Sweet September

The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live.  - Mortimer Adler

At this time of year, I always get a hankering for some Laurentian pencil crayons, a set of Mr. Sketch markers, a fleece-lined corduroy jacket, a Charlie's Angels lunchbox, and a pair of Bass Weejuns. I love Back to School.

Of course, just because I am not going back to school this year does not mean that I cannot capture the excitement of learning. Here are some of the things I love doing to celebrate September (especially now that all of those school forms have been filled in - phew!)

Find a class. Many colleges and universities offer non-credit adult education classes in everything from art history to basic web design to Shakespeare to conversational Spanish. There is nothing lovelier than walking to class in the fall, cradling a latte, and carrying a book-filled leather satchel with the knowledge that there will be no final exam.

Find a new author. As author Jane Hamilton advised, "It is books that are the key to the wide world; if you can't do anything else, read all that you can." While I am a voracious reader, rarely do I pick up a book these days that is not on the topic of business, Christianity, PTSD, mothering, or class wars on the UES. I remember the excitement of discovering a wonderful book I would never have read had it not been assigned in school: Moonfleet, The Chrysalids, Who Has Seen the Wind. Pick up a YA novel or a detective novel or a book on micro-financing. Try something new.

Try a new workout. Even though I detested gym class (once you have knocked over the vault  judge at a gymnastics meet, the gym teacher is no longer your ally), I loved how no one sport lasted more than a week. Just when the cruelty of dodgeball seemed too much to bear, we started on floor hockey. Just as my shins could take no more, we took up swimming. Eventually I was able to find something I liked (field hockey did have those cute outfits...) This fall, perhaps a kickboxing class might be fun, or Tai Chi, or ping pong.

Find an interesting elective. Between graduation and parenthood, I got involved in the local film festival (granted, TIFF has become a big deal.) Some years I volunteered, other years I saw four or five films a day for over a week. Whether I was watching a film from Vietnam or chatting with Julianne Moore (who looks even better in person than on film), I was taken out of my everyday experience. Perhaps this is the year to try painting, to take up rock climbing, to learn German, or to get tickets to the Opera.

Embrace your inner kindergarten student. I love creating vision boards. While this activity might qualify me for inclusion in the Big Book of Very Silly People, I find that sitting down with a stack of magazines, some poster board, a pair of scissors and a glue stick (the almond-scented Coccoina, but of course) and making a collage of images that appeal helps to keep me focused. Many people pepper their vision boards with things they want -- yachts, fasts cars, diamond studded bolo ties. I like to find images that represent the way I want to feel: calm, peaceful, content.

As I greet my happy, not-yet-homework-laden children this week, I will slip on a tweed jacket, polish up an apple, and try to indulge my Back to School state of mind. How are you going to celebrate the season?