I stare, intimidated, at the mountain of books on my desk. It is made of soft wood, nothing special, but it is starting to sag. I worry it’s only a matter of time before gravity takes over and it collapses under the weight. Looking at my planner, my fear is confirmed. My homework list doesn’t even fit inside today’s neatly allotted box: calculate 10 problems for algebra from my never-before-opened college textbook, read two chapters for AP Euro and prepare for The Book Of Lost Things Socratic seminar. The list stretches on like an expanse of stormy sky. It is 1800 by the time I get home from cross-country practice and frantically begin working.
Little things, like the summer breeze blowing through my window to flutter my papers, begin to distract me. The summer exhales gently. Its breath bangs the halyards on the mast, making them chime pleasantly and methodically.
Clang! I am lounging in the cockpit with a lemonade in hand, sunglasses on my face and flip-flops nearby. The boom above my head drifts from side to side in perfect time with the small waves. These lap against the beach nearby, where happy suntanned children shout with joy and splash about in the water.
Clang! Families on shore relax under bright sun umbrellas and on equally bright beach towels while their children frolic on the beach. Behind them the sand dunes roll on, looking delicious to the eye.
Clang! My eyes drift up to the seamless sky, and I am amazed by the blue and white colors I see there. I look over to our shiny aluminum mast, an industrial outcast by comparison. That mast is a piece of work. Without it, our boat wouldn’t win races, nor would we be able to calmly cruise about Lake Michigan. Balanced and poised, it represents strength. Its colossal height makes it seem vigorous, whether we’re racing or cruising. Yet its matte grey hues make it appear modest and unimportant.
Clang! Yellow and blue lines drape down to the dull white deck. Symbolizing unity, that well-loved deck holds the entire boat together. It has endured some rigorous beatings, from the parading of our dog to the leaping of our wet feet. Over the years, it has been carefully cleaned, foolishly nicked.
Clang! I set my lemonade down on the cockpit table beside me and place my tanned feet on the deck’s rough fiberglass; the sensation forces my lips to open in a smile. Carelessly throwing my sunglasses into the sunlit cabin, I duck under the boom and plop myself down in a hammock strung in the rigging.
Clang! The breeze picks up, bringing with it the scent of summer. The faint wind shifts my hair as it rests on a soft pillow.
Clang! Clang! Clang! I expect to find the webbing of my hammock supporting me, but instead I’m in my bed. Clang! Clang! Clang! I open my eyes and I am staring back at my desk. Clang! Clang! Clang! It’s my obnoxious alarm; my hand slaps the snooze button and my eyes register the time. It’s 1930 hours and I still haven’t started my homework. I return to my desk and settle in for the grueling work ahead of me. But first, I steal one last glance out my window, knowing that somewhere nearby, the same breeze that’s fluttering through my homework is stirring the halyards on our boat, which waits patiently just the other side of this next algebra problem…
Illustration by Jan Adkins