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the summer has always been sacred

The Summer Has Always Been Sacred

I started teaching while I was still a grad student, which means the summer has always been sacred to me. Summer is about writing. None of that watch-the-clock bullshit. I’m talking about the good stuff, that abandon-the-Earth type of stuff, that spill-into-your-dreams deliciousness. You know, spelunking. The kind of stuff you have to curb to be able to exist as a functional human in society.

The school-year ended on June 24th this year. By about the 10th, I had my toes all lined up on the edge of the pool. The water looked clear and bottomless. My workload was starting to lighten, and something was beginning to glint in the water’s depths.

I’ve been longing to spend time in that deep place, to arrive at those kinds of days when you can sit down to write and hours go by. Another world unrolls itself from your fingers and you disappear right into it: bloop! Then the ideas start to come, as though the act of sitting down at your desk unleashes some kind of pheromone which attracts them. First they arrive in a drizzle, then a hail. You make yourself a cup of tea, leave your body behind, and unspool. You can just barely pause to marvel at the magic of inspiration between hammering out words.

This summer I'll be mentally traveling to 1942, hoping to hit three stops before school starts up again in the fall: an island off the coast of Chile where a pair of conjoined twins live imprisoned on a cliff, the American South where a debutante loses the fight against the beard growing on her chin, and the Northeast, where a giant teenager’s Nazi-loving father experiments on him in their basement. Those have proven to be hard places to get to sometimes. It’s not the kind of water I can jump into when there are essays to grade, a hurtful interaction with a student or parent to recover from, a pre-sunrise alarm to abide by. But when the school-year starts to wind down... how good to slip into the pool’s depths! The coolness that envelopes me, the stillness of being underwater.

The deepest part of the pool is the most beautiful: its dip in temperature, its green and purple darkness. That place is weeks out from the last day of school. I’ve only ever been able to reach it after several days of solitude. There’s a real clarity down there, an understanding of the nature of the piece I’m working on.

I’m not a particularly strong swimmer. I can move underwater from point A to point B: nothing fancy, nothing pretty, very function over form. But all the same -- I relish being in the water. How good is that big breath before the dive, before your feet spring off the ground? And then you pitch toward the surface, and there’s that explosion, the last true sound before the utter silence. Every molecule on your skin switches poles, the coolness pressing against you. Your air ascends from your body in silver globs. Everything around you slows, suspended in movement, and you can see that you’ve arrived in a different world, a world that’s been waiting to envelope you, to draw you away from the earth and swallow you up whole.


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