Leah and others in the institute are greatly amused that I wear my sunglasses around my neck, hooked behind with a dark green Croakies strap, each and every day of the summer program.
"Like, ah, at any moment the sun might burst through the fluorescent lighting of our fourth floor classroom?"
Little do they know that I keep my sunglasses at the ready as an homage to our friend Ray Bradbury.
Bradbury has bracketed our summer program, beginning with "All Summer in a Day" on day #2 of our participants' presentations and ending, as you know, with Nicola's request that we read "The Long Rain" in anticipation of becoming Venusians on the final day of participant presentations.
This was accidental but fortuitous, since Bradbury's stories are about nothing so much as the difficulty of remembering the sun in times of deep, heavy, continuous rain.
Karen had us do a very interesting exercise with "All Summer in a Day." She told us, first, to select one of the symbols or similes we found in the opening paragraphs of the story, and to write down, quickly, the attributes of this symbol or simile. I chose Bradbury's description of the sun as a "coin large enough to buy the world," naming its attibutes "monumental," "memorable," "god-like," "overpowering" and "extra-ordinary." We then selected one of the characters in the story and described that character's attributes. I selected Margot, describing her as "timid," "shy," "an old photograph whitened away," and "ghost-like."
But here's where the activity got interesting. "Now, how would you link the symbol and the character you've selected," Karen asked. "What one sentence would connect the two?"
After some thought, I wrote "Margot held a secret within her: a coin large enough to buy the world." When Karen next asked us to expand our paragraphs into short essays, I wrote:
"Margot has a huge secret within her, a knowledge of a coin large enough to buy the world. This secret is too much for her increasingly frail body to contain. It separates her from her fellow classmates, makes her feel alone and even uncertain whether her knowledge is real or just imagined. Margot's recollection of the sun is like the knowledge we all carry of a world before our birth, a prelapsarian world of expansive plenitude, a world where we were part of a larger whole. It is this prelapsarian knowledge, and the confidence in this knowledge, that the other children--Margot's postlapsarian classmates--must snuff out."
While this seemed a wholly new perception to me at the time, an unexpectedly new way of looking at Margot in particular and "All Summer in as Day" in general, in hindsight it seems to have uncannily foreshadowed the great lesson that Bradbury was, as it were, trying his best to tell us all summer.
"You will have days of educational sunshine, many of them," he was telling us, "and it will seem at times to you as if these days will never end."
"But be wary. These days will end. The joy and camaraderie and great good humor you have experienced together these past four weeks will fade, leaving behind only the fleeting smile, the brief shake of the head in pleasant recollection."
"You will experience your return in the fall as Margot experienced her 'exile' to Venus: incessant and unrelenting rain, the drum and gush of water, the crystal fall of showers and the concussion of storms so heavy they will seem to you like tidal waves."
"Your 'classmates'--fellow teachers--will mock you and berate you when you try to tell them what it felt like to be in the sun. 'You're lying,' they will tell you. 'Such a place does not exist. You're making it up.'"
"So follow Nicola and Catherine's advice (see comment #2 sent 9:28 PM) , and follow it now: remember exactly what being in the sun of the summer institute felt like, what it looked like, what it smelled like, what it sounded and tasted like. Some of you will forget, and some of you will doubt. But collectively, you can remember. And you will."