the young breath-giving air. — All from the second or third page. Not to mention Daisyʼs frustrated wish to celebrate the longest day of the year but always miss it, or Gatsbyʼs faded yearning to hold onto the the summer and not let it go. I might have to drag it off the shelf…

I also read through all of Heinleinʼs juveniles early in two different summers a long time ago — first when I was ending my junior year in high school, in volumes from the Mt. Pleasant Public Library, then in June after my first year of teaching, deliberately dipping back into a world of excited youth (and repeatedly remaining up all night to finish another book in a single day). The Science Fiction Book Club reprinted all of them in omnibus volumes a few years ago, which I bought, of course, and I want to read those stories in hardback again…

An ellipsis… A fine way to begin a summer… Kind of lazy…

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

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