Summertime, and the living is easy. Well, as easy as it ever is. What with the human condition and all.
It’s July and my backyard is green. 17,000 species of spiders are weaving their webs around my house. Fireflies, strange varieties of weeds, and squadrons of chirping birds. The living things of Central Pennsylvania are living.
Well, mostly living.
One of the 17,000 enormous trees that surround my house fell into my neighbor’s yard a few weeks ago. It stopped growing and started dying. No thriving there. The tree landed on my fence, so insurance helped foot the bill. Glory, hallelujah. Removing trees is expensive. And I have about 17,000 enormous trees that justify removal. 16,999, now.
I’ve had bad luck with trees. I’ve lived in three houses where three enormous trees have come down in three enormous storms. I’ve always come out okay. My neighbors too. Peace in the storm, I guess. That’s a motif.
May was busy. June was busy. July? I suspect it will be busy. This summer hasn’t felt like much of a vacation. The worst of it has been trying to find time to write.
Professors need to write. Publish or perish. I’ve been publishing these last four years. Creatively and academically. Even bloggily. I’m not worried. I’ll keep cranking work out. I’ve learned that much about myself. Still, carving out time to write is tricky business. This last week felt like the first time this summer I had space to write.
I woke up early. Went for a run. Headed to one of the handful of little coffee shops in downtown State College. The students are gone and the town is peaceful. Took out my laptop and got lost in my thoughts.
I really like being lost in my thoughts. That’s one of the reasons I figured a career in higher education would be a good fit. Lots of thinking involved. There aren’t many other professions where you get paid to be lost in your thoughts. Scholars should be allowed to get lost in their thoughts. The things that distract me from that frustrate me. I’m looking at you, neoliberal practices in the increasingly neoliberal university.
Anyway, most of my writing these past few years has happened at Webster’s or Saints. I’m always more productive in coffee shops. They feel like anonymous spaces. I can lose myself there and, more importantly, get lost in my writing. My thoughts. Think hard. Create.
Some academics hole up in their offices and work. They use their office hours to write. That’s never been me. I had a shared office space at The University of Minnesota when I was a graduate student. I spent one morning at an office chair and quickly realized that I couldn’t get anything done. The walls closed in on me. My peers closed in on me. I wrote most of my dissertation at Spyhouse Northeast or Espresso Royale in Dinkytown which, apparently, has closed down recently. Tragic. I also worked on my dissertation at six in the morning in the box office of Roseville High School, before the students arrived. I brought the coffee with me.
I really do need solitude to write well and, for whatever reason, coffee shops are my best bet. There’s caffeine and the distinct lack of expectation that any social interaction will occur. Glory, hallelujah.
Anyway, it’s summertime, and there’s writing to do.
These blogs are more process than product. I don’t take them very seriously. I use them to get my mind working. My fingers too. These little vignettes are like an exercise regiment. Sometimes they’re fun. Sometimes they’re a chore. Sometimes I get to thinking, laughing, or feeling something when I write. Sometimes I don’t.
For me, writing is a vessel for the psyche. It’s an act that allows me to contain and express the stuff inside of me. Thoughts and feelings. Jokes and ideas. Frustrations and experiences. Writing these blogs helps me lubricate the mechanism. I feel better after I write. Always. That’s been true since I was a kid, scribbling words onto a page.
So I’m just warming up the engine here. Every week. Firing the synapses up with an expectation that good things will come. What are those good things? Beats me. I’m an improviser. But I’ll keep building. I know that much too.
Summertime, and it’s good to create.