August 21, 2013 by Ray Yanek
I’m a teacher, so for all intents and purposes the summer has wound to a close. Kids are back in school, the dress pants have replaced shorts and papers are again piling precariously on the corner of my desk.
And I have to admit that I’m okay with that.
I got irritable over the summer. Restless.
Towards the end, I even started to get a little sad.
* * *
I feel guilty about that irritability and sadness. I’m incredibly thankful for m family, my friends and the life that I have been blessed with, and wonderful things happened over the summer. I wrote before about my daughter playing softball on a travel team. You can read about that over here. My wife and I got to watch my daughter make great memories and even better friends with the other girls on the team.
We made great friends also. My son played and played and made great friends also. Before the season started some people told me that travel softball accounted for some of the best summers they ever had.
I believe them now.
* * *
But I wrote hardly any words this summer. Not for this blog. Not for a short story. Not a revised word on the novel in progress.
Hardly anything at all.
* * *
I worked a summer job as usual. To take a break from grading essays, I didn’t teach at the college but rather got up at 5am and worked with the maintenance and custodial crew here at the high school.
I loved it.
The guys I worked with were rowdy and mischievous, at times goofy and immature, but always hard-working and friendly.
They showed me little nooks of the building that even though I’ve worked here for 17 years I had no idea existed.
They told me stories of the old days, of things that happen around here, about when they were kids and the world was different, about Vietnam.
* * *
I’m glad I heard those stories. Those were the only stories I heard all summer, because I hardly read a word in all of those books I intended to read.
* * *
I did watch a movie, though. Being a parent, it’s hard to find a block f time to watch a movie, so I’m a little behind on what films I’ve seen, so please don’t gasp when I tell you I finally got around to watching The Hobbit.
I read the book when I was in high school and I was hooked on Middle Earth so like many others. But as will happen, I forgot those lines in the beginning of the book that somehow seemed to make a world of difference in my life:
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, not yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole and that meant comfort.”
I was entranced when I first saw Peter Jackson’s representation of Bag-End in The Lord of the Rings. The hobbit-hole was exactly how I pictured it: the full pantry, the warm woods, the fire in the hearth, the windows overlooking the gardens, the books, the chandeliers, the candles, the desk—all of it. All those warm, comfortable feelings the book sprouted all those years ago came flooding back.
When I saw Bag-End in The Hobbit, my feelings played on repeat. Other feelings came as well though. And much to my surprise, these new feelings weren’t quite as pleasant.
I felt a little sad.
Maybe it was because I hadn’t been writing.
Maybe it was because I’d been irritable.
* * *
Or maybe it was because I knew the ending to Tolkien’s saga.
After his adventures, I knew Bilbo would return to the comfort of Bag-End. After Frodo’s adventures, he too returns to the warmth and safety of the hobbit hole.
But I also knew they wouldn’t stay. After seeing the marvels of Middle Earth and feeling the rush of adventure simple little pleasures such as blowing smoke rings in a familiar garden would no longer be enough.
The poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson said the same thing happened to Ulysses. After being at war for all of those years, after travelling and wondering for another ten years, after struggling through hardship and trial to get back home to the land he loved, he soon found it wasn’t quite enough either.
He needed the sea, just like Bilbo and Frodo did.
* * *
It’s the reading and the writing that has opened my eyes to marvelous places, to adventure and romance, to mysteries and knowledge. It’s writing that has shown me the thrill of fighting the dragon that is the blank page.
When I don’t read and write, even for a little while, when I don’t let myself go adventuring, I feel what Bilbo and Frodo felt, what Ulysses felt.
A little sad.
And the urge “to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.”