Today is both the last day of summer vacation and my 39th birthday. At the beginning of summer break, after what had somehow been an especially exhausting school year, I cobbled together a lofty set of goals (which, after years of significant under-performance, I should just acknowledge I won't be able to complete).
Finish writing two novels-in-progress.
Query agents for existing novel.
Finally put together a full-length poetry collection.
Learn to use Adobe Illustrator.
Read (or reread) texts for school, plan lessons in advance, change the world.
Explore all of the parks in the Richmond area that allow dogs.
Read an obscene amount of books.
Learn how to read tarot cards.
I experienced my greatest success in the wilderness. Before the Virginia heat and humidity could begin their full assault, I hustled my long-suffering dog Greta out the door, flopped her into the passenger seat of the car, and began our adventure for the day.
Sometimes our departure was delayed by Greta's canoodling with the neighbor's tabby cat. Sometimes it wasn't. She is always convinced that she will be able to find him underneath my car.
We splashed in many new streams and saw many new sights. Spiderwebs tangled in my hair. For a while, the world was just where we were: quiet, green, uncrowded.
I did query some literary agents but I just wasn't right for them. I wrote some poems. I added to one of my novels and read a reasonable (not obscene) amount of books. But mostly I walked.
With my return to work, my morning walks will to come to an end, at least during the week. They will be replaced with mugs of coffee and long drives on the interstate, with students sharing excuses for late work and sorrows and questions and joys.
I know that I am lucky, for the summer and the work I get to return to. I am fortunate in the friends who took me out for a delicious birthday dinner and showered me with strange and perfect gifts, for the flowers I promise not to overwater. Over and over again, I can't imagine what I did to deserve such riches.
Today, HBO will air the final episode of Game of Thrones' seventh season (for my birthday, of course). When I wandered out into the world to write (the first paragraph of this blog post) this afternoon, a man I didn't know saw my "Winter Is Coming" T-shirt and had to tell me how much he is looking forward to that season, too, to the end to the discomforts of the Virginia summer. He told me and my friend how beautiful we were, how he loved us. He bought us doughnuts.
Despite his compliment about my shirt, he had never heard of Game of Thrones.
I tend to look back at my summers with regret, with an eye to what more I might have done. Winter is always coming, in fiction and in real life. Every day it is a little closer. It is my least favorite season, but I'm sure I've stored enough sunlight to last until the summer unfolds again.
And in the meantime, I can definitely let more literary agents know that I'm available.