Chunks of fern fly around my head. The weed eater I wield bumps along through the heavy brush—ah, a teacher’s summer day on an island, indeed.
In the summer of 2002, I was fortunate to spend a lot of time on an island in the gulf between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia. Mostly rural, the island is dotted with large acreages, small businesses (potters, gardeners, organic farmers), and few people. My brother, after riding the island from end to end on his bicycle, told me that there are about 40 kilometers of paved roads. It is here I have found my summer paradise.
In the morning, the quiet of the house is unbroken. Teenagers sleep in and even the adults stay a while in bed, reading a novel or just enjoying the view of firs swaying gently in the morning breeze. First up makes the coffee, or takes a stroll down the road to a nearby farm to buy a dozen eggs. Even my dog is quieter there, rarely barking.
Breakfast lasts for hours— first the early risers, then the later ones, and finally the children come to the kitchen. Sometimes, an adult makes pancakes, slathered in maple and blackberry syrup, washed down with coffee. On other days, the smell of fried bacon fills the room, and eggs—sunny side or over easy—sizzle in the pan.
Then comes work. No summer house is ever fully complete, so the sounds of hammers and saws often fill the air. That summer I was the weed eater man, using a huge gas-powered weed trimmer, and was often covered with bits of grass and fern from head to toe. Work provides a rhythm to the day, until lunch comes and all meet again to chat away time in the kitchen.
Swimming ends the afternoon on sunny, hot summer days. Floating pleasantly on my back, I look up at the pair of bald eagles making lazy swings above me, and see only trees and sky in this protected little lake. On the dock, I often while away time chatting to other swimmers, drying myself in the sun.
Dinner is a cooperative affair: the children set tables and do dishes; the adults show off their cooking or help in any way they can. The food is delicious, basic, and fresh. Garden beans steamed in a large pot, fresh raspberry pie and ice cream, grilled chicken hot off the barbecue, all are relished by as many as 14 of us seated around the table at night.
In bed early, as a rule, tired from the day’s exertions, we fall into a deep sleep, aided by the silence of the woods surrounding the house. Soon, the only sound is deep breathing and so, a teacher’s summer day is complete.
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(June 2, 2013)
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