Jilly D.

Summer School

In Time and seasons on August 1, 2011 at 12:35 am

Most people thought summer school was for dummies when I was a kid in the 1960s. Summer school also housed bored kids like me who needed some adult supervision. With both parents working, I was too old for a babysitter and too young to be a latchkey kid.

My first creative writing class was in summer school session in 1968 when I was ten years old. The course was held at Lee Elementary on the other side of town. I got to ride a school bus for the first time. I had always walked to Lakeview Elementary. That year I had been chosen to be in the Great Books Reading program. Aesop’s Fables was the first selection for a cohort of ten students pulled from three third grade classrooms. We met in the same small seminar room where the Special Ed kids went for their personalized lesson session. The classics opened wide my mind through my cat-tailed glasses with coke bottle thick lenses.

Summer without school would be so dull. When I got on that school bus every morning I knew I was the only one who thought so.

The classroom was a science lab and we sat on stools at the counters in between sinks. The back wall of windows faced east and it got really hot before our morning summer session would end. One steamy morning we walked into the classroom to find the blinds down and the film screen pulled down over the chalkboard. The teacher signaled to the AV student assistant  — the guy I labeled dork the minute I walked into the room — to start the 35 mm black and white film projector. Images of water splashed on the screen. A silent film, it illustrated the poetry of nature’s spurting forth a spring, a stream, a creek, into a marsh, reservoir, river, and becoming a force as mighty as the Mississippi.

When the lights came on, coolness descended upon my brow. An inspiration burned hot inside my head.

“A thousand word essay is due by Friday.” My first real deadline. “Start your homework now.”

The teacher required us to sit quietly and write during the remainder of the period. My number two pencil was a nub halfway through the assignment. I grabbed my pencil case and dug out another. I started reading from the top and used the new pink eraser to correct my misspellings and punctuation shortcomings. I added a few more things.

Furiously I wrote down my words into sentences that conveyed my ideas and emotions and convictions. The emotional history lingers in my memory even though my original essay is long ago lost.

The water. The stones. The water rushing over the stones, carving them into new shapes over time. Time. Time lapse. Growing up in the land of 10,000 lakes in the city along the banks of the Mississippi, I knew water and the joy of fresh springs.

Diving in and swimming into the rushing currents of the creek. Tubing down the river. Toe dancing with the springs deep down. Sandbagging the river’s edge against spring floods. Scavenging for frogs and snakes in the swamp. Skipping and jumping through the lawn sprinkler.

My early memories rinse clean my current panic about planet Earth. Guess, I’ve been reading too much environmental literature lately. The tipping point for reclamation of the planet for human inhabitation passed about five years ago. We are first class passengers on the sinking Titanic. Even if we could turn the wheel 180 degrees, shove it into reverse, and radically alter course, we will be unable to avert catastrophe and disaster for Mother Earth. Global climate change is real and happening faster than scientists predicted. All their models and predictions were based upon a number of 550 parts per million of carbon dioxide as the tipping point. Now they’ve discovered that magic number is 350 ppm and we passed that number in the previous decade.

Can you smell ice? The snow caps on the Alps are melting; they are gone from the Andes. The seas rise. Contamination of groundwater under my feet is threatened because of the need for more natural gas to continue my carbon rich lifestyle. Strike up the band. I want to hear Water Music while the ship goes down.

Water. Time. Lapse.

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