June 21, 2010

My Swiftly Tilting Planet

I'm not sure what is causing it, but I am feeling a little out of wack these days. It's as if I, and the world around me are on slightly different planes. Changes are coming at me fast and furious, but I'm not quite sure I'm up to facing them at the moment.

Granted, the end of June is always a crazy, exhausting time in the family lives of most people I know. Everything one's child has been involved in all year - school, music lessons, sports teams, etc. - is winding down with one recital, ceremony or tournament after another. My teenagers finished with their classes last Wednesday and only have a few exams to cope with before they are free for our two month Canadian summer holidays. My youngest has another week of school and then she, too is done for the year. This month has been a whirl of activity for all of us and in the middle of baking for receptions, ironing performance outfits, and attending thank-you teas, I am engaged in the final push of a five month contract with our local summer arts festival. I coordinate a day of entertainment, art activities and fun for approximately five hundred attendees, and have done so for the past five years. Details and mental to-do lists wake me up in the middle of the night and must be accomplished, squeezed in somehow between all the other activities of June.

The shift from working with quiet independence at home on weekdays to summer days full of kids dropping by, noise from the television and various instruments, and planning days around my children's summer jobs, is not a very easy one for me. I've had several headaches in the last week and I will have to adjust my external pace in order to keep myself from losing my marbles. Mind you, my teenagers are all getting to the age where days will occur when all three of them disappear for the afternoon, if not for the night; then my youngest and I look at each other and say, 'What do you want to do?'

But it is more than just the Junishness of June that causes my sense that the world is, in the words of Madeline L'engle, a 'swiftly tilting planet'. Technology seems to be advancing at the speed of light, rather than the speed of most humans. I was speaking with a woman I know who manages a local video store. She said, with the way movies were being downloaded she would be surprised if her store were still here in five years. I would be too, the way things are going - I know people who download movies before they are even out on DVD. And recently, a friend of mine arrived at the coffee shop with his new ipad. I admired his sleek new toy and asked what he would be using it for. He said he would be using it mainly for reading books and documents. It does have a beautiful screen with such clear definition, but still, I told him, I prefer to read off paper, especially when my head is resting on my pillow. Call me old fashioned - I couldn't help thinking about the amount of actual books I could buy for the seven hundred dollars he paid for his ipad. His argument was that he had access to thousands of titles at the touch of a screen.

My daughter's elementary school has now abolished their traditional graduation/awards ceremony. This year, for the first time, it will be called an honoring ceremony. Each grade six student (the graduates) will be featured and honored for their contribution to the school and their special skill or gift. When asked if he had received any flack from parents for this decision, the school principal said, 'only from parents who received awards when they were students and want the same for their children,' or something like that. I think I am one of those parents, although I did not give him any flack. I think his idea of honoring each child before they leave the school forever is quite a nice idea instead of the usual 'best athlete' or 'top student' only. Still, it makes my head spin to think of it. To me, this change symbolizes the fact that schools have become so much more than just places to learn the three r's (reading, writing, and 'rithmatic). For some children, school is where they learn to get along with others, to exhibit self-control, to share, to eat properly, and other basics many of us take for granted as learnt in the home.

I will end with a few last thoughts about change:

My family is aging rapidly. My eldest will graduate from high school next year, and his brother the year after. My youngest will be a 'tween' next fall and my hair is showing a healthy allotment of 'salt' amongst its 'pepper'.

I am taking on new roles and shedding others. People are starting to ask me what I'm going to 'do' with my life.

My kids and I pitched in to buy my husband a green ipod for a combination birthday/Father's Day gift. He loves it and named it 'Flash Jackson'. My husband never named gadgets before yesterday.
Before I embrace all these changes like a fresh new butterfly, please excuse me while I hide in my cocoon for a while. Like every other slow crawling caterpillar I need time to adjust to the concept of flight.

The picture above can be found at http://www.dreamwirks.com/


  1. I do like the idea of the 'good' in each kid being held up. It's time enough before they are measured with exams.
    Oh, one of the reasons that some like exams in the traditional sense. They might be required by whatever Private 'fee' school the kid is being sent to next.
    On June, I think this one is a bit odd one way or another. There is something vaguely unsettling about it. Like a 'Mistral'.

  2. This is a lovely post Rebecca,

    Tiredness makes for worries about things that can't be controlled and the strain of coping with a pace that has it's own agenda. I empathise with much you say here. Your tiredness as I read it is palpable and that has lent a lovely feel of longing, of slight regret for change that may not be for the best and for a loss of continuity with what has gone before. You clearly describe that your children are changing into adulthood at an ever increasing pace and that must be tinged with regret for a loss of innocence and dependance on you. It's hard to see time - and our life - is truly transient and not connect sometimes with what you describe here.

    I think school has always been about the things beyond 'the three R's' but that is only noticed from a certain place in life and a certain perspective.

    Although I don't have children I can absolutely empathise with the loss or interruption of the only space and time that's truly your own to occupy.

    I feel sorry for the man who has access to thousands of books which will all feel the same in his hand, who won't know the pleasure of the sound of the turning page and the weight of the story in his hand, although I think he may never have felt those things or he would perhaps think twice about giving them up.

    Thanks for sharing this.


  3. Whenever I see an ipad I always wonder how it will survive being dropped?

  4. You have summarized nicely what I am also feeling. My son will be completely done with high school in 3 days and then he is off to college in the fall and hopefully in between, he will find a summer job. I feel like I'm losing touch with reality...or maybe it's losing touch with me. Regardless, times are changing and I'm not sure how I feel about it.

  5. Vince: yes, like a Mistral.

    Alistair: Thank you for all your thoughtful comments. You are right about fatigue and its effects. And I appreciate what you say about the tangible 'weight' of the story in one's hand. That is how I feel about it, too, especially with the book I am reading right now: The Pickwick Papers.

    Travel Girl: I am glad you relate. I suppose we all go through this at some point!

  6. You have captured so well the frenetic days of June, our changing lives and technology. My wife is retiring from teaching this year and we are hosting her retirement party on Friday evening on our yard. An enjoyable and thought provoking post.

  7. I agree with Paul. Enjoyable and thought provoking.

    While I have been known to covet technology for various reasons, I do not need a thousand titles at my fingertips. I only need one in my hands. Too many choices are not always a good thing.

  8. Paul: So it will be 'half as much money and twice as much wife' now? That will be a change, but if you are anything like my father, you will be very happy to have your wife around more now that she has retired. Thanks for your thoughts!

    Tracey: I was really trying not to be judgemental in my post. My friend with the ipad seems to genuinely love what it does for him. I agree though, about the too many choices. I seem to crave simplicity (or had you noticed :)

  9. i hear you, been feeling the same way - as have a few others i know - but this is the first time i have actually paused to wonder if you are indeed correct. if i remember my science the earth tilts to a halt during the solstice before it starts its tip back the other way. maybe this feeling has little to do with the change in our surroundings and more to do with what that shifting does to our "fight or flight" mechanism? could be why it happens to us in the fall as well. there is something to be said about technology, but i think there is even more to be said about those quiet internal churnings that we've lost because of it.

  10. I am going to confess that I harbor a secret wish that one day people will rebel against all this lightning fast speed with which we are expected to live our lives and we all go back to slow living. I keep hearing about slow food and slow eating movements...surely slow living is next?? (or is that just my retirement calling me?)

    This was a really great post; I can feel your changes swirling about you. I think you will lead yourself to fun new places when you are ready.

    ps great picture of the planet and butterflies!


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