Deirdre Good, colleague and friend, writes about academic summers and provides a link to the sage summer advice of Ms. Mentor, who is the Miss Manners of academe and writes for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Thank you, Ms. Mentor.
Life has quieted down here. The academic year is over. I have met some immediate deadlines and taken care of the most pressing household concerns. I've visited my parents, attended the memorial service for my mentor, and traveled again for a major professional obligation. I have gotten some rest.
I canceled my attendance at a conference this past week and weekend. It was my first absence in 15 years and I was supposed to help give out an award to a terrific scholar, Barbara Hilkert Andolsen of Monmouth University, whom I had nominated for the honor. But there were two other women speaking in tribute to her, and I e-mailed in my tribute, which someone else read on my behalf. I stayed here, getting into a steady rhythm of life, enjoying the reunion with my congregation this morning.
I am one of those very blessed people who worships and helps lead worship in a wonderful congregation. I have not capitalized "holy communion" above because the communion we shared this morning, the communion with Jesus and with each other, is also a broader communion. Our visiting preacher, Bob, spoke of this with different words but in the same spirit.
In this time of summer slowdown, I (and some fortunate others) can move into greater mindfulness, attentive to the ways in which all our lives can be both attentive and eucharistic. One can rarely have the latter without the former. Do we gulp down our food our savor it? Do we approach our dinner plates, our dishes, our piles of unsorted papers, our work, our encounters in stores and homes, with haste? with dread? with pleasure? with resentment? with hope?
If we feel dread, do we take time to know that we are feeling it? (I asked myself this very recently about two small tasks I was dreading and which were growing bigger by the hour because of the dread.) Not to wallow in the feeling, not to over-analyze it, but to notice it?
If we meet a person, a task, a place, do we meet that person, task, or place, as reverently as we would the moment of Holy Communion?
There is still work this summer: completion of small and large writing projects; getting the new administrative staff person settled with the diocesan committee I chair (we are all volunteers, but she is paid through a small grant we have) and starting to plan for some teaching I'll be doing in the diocesan deacon formation program; a few other things.
But life is less riddled with the term-time lurching from one fire to the next with metaphorical fire extinguisher in hand. I have more control over my time and over the rhythm of the days.
There is more time, of course, to attend to inner realities, and those can be as challenging to face as the outer ones. Still, there is more space to be reverent. I try not to mourn the times I was not able to be reverent, mindful, eucharistic, in this past packed year. Perhaps summer can also be a time for reconciliation: for forgiveness of self as well as others.
In this way too, summer holds the promise of sacrament.
Are there ways in which you have, hope for, struggle toward, a sacramental summer?