If you visit Laguna Beach High School right now, it has the appearance of an evacuation — that hurried, ramshackle feeling of disregard.
It is finally summer, after all, for both students and teachers, so the cleanup comes later. What's more important is the break, both physical and emotional.
The seasonal shift to summer is the most dramatic of all. One day we have finals or work projects due, and the next day we are in a bathing suit drinking a mojito at 11 a.m.
We celebrate summer's arrival to regain a sense of balance; call it work-life, family fun or a personal recharge. We admit we are misaligned.
In many ways, summer optimism is greater than what happens on New Year's Eve. With a new year, we intellectualize a new future, based on past sins. With summer, we just let go and make it happen.
The arrival of summer is like staring at the clock in school, waiting for the bell to ring. It is summer because we call it so, not because the leaves change color or the snow begins to melt.
The school debris is emblematic of this chaotic turn: plastic water bottles, shattered glass, school reports, clothes, broken pencils — basically everything that kids carry on their backs.
The countless hours spent on year-end projects are now tossed aside, grades recorded, believed to count only once.
Little do the students know or care that someday they will strain to remember.
Whatever has happened over the last nine months doesn't matter. It is expected that each summer day starts out with a 24-hour allotment of forgiveness and hope.
By definition, summer is light, a bleached nonchalance that requires polarized lenses. If we want to see contrasts, we hide behind reflective mirrors. We like it that way to remain anonymous.
There is a salve with summer. It's an unspoken acceptance that if there is failure or unmet expectations — colleges we didn't get into or jobs we lost — that summer will assuage the pain.
We are allowed to sit on the beach and let the warmth soften the details. We can space out and let the world fade, its reality and immediacy washed out by the sun and waves.
If we are looking for anything, the hope is that it will inexplicably appear on the horizon, slowly forming as if it was always there but we could not see.
The things we desire come into view with summer, like we daydream them without knowing the plot.
We take these little mental pictures for what they are: fragments that we have to somehow piece together by fall.
We don't make any real decisions during summer because we can't. There are three other seasons that carry the weight of responsibility.
With summer, we have stripped it down to an almost Zen-like bacchanal — not unabashed revelry (although there might be some of that) but more like a professional frolic of the mind.
We want to do better in summer. We want to look better, feel better, seem better.
It's like having a three-month temporary facelift.
We hope for better things, little things, but nothing too far away. Better to stay in the present, like enjoying early sun, warm water and big (but not too big) waves.
A parking spot when we need it.
Bumping into a friend at a gallery.
Helping a tourist with a restaurant recommendation.
Along the way, we find that thing inside again, the warmth ignited by the sun, which fuels us for the rest of the year.
DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.