When I went to type the title of this post -- “Sprint” -- my fingers went to a different word instead: “Spring.” And that seems about right for this time of year. With Spring Break over, I feel as if I’m now in a sprint to the finish line. But in fact we’re not quite there yet; the sprint really begins, just after spring does, in a couple more weeks. We have another week or two to gear up, then, for the last month of classes, the month in which honors theses are due, final projects get finalized, next year’s schedule is settled and students start to register…and so on. We are, as always, living both in the moment and in the future, as we make sure that we are prepared for the next class, the next meeting, the next big deadline.
There’s nothing natural about all this activity, of course, and it certainly doesn’t have to be done on this particular timetable. My daughter’s spring break starts at the end of this week, and her sprint will start later -- as will her spring, since she’s a couple of climate zones north of us. My son, on the other hand, will not be on break until it’s fully spring here (his public school break is tied to Easter, which is very late this year). By then he’ll know where he’s going for high school next year, so the end of his school year may look less like a sprint than a slow march (or April, May, June…).
As I gear up for the sprint, something I do every year, though, I realize as well how many people’s routines have been interrupted recently. I’ve watched Aeron Haynie  and others posting from the sidelines  -- and the frontlines -- of the Wisconsin protests, seeing how decisions made in one arena can so easily affect the lives of others. We’ve all been glued to the news from North Africa and the Middle East as lives are disrupted, lost, changed utterly by the protests playing out so differently in each country, yet all seeming to be part of one large-scale event. Is this what it felt like in 1848, when nationalist revolutions swept across Europe?
And then this weekend I joined others in shock and horror at the devastation wrought by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan -- a country I called home for six years, and where I currently have family members (who are fine, thank you). As food writer Ruth Reichl wrote in a blog post on Friday , “There is no time, ever, in which a terrible disaster is not taking place somewhere on the planet. And thanks to modern technology, we know all about it almost immediately.” In the face of this knowledge, it’s hard to know what our responsibility is. To respond with compassion and aid, of course, but also to keep doing the things we value, the things that continue to make our lives worthwhile. So I pause before the sprint to contemplate what’s going on in the world, and to get ready to roll up my sleeves and go to work once again.