I am the queen of playing things by ear. Plan ahead? No, thank you — I’d rather not. Of course, at times it’s necessary, but in most cases, I believe life is more enjoyable if I take each moment as it comes instead of worrying about the future.
However, I should be honest. It would be deceitful to claim that I play things by ear in a sheer effort to live in the present. Confession time — I often lack the ability to commit because I suffer from indecision. So, I offer this disclaimer: the following episode is rather common and not as painful as I may suggest. And so, we begin …
I can wait no longer. I have to make a decision. “It’s only three months,” I reassure myself. Yet I am not reassured. My mind and heart fight a fierce battle over a simple question: “Where will I spend the summer?”
Having returned from Argentina only days before, I am uncertain whether I can muster the strength to leave again so soon. But I can’t spend the summer at home. So I ponder my options and narrow my potential destinations to two. I can relocate to nearby Boulder, Colo., or settle back into the middle of somewhere — Grinnell, Iowa.
The next obvious step in the decision-making process seems straightforward, something I can handle even after my sabbatical from academia. However, as I begin methodically listing pros and cons, my mind quickly strays, and I slip into daydreams, indulging in memories of last June, July, and August …
After an unsuccessful job hunt in Colorado last May, I resigned myself to the fact that I was not destined to remain there. Disappointed, I looked outside the window of possibilities to which I’d originally confined myself. It was there I discovered an opportunity to venture into deeper waters, or in this case, into a sea of beautiful, rolling fields.
I called various restaurants in the Grinnell community, hastily packed my bags, and prepared myself for the 11-hour journey. Two days later I departed, grinning and wide-eyed. I felt childish, giddy, and a tidbit anxious. One might expect that after hours and hours driving through Eastern Colorado, across Nebraska, and into Iowa, my excitement would wane; however, on the contrary, my anticipation only grew as I approached my home away from home.
I had heard about “Grinnell summers,” but I wondered whether the tales could be true. Ice cream socials every Friday (perhaps heaven on earth for this ice cream fiend)? Community meals every Tuesday? Spontaneous dance parties anytime, anyplace? Biweekly vegan-coop potlucks? No overwhelming, burdensome stress weighing upon our shoulders, but rather a pleasant balance between work and play? This would indeed be a dramatic change from the Grinnell lifestyle I knew. I was skeptical.
I arrived in early evening, hesitating only a moment to take a deep breath before jumping out of the car and hurrying into Saints Rest. Rich aromas greeted me as I strolled into the quaint coffee shop, and knowingly, my sister, an employee there, glanced up and met my eyes. I had returned home. Welcoming smiles painted the streets, and I encountered friends and acquaintances everywhere I walked. I was starting to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the “Grinnell summer.”
As I settled in, slipping gently into summer, I found pleasant surprises everywhere. Tension and anxiety were practically nonexistent, people slept more regularly, and as a result, they seemed healthier and happier. Regardless of whether a student was doing research or working outside academia, he or she undoubtedly enjoyed more free time. So even though we were dispersed throughout town, we didn’t mind making a trek to visit a friend. On bike or on foot, any destination was accessible. Friends and acquaintances had more energy to sit and enjoy one another’s company, to throw together a delectable dinner, to discuss new ideas, and to reflect upon the last year. I delighted in picking raspberries, cooling off with a tasty Dari Barn treat at the end of a sweltering day, riding my bike on a warm, starry evening, running along firefly-lit fields, and watching the crops mature, gradually reaching up up up into the expansive blue sky. I discovered beauty everywhere I looked, in the landscape as well as in the interactions I shared with others.
My mind and heart are quiet, and a large smile replaces the furrow that earlier creased my brow. Hmmm. I inhale and exhale a deep breath. The sweet Colorado air lingers upon my lips, but the debate is over. I imagine the wind frolicking through the Iowa fields, calling me home with promises of another lovely Grinnell summer …
Meredith Groves '08 is an Anthropology major from Commerce, Colorado.