I cannot recall exactly how far along I was when I first read Ray Bradbury’s All Summer in a Day—fifth or sixth grade, I would suspect—but it left an indelible impression. Originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1954, the story takes place on Venus, where “it had been raining for seven years,” at a school whose students enjoy an unexpected hour of play in the sunshine before the downpour resumes. The joyful return of so many of our Middle and Upper School students to campus this week has recalled Bradbury’s invention to me.
The comparison is not entirely apt, of course. The experience of life on Venus that Bradbury imagines, “thousands upon thousands of days compounded and filled from one end to the other with rain, with the drum and gush of water…and the concussion of storms so heavy they were tidal waves come over the islands,” surpasses our present experience of the coronavirus pandemic in duration and intensity alike. I will also admit that our returning MICDS students were less frenzied in their homecoming to 101 Warson Road this week than Bradbury’s uprooted earthlings, who in their first encounter with sunlight “slipped and fell,” “pushed each other,” and “ran and ran in shouting circles…like animals escaped from their caves.”
A quieter happiness, however, is nevertheless happiness, and eyes can smile as well as mouths behind our ubiquitous masks—and have done so repeatedly yesterday and today across our campus as many more MICDS students, teachers, and staff have been reunited in person than were before.
Although uncertainty remains a watchword of our present time, I do not anticipate a reversion to tempestuous weather. In this respect, Bradbury’s story and our own happily diverge. Clouds may gather and disperse and gather again, but our path compels us insistently toward a resumption of play in the sunlight—toward a return of all students to campus on every school day as soon as we can realize that vision.
I would be remiss not to acknowledge that All Summer in a Day is also an account of the cruelty of which our species is capable. The principal character, Margot, is locked in a closet by her classmates while they go outside to soak up the warmth of the sun. Seven years of uninterrupted rain will surely extend to many more for her. Remembering this part of the story, if only to remind ourselves of the emotional stress imposed by our present “rain,” and our need—indeed our obligation—to care for one another throughout it, is essential. The sun is coming out at MICDS, and not just for an hour, and not just for some of us, but for all of us.
Always reason, always compassion, always courage. I wish you and your loved ones a very happy weekend.
Head of School
This week’s edition of “How to Prepare for the Election Without Thinking About the Election”: If you have an iPhone, press and hold your Facebook app icon and choose “Edit Home Screen.” All of the apps will start to jiggle like the aliens in the Space Invaders arcade game. Press the “x” at the upper left corner of the Facebook app icon to shoot it down. Or feel free to shoot down your Twitter app or your Instagram app—any app that you choose. If you have an Android device, go to Settings, then Apps, and remove Facebook or Twitter there. “There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software.” (Edward Tufte)