Summer as we teachers know it is drawing to a close. In order to make the journey back to the classroom more palatable every year, I go through a systems check to assure myself that I did, indeed, accomplish all the items on my hearts-desire list for one more summer.
Inside painting: check; closet purging: check; deep cleaning: check; renewing a bicycling sport: check; seeing my first book published: negative. As Jan Karon would say, "there's the rub." After ten months of being shopped around by my agent, my book, CRAZY, has yet to find a taker. I've had close calls, and wonderful affirmations by reputable, big-name publishing houses, but in an increasingly tight publishing market, my book is risky. Written in verse, set in the sixties, dealing with mental illness, it lacks all the earmarks of blockbusters these days such as dystopian themes, werewolves and sexual innuendos. Those, of course, are all the reasons why my agent loves it.
My woe-is-me outlook took a wonderful upward turn when I attended my 45th high school reunion at pristine Lake O' the Woods in Oregon last week. To begin with, you can't walk in a grove of ponderosa pine and douglas fir, paddle on a lake at the base of a snow-capped dormant volcano, and watch bald eagles cruise overhead without experiencing the blessings of this life, and the insignificance of our own petty concerns.
And then there is the human element. My best girlfriends and I picked right up where we left off years ago, sharing laughter and tears, heartaches and triumphs, now peppered with inevitable health issues. Twenty percent of our class of just over 400 is now deceased, and many, we learned, were facing serious or life-threatening health concerns. But hope and a zest for life prevailed, and we fed off of each other's thankfulness and determination to live life to the fullest as long as we can. One friend said she works on "gratitudes" each day, and in our short weekend together, it became a theme.
No, I didn't accomplish all my goals this summer. But I think I came away with a greater appreciation of who I am and where I am in life's journey. As I lay in wait for this sunset picture, dragonflies danced around my head, fish jumped just off the dock, and bullfrogs rehearsed for the nightly concert. There's a whole lot of living going on each day before that sunset, and as a teacher, writer, wife, mother and grandmother, I promise not to waste a moment going forward.
Renewed perspective on life: check.