It happens every August.
I was sitting peacefully at our campsite, in complete vacation mode, not thinking about school at all. I love summer, the way I can take a break from my teaching. And I usually take a break from politics as well. I try not to read the newspaper on vacation. I need the break.
Then a young woman, wearing a t-shirt that identified her as an intern, approached our site with pamphlets about the emerald ash borer, a non-native, wood-boring beetle that kills ash trees. Campers can spread the beetle accidentally by bringing firewood from home.
She described the beetle in detail, answered all my questions, talked dramatically about the problems of non-native infestations. I told her about my experiences with gypsy moth caterpillars and purple loosestrife. We chatted for a while about all kinds of stuff, and then finally she moved to the next site.
"Wow, you talked to her forever," observed my daughter.
And then I realized that the moment had come. That late summer moment when it hits me: I miss my students. I have not seen them since May. I miss the way that my wildlife biologists turn everything into a little science lesson. I miss the way my landscape architects analyze the design of everything from shopping malls to campgrounds. I miss the Environmental Studies students -- the constant tips about saving the planet, the continual analysis of the horrors of the Bush administration, their careful and specific plans to save the world.
Sure it's been great to be in summer mode, just reading my own stuff, writing what I want to write, but I miss the enthusiasm of my students and all that they teach me. Classes start again in three weeks - and I am looking forward to being back on campus again.