Postcards and the Recipe for Summer

I woke up this morning stunned by the reality that there are 25 measly days left of my summer vacation.

Summer is my time to get.things.done. I usually use the time to “repair” and catch up on everything. I read. I write. I play. I watch a whole season of a television series I don’t have time to watch during the academic year. I create. I write letters and send lots of postcards. I purge toys, books, clothing. I catch up on [some of] the “household matters” that pile up from August to May. I plan for fall semester.

This summer is different. I wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night with an unchanged “to do list.”  Sure, I get some things done. But, despite my daily lists, I spend most of my time daydreaming or staring at the computer screen trying to figure out what to do next–or what I have the desire and energy to do next. Then, I take a nap.

As I was organizing the postcards I received over the last few months, I mulled over reasons I’m not as productive and considered strategies to increase my productivity over the next few weeks.  I paused when I ran across two love notes that scream “summer.” They reminded me that summer is not all about work, and what I need is rest not a reset.

“Pool at Luna Park,” Sketch/Watercolor by Andrea F.

Andrea F., an author/artist and Love Notes participant from Vienna, Austria, sent both images.

The first is a sketch Andrea completed while in Australia in February to escape the cold Austrian winter.  It depicts the North Sydney Olympic Pool with a view of Luna Park.  I’m impressed with how accurately Andrea sketched the scene. Check out a photograph here to see what I mean: North Sydney Olympic Pool [fourth image beneath the central image].

“Summer” by Andrea F.

 

With the collage postcard above, Andrea provided the recipe for summer–masterpieces, poetry, fancy, eternity, and pure art [see image for measurements].

Thanks for the reminder, Andrea! Summer is for all of this.

So, bear with me while I check myself: I work hard from August to May. My weekdays begin at 4:00 a.m. (sometimes 3:00), and I regularly put 75-80 hours per week into my work–preparing for classes, meeting with students, grading papers, attending other meetings, and doing my part for the committees on which I serve.  It’s insane to squeeze everything that I didn’t get around to from August to May into a two-month summer. It is absolutely okay to not kill myself working just as hard while I’m on break. Summer is, after all, the best perk of academia.

Thanks to two beautiful postcards, my break has finally begun–vacation from guilt, lists, schedules, and the fierce pressure to get it all done. I need the poetry, art, fancy, and naps (especially) to cope with life after July.

The Indigo Buntings of Academia

I stole a moment yesterday from all the “things to do” to “thin out” the stationery and planner pouches I carry to work with me. All the pretty things were spread out on the coffee table. Among them were at least seven letters to which I must respond soon. In that stack of letters was a gorgeous notecard from Omi, an adjunct English professor and one of my “Professors United” pals on swap-bot.

"Indigo Bunting" by Christy Lemp

“Indigo Bunting” by Christy Lemp

Lemp’s watercolor was one of the winners of the AAUW’s 2015 Art contest.  From the back of the card:

Christy Lemp always loved to draw and paint but only starred devoting more time to it after years of working other jobs and raising her family.  Spurred by the passage of a milestone birthday, Lemp quit her job and dove into her passion: watercolor painting.  After much hard work and persistence, Lemp’s dream of making artwork for people has come true. Indigo Bunting was inspired by a Mother’s Day visit of the beautiful bird to Lemp’s bird feeder.

I often think about adjunct professors like Omi who toil day in and day out with inadequate pay and benefits.  In this letter, Omi wrote about how the university that employs her changed the adjunct pay schedule from biweekly to monthly and were (or are) discussing eliminating adjuncts in her discipline altogether! I am sympathetic to the plight of adjuncts and disturbed by how some universities take advantage of them, but I know that many adjuncts appreciate having a paycheck and a job in academia, hoping that “a foot in the door” will lead to a full-time position.

According to the Chipper Woods Bird Observatory:

Indigo Buntings perform a valuable service as they consume grasshoppers, beetles, cankerworms, flies, mosquitoes, cicadas, weevils and aphids. Diet also consists of seeds of raspberries, grasses, thistle, goldenrod, dandelions and other weed seeds. It is well worth the effort to provide suitable brushy habitat and shrubby forest edges to assure a healthy population of these attractive little songsters.

I’m not in the habit of comparing people to animals, but it’s fitting that Omi wrote her letter on this card. It’s a reminder that adjuncts, too, provide an invaluable service to colleges and universities. They, often, perform in ways that other professors refuse, taking on the grunt work of service courses that leave them little time to pursue their own research and dreams.

Despite the challenges, Omi seems upbeat and optimistic. She’s writing, reading, crafting, sharing beauty, and loving her life–and her cats who “own [her] soul because she can’t resist their cute faces.”  =^..^=