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Beacon blog: Back to school

Although as a kid it was anathema to proclaim my delight in the first day of school, I was thrilled when Labor Day finally rolled around. It meant summer vacation was finally over.

A three-month vacation always sounded glorious in the middle of May, and getting to the end of the academic year seemed eternal. Nevertheless, after the family road trip was over or after the final campfire burned out at camp or when the day at the beach was just one more day at the beach, summer vacations devolved into tediousness, as far as I was concerned, that is. I wanted those pencils, books and teachers' dirty looks.

I have spent some time on the faculty of Washington University; in spite of that, my life ceased long ago to be governed by the tick of the academic-year clock. As Labor Day approaches, however, my sense is something exciting is about to happen, and what the unconscious is telling me is, it's time to go back to school.

I've had a good summer. I read all three of the Stieg Larsson novels. I took a most satisfying and enlightening road trip all the way to Pacific Ocean. It was a journey enriched beyond expectation or imagining, providing as it did a noble, natural feast of glorious variegation and texture and diversity. I saw the incredible richness of America, which - one has to recognize - exists cheek by jowl with the residents of once-prosperous small towns whose hearts and souls have been pulverized by cultural and economic shifts or by the interstate highway system.

But come Tuesday, my biological and intellectual clocks will remind me it's time to return. Although I'll be in the Beacon newsroom, I'll feel as if I'm in attendance at the first day of school, and even though in reality things will appear to be very much the same as they were on Friday, Tuesday will be endowed with special, ineffable energy.

I'm eager to see what Dame Fortune dishes up for me as I absorb some of that energy and return to the big schoolroom of life and labor. I know the kids who sit next to me are smart and competitive, and that's a good thing. And because I am fortunate enough to work for an organization established on a promise to deliver substance -- News That Matters -- I know I'll have excitement and variety and challenges in my life.

I know also I'll be the beneficiary of a special kind of satisfaction, one that comes with rebuilding something valuable. In our case, what's being rescued and rebuilt is a discipline, a craft, and a sensibility that many people looked upon sadly and, with no little justification, gave up for dead.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.

Robert W. Duffy reported on arts and culture for St. Louis Public Radio. He had a 32-year career at the Post-Dispatch, then helped to found the St. Louis Beacon, which merged in January with St. Louis Public Radio. He has written about the visual arts, music, architecture and urban design throughout his career.

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