Midsummer may have been last month by the calendar, but it’s July that feels like the middle of the summer. If I’m truly honest with myself, the middle of my summer passed a few weeks ago, but with six weeks (yikes! Only six?) until the start of classes, mid-July seems close enough. For six more weeks, my time is unscheduled, my routines refigured by heat, an office renovation, and—most importantly—a respite from classes and committee meetings. I’m gloriously unscheduled, free of routine … mostly.
And that’s what summer’s all about, isn’t it? What I miss from the summers of my youth is not any one thing that I used to do, but the change in routine. Honestly, I was a bookworm-y little girl and a bookworm-y teen, so it’s not that I did anything all that different during the summer than I did during the school year (until I started working in the summers, which is another story). But I did it in different places, reading outside under my grandfather’s pine trees, or carrying a book to the lake where we spent a few summers in my childhood, or actually putting the book down occasionally and playing with my siblings and assorted neighborhood friends. Once in a different place, though, I tried new things—hiking, or picking wild blueberries, or swimming in the lake—and some became new summer routines while others (capturing crickets, maybe?) were tried once, and never repeated.
The recent film, Moonrise Kingdom, captures for me something of the way childhood felt in those days—its own separate space, connected to but distant from the adult world. Ostensibly controlled by various adults—parents, camp directors, and the like—the children of Moonrise Kingdom want nothing more than to make their own rules for a while, establish their own routines outside of adult control. That they inevitably fail is, I think, part of the point—we try, and fail, and try, and fail, until one day we actually succeed because the adult controls have fallen away, or lessened with time. Summer is a time to experiment, then, a time to try on new identities or ideas. That the routine they try to create looks very much like the ones they’ve escaped is also, I believe, part of the point: we play at adulthood until we reach it (and even then, we may feel as if we continue playing at it for quite some time).
If it’s the break in routine that allows for such fertile experimentation, I’m all for it. Because it’s only when we don’t have our usual routines that we can try new ones. I can’t, as the children in Moonrise Kingdom do, run away from home and try to start a new life elsewhere, nor do I want to. What I do want is to try a few new routines (including a daily writing practice), to see what I want to keep and what to shed once the semester starts again. It’s time to experiment, just like we did when we were kids.