Summer, while the big tourist season for us up here, has a certain quietness about it. With the population of our town growing by 50% once the students come back, the start of the new term has a unique energy about it, one this former student can appreciate.
I still have that dream, you know? The one where there was a class I was taking but I forgot about it all term. Now I’m going to fail and never make up all of the homework and papers and the like. It’s a pit-in-your-stomach feeling that I’ve never been able to shake.
Please understand, I’m 35 years old, holding a doctorate in urban planning and community development, and working as a writer at a major university. There are, I’m thankful to say, no more classes in my future. Unless I want to go and explore something new, of course.
That dream comes back every September, just like the rains here on the Keweenaw Peninsula and the college students driving at least 15mph over the speed limit at all times. I’m teaching three courses this term (Hooray for extra money! And a good chunk is going for film), and that triggers some of those dreams again. But I’m the professor, right? I set the rules…so why do I get so freaked out?
If I’m honest, it’s one of two things that freaks me out, and fall brings them both to the fore.
I’ll admit it straight away: I’m afraid of dying. Which, to my mind, is silly, because I won’t know any different once I’m gone. But I’m 35. I need to be grabbing life by the throat right now. And I try to. But, the days seem to just swirl down the drain faster than I can clutch them.
Fall does that. Because we watch the world turn this way, the leaves that pile up in my backyard (I should really rake those up), the way the daylight begins to lose the battle with darkness.
But that’s the other contradiction: I love the night. I love the stars. I love the quiet when the rest of the world is either tucked away watching television or fast asleep. It’s the main thing I miss now that I have a full-time, normal-hours job. I’m tempted to take vacation days just so I can explore all of that.
You know what happens in fall, too, right? It grows colder, and we tend to grow closer. If summer is being out and grabbing the horizon, the coming of winter is coming back together, of telling tales and keeping warm and close.
That’s probably the secret of all of it, isn’t it? As these students come back, there are still thousands of stories to tell, even as they’re crafting new ones. They get closer together. And all of us, in our never-closed circles of friends, do the same thing. We get closer.
I am, once again, an introvert. Sometimes putting myself out there is a challenge, especially in big groups. But I’m more and more convinced that, as much as we can, that’s the secret of facing the darkness. To draw close together. To live and relive.
And, of course, to remember that there is light.
Words and photos by Kevin Hodur. Previously calling suburban Chicago and Portland home, Kevin now lives and works as a writer on Upper Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Catch more editions of The Road Rarely Traveled with next month’s Glowing Orange.