I am sounding my “barbaric yawp,” shouting out my triumph. Right now, I am listening to “Mr. Keating’s triumph” from Dead Poet’s Society, mentally seeing young men standing on their desks, looking down at their teacher, looking up to a man who taught them to raise their heads and feel the breadth of their dignity.
I started this weekend with seventy or so essays to read, generally about two pages each. I could have skimmed them, put in a couple of comments. But my blasted work ethic denied me this opportunity. I graded. And graded. And graded.
My hands ache. The tips of my fingers hurt just a little. But I’m done.
This week, I will be in my classroom, packing up books, planning out next year. I will write up assignments, make choices in terms of books that I will be teaching. I am going to dust off the shelves and throw away files and generally clean.
But, grading? I’m done. Tomorrow, I will send my grades to the county and finish writing up reports and document all the flaming hoops I have jumped. But when I come home tomorrow, I will not bring home any essays. I won’t log into my digital grade book or find the dropbox with the lines of text telling me who turned in what and when.
No, I’m going to pull up my computer and starting writing. One more time. Once more, I am going to drive down long country roads with Beth and Michael. I’m going to walk the halls of the Pear Tree House. I will run my fingers through Virgil’s fur and eat zucchini bread with the three sisters.
Tomorrow afternoon, I might color in one of the books sitting on my desk. I might put together a puzzle.
I’m going to finish reading Cloud Atlas because, now that I have seen the movie and realized that I really wasn’t as dumb as I thought I was, I am going to finish reading the book because I finally understand.
I’m going to read books this summer. I am going to learn how to direct plays. I am going to block out Diary of Anne Frank. I am going to edit poetry and send it to publishers and get my rejections and then send them out again because I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED.
Next weekend, I might be going to the mountains, walking up paths and climbing u-hooks nailed into rocks and scaling the world and going forward. I am going to bring a journal and sit on the top of a mountain and write and write and write.
On the other side of the room, my dog is staring at me. I had to give him a pain pill today..his hind legs are aching. He keeps falling and then scrambling on the floor, trying to dig his toes into the fake-wood laminate and gain purchase for his toenails.
I will spend this summer loving my dog, soothing him. He hasn’t bounced back from the winter. He spends more and more time laying in his kennel and staring at the world, his eyes a tad empty. Possibly sad.
For about three months, I will make my dog the focus of my life. Give him the hours of petting and loving that he deserves.
This summer, I am going to walk a hundred miles on the Appalachian Trail.
I am going to finish writing my sestina about last year’s Appalachian Trail hike that changed my life.
I am going to write so much that today’s complaints about achy knuckles will seem like nothing. And I am going to love every second of it.
I thought about teaching summer school. The family could use the money. The Boy might be going to community college in a year and this will certain help pay for it.
But the allure of sleeping in. The allure of going out in the morning and wandering for miles through the local state parks…
The hours of poetry reading and writing?
The hours of time with my children as this will be the last summer I will have with my son before he starts working or attending college (albeit community college)?
I will not let go of those un-scheduled hours for three thousand dollars. I won’t sell my soul.
Instead, I think I’ll get on a train, travel to New York City.
I think I’ll strap on my hiking boots and walk along a trail that is roughly eighteen inches wide.
I think I’ll stand on a desk and shout my “barbaric YAWP” over the rooftops of the world.
And then I’ll go back to school, unpack my boxes, and have one hell of a year.