This is my fifth June in Overland Park, Kansas.
My fifth summer of teaching and making music and sharing laughter and smailes and learning with sweet kids. I look forward to the start of camp on Monday, ad I know that once everyone gets into the groove, the two weeks will go by quickly.
Meanwhile, I have a free day to myself. A free day in which to laze around in the morning and then ride my bike in the afternoon.
Here in Overland Park, the relentlessly pristine suburban landscape, with its tan big-box stores and manicured lawns and comfortable families are getting me down. It's shocking to see how many people have bought into this way of life, and how many still cling to it.
Because cars are king here, I must ride my bike on the sidewalk nearly all the time. There is one bike lane, which goes a short distance past the house where I'm staying. Drivers are generally pretty polite to me, especially when I'm towing the trailer (presumably, they think there's a child inside). But the landscape of sameness and sterility, the utter lack of a potholed vacant lot anywhere, feels sad.
Add to this mix the fact that my health is not what it used to be in previous visits -- I am tired all the time now, and find myself marshaling my energy carefully to save it for what I need to do the most.
I am already anticipating cancelling at least one dinner date this week because I can feel the hammer of fatigue hovering above my head and I know if I don't come home right after camp to rest, I'll pay for it the next day. The fatigue, the feeling of waking up never fully rested, has added to my slight melancholy about my visit, and melancholy already fueled by missing my Sweetie and mourning the loss of a beloved cat who died a week after I left. Sweetie and I have already agreed that this will be my last full month away from home for work. If the synagogue wants me back next year, it will have to be for only a couple of weeks at most. I just can't be gone that long anymore without it taking a toll on me, and on us.
That I know this even before camp starts tells me it's the right decision.
Today, I have to make myself scarce for a few hours, because my hosts are having a showing -- they're trying to sell this demi-mansion and everything has to be empty, unlived-in and pristine -- so after I hide all my stuff in closets and put the fancy sheets and blankets back on my bed and wipe down the kitchen counters so it looks like no water has ever splashed on them, I'll pack up my laptop and staff paper and headphones and ride to the nearest coffee shop so I can work on music in an air-conditioned environment. On the way back, I'll stop in at the temple to make sure everything is ready for camp tomorrow.
It's a strange landscape for me. I know my way around by now, where the grocery stores and coffee shops and the drugstore are, but it still feels foreign, and I still feel very much like a tourist here.
About the only place I feel a sense of welcome and homelikeness is at the temple itself.
But work can't be home. It mustn't be. I'm glad I know that.
It makes for better days, and more enjoyable rides, while I'm here.