Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lahey and the Swan

On this, my fourth day of summer "vacation," I am coming up for air.

School actually ended over a week ago, but I agreed to teach a rock climbing camp the week after school got out. I had been dreading the commitment, but the fifteen lovely students enrolled in the camp ended up re-affirming everything I love about teaching, and we all had a great time.

But every moment I belayed those kiddos, watching them twirl and laugh at the end of ropes strung from the rafters of our gymnasium, I could hear deadlines ticking away in the background. Lovely deadlines, deadlines I asked for, deadlines I worked years and years to earn, and gladly accepted, but deadlines that render the concept of a summer vacation quite moot.

Amid the writing deadlines, I also have to design a new course this summer, and the next couple of weeks are dedicated to that project. However, what I really can't wait to get down to is the writing. The lovely process of steeping myself in research, organizing notes, and banging out the words.  

I still have not figured out how to balance all of it, but I have figured out how to say no to the stupid details that matter less than my family and the words I long to craft. Painting the house. Tending to the gardens. Rebuilding the chicken coop. Fixing the garage door.

The fact that those projects need to be dealt with drives me nuts.

In the meantime, I have decided to keep tutoring Latin over the summer. It's one of my favorite hours in the week because the students are a mom and daughter pair. The daughter loves mythology and Roman culture, and the mom loves the grammatical Latin. This week, we reviewed the second declension endings and looked at some Roman and Greek art. I showed them some photographs I took last year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and asked them to identify representations of the gods based on their symbols, postures, and outfits. It was great fun. At the very end of the hour, the daughter (age 11) asked me a question about the story of Leda and the swan (who was really Zeus, all dressed up his his feathery finery in order to seduce Leda) that I was hard pressed to answer.

"But how did Leda get pregnant by a swan?"

Fortunately, her mom took the reins. She smiled and said, "It's a myth, honey. Sometimes you just have to let go of the little details."

I think I will heed this wise mom's advice on the story of my summer. The next couple of months is just going to have to be about the big picture, not the details.

If Leda could produce Castor, Pollux, Clytemnestra, and Helen all in one concentrated nesting session, I can certainly buckle down for a season in my own nest and produce a couple of articles and a completed book proposal. Leda's creations managed to inspire timeless stories and one even led to the fall of Troy. Certainly I can take down a deadline or two from the comfort of my nest.

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