Sunset Over Summer

With NAPIRE friends and colleagues at the Association for Tropical Biology Meetings in Honolulu, Hawaii.

We are on the cusp of the new academic year. Emails to my Avila account have increased in frequency. The long parade of faculty and staff meetings that precedes the start of classes begins this week. An ever-greater sense of urgency accompanies my renewed attempts to finalize my syllabi and get ahead on some of the lecture and course material for Fall 2015. I’m looking forward to being back on campus, but it will be a challenge following a semester-long sabbatical that bled well into the summer months.

This past summer has been unusual in that I decided, for the first time in many years, not to go to Costa Rica. To be fair, I spent pretty much all of spring semester in Costa Rica, so it’s not like I missed out on my time in the tropics. But I did set aside summer projects I would have otherwise participated in, the most notable being the NAPIRE program, where I have served as a mentor and/or co-coordinator for some ten years now.

At the Martin City Pizzeria with my nieces; one of many priceless moments this summer.

June was spent mostly in Kansas City, with a brief foray to Lawrence for the Campbell Conference at the Center for the Study of Science Fiction. July was packed with visitors and travel. My brother and his family came from Hong Kong, as well as my husband and his sister from Costa Rica, and my aunt from Germany. I traveled to Hawaii, the Badlands, the Black Hills, Yellowstone National Park, and last but not least, the Arkansas Ozarks, all within the space of a few weeks. It was a marvelous privilege to see so much – and so much of the best – of my home country. The Yellowstone trip, in particular, moved me in deep and lasting ways. I hope to reflect on and share that experience with you in the weeks to come.

I’m not sure what I expected from changing up the routine this summer, but I can say I’ve learned some important things. The vast and intense beauty of the heartland to which I was born has hit home, once more. For twenty years I have wandered far afield, and I can only say, after all I’ve seen and done, that the U.S.A. is one of the most beautiful places in the world. That’s not to say we don’t have ugly – we do – but what we’ve managed to conserve, and conserve well, can’t really be found anywhere else. We have to hold those places in our hearts, protect them, and expand their reach, so that generations to come can experience the same awe and inspiration that has been our privilege.

For me, the sighting of a life time: a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park.

I’ve also learned, unfortunately, that sometimes love is not enough.

Nothing new, you say? Well, yes. You’re right. I admit I’ve learned this lesson in many ways and on many levels already. I’ve supported friends and family as they’ve suffered through its harsh truth. Still, in spite of all experience to the contrary, I’ve been working hard to protect an important part of my personal universe against this singular and most unwelcome fact.

Sometimes love is not enough.

I can say with pride that I’ve fought the good fight. I erected powerful barriers. I rained fire and arrows and boiling pots of foul fluid upon my attackers. I sallied forth with sword in hand and took no prisoners. Yet my opponent will not be deterred. The outer walls have crumbled. I suspect the keep will not hold.

I am not so much afraid as I am very, very sad. Okay, maybe I’m a little afraid, too. Though I know the force that bears down on me is not malevolent. He’s just a master at tearing through illusions. And sometimes, whether we like it or not, illusions must be destroyed.

A good summer or a bad? I guess the answer depends on perspective and disposition. I will call 2015, on the whole, a good summer. Though I reserve the right to change my mind a month or so down the line.


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