For July, I will be a student at Amherst College, studying punishment with Professor Austin Sarat. I am here with fifteen or so educators. We live on campus during our time here as National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Scholars. I am living in a dorm on campus — called the Charles Drew House. The house was once the home of a guy named Seelye who was an Amherst Alum. Now it is a themed-house named in honor of the African American surgeon Charles Drew. Today is a National Holiday — the Fourth of July — so there are no classes, and the college is closed; however, the dining hall is open during the holiday, so those of us who have nowhere else to go can eat here! One of the teachers has a service dog — a Great Dane named Daisy. Tonight for dinner, before watching the Fourth of July fireworks at the University of Massachusetts campus, I chomp on edamame and chicken breast. Daisy joins us. So does Mike - a Catholic High School Theology teacher and Aklima - an English teacher in Flushing — and Matt — a Middle School teacher from Philadelphia. Anne - a social studies teacher from Florida — joins us too.
I am excited to be in a new place. A new environment — even if it is just for a month. After dinner on campus — we pile into a public bus headed for the fireworks display. It is a slab gray bus and the bus driver, sporting a blue tee, flashes a smile, and welcomes us aboard. American fireworks are a display of patriotism - that is for sure — but it is also a day when people do not mind staking out a patch of green, laying out a blanket, and lounging in the dark with a bottle of beer and snacks. I lay on the grass, feeling tired from all of the excitement and take in the show. For such a small town - it feels like everyone is out tonight. The fireworks are colorful and loud — emanating sound and light from the center of the UMASS football field. It transpires in a flash. Lights. Shouts. Ohhhhhs. Ahhhhhs. And darn. The buses are not running to take us home to the Charles Drew dorm. We walk back, up to the hill, past picturesque houses and driveways, to the dorm. I say goodnight to Emily Dickinson. "I dwell in possibility," I say to my pillow. Goodnight.