Lessons from the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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To all the teachers who thought that they were gods, thank for teaching me realism, even if that wasn’t your intention 

To all the teachers who only worked with their fauns, thank you for teaching me that flattery and adoration isn’t the only way to get somewhere after all

To all the teachers who thought that their subject was the be all and end all, thank you for teaching me a broader definition of success and achievement than you planned to 

To all the teachers who beat a path out of the school gate at every opportunity, desperate for a smoke or a drink, thank you for teaching me that, whatever your opinion of me, I was doing a better job of surviving than you 

To all the teachers who didn’t believe me, thank you for teaching me that I didn’t need your validation 

To all the teachers who only knew one way, their way of doing things and refused to budge, thank you for making me a determined, independent learner

To all the teachers who didn’t have much to share with the class, thank you for taking some pressure off someone who wouldn’t have succeeded in a tougher academic environment 

To all the teachers who didn’t do anything about the bullying, thank you for helping to forge a passionate defender of others

To all the teachers who bullied me, thank you for making me stronger 

To all the teachers who found something for me to do or an errand to send me on, thank you for letting me be useful, for letting me give something back when I was at my lowest and most broken 

To all the teachers who ever listened, thank you for giving me your time, even if neither of us understood what I was saying 

To all the teachers who took me seriously, thank you because finally I can too

To all the teachers who let me come and go as I needed, thank you for making your classroom, and your entire subject, a place of safety

To all the teachers who would let me tackle projects my own way or to work alone instead of in a group, thank you for letting me learn at my own pace and in my own style 

To all the teachers who would answer my questions, thank you for hearing me out and for seeing my learning as more valuable than your time or lesson plan

To all the teachers who believed in me and who gave me responsibilities, thank you for seeing me as more than just a statistic but as an individual that I would eventually find too

To all the teachers who cut me some slack, thank you because I don’t think any of us realised at the time what or how much I was up against 

A Verse

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Blue Sky

I am my sunshine and my rain

Some days it pours and other days it shines

You are my sunshine and my rain

Some days it pours and other days it shines

Water Babies

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St Ives Harbour

What is it with the sea?

We sat watching the sea-green waves roll in, continuously  never-ending, entranced. The waves were high but not fierce, despite the windy day; perhaps the curve of the bay broke some of their force because it was likely choppy further out. The waves at our local beaches behave very differently, the coast is more exposed and the shingle and stone beaches are long, almost continuous  mile after mile, so they are not moulded by high-rising rocky cliffs and slopes; however there is a mighty shelf not too far out which seems to temper their height and which makes swimmers and other water babies cautious.

Occasionally as we sat there watching, mesmerised, our eyes were drawn to the rocky side of the bay closest to us and of which we had the best view. Towers of surf and spray crashed onto the rocks but it wasn’t the fear-inspiring crash of a storm. This evening the sea was playful and sunbeams danced on the water.

And they weren’t the only ones enjoying the water; there were other water babies too, human ones. We sat and watched those too. I confess that I was rather bemused by their antics, for as much as I loved to swim, I cannot see the attraction of becoming a human seal in rubber armoury on what was a pretty cold day for the time of year. Heads and feet were left painfully exposed and they seemed to be spending most of their time plunging head-first under the waves as each one rolled in, which to my mind wasn’t quite the point of surfing. I understood surfing to involve surfing, riding each incoming wave triumphantly. There is a kind of attractive glory to that but watching them plunge under to lessen the break upon them made me uncomfortable, reminding me of all the vulnerability and risk that water poses to us.

A little later, we moved on to a sheltered harbour. Relatively sheltered, that is, because the waves, although tempered by the harbour wall and the natural shape of the opposite cliffs, were causing the small boats anchored there to rock, not bob, with each roll. A rock that at times was more of a lurch and once again, I was reminded of man’s vulnerability and found myself, yet again, wondering at those for whom the sea has always bewitchingly called.

Water is the story of human civilisation, great cities and cultures have risen and fallen with the availability of water. Or, perhaps ironically, the over-inundation of water. Humans depend on water for everything: to drink, to give them food to eat, to water the animals they tame and use, to give them building materials, to give them opportunities to trade.

As I watched the small dinghies rock in that sheltered harbour, I thought of how peoples, not so long ago really, went to sea in vessels not much bigger or much more secure. Great trading networks were founded by the determination of people in small, vulnerable vessels; great discoveries and voyages of exploration were undertaken by the determination of people in small, vulnerable vessels. And I wonder why. Being in a boat, even on a proverbial millpond, holds little attraction to me. I see the vulnerability and the risk. I fear water.

But so many don’t. I have great respect for those who chose to go to sea even as I baffle at their choice. We still depend on those who go to sea; those who transport the goods that feed our insatiable hunger for material things; those who transport the actual food for our actual hunger; those who catch the food. Presumably the sea calls to them, it sings a song of enchantment in their genes, it lures them. And lures never end well. The sea is to be respected.

But feared? Perhaps. Because as I watched those gentle harbour waves, I realised too how unstoppable, how uncontrollable those waves were. And that is what I fear; to me water is a powerful force, one that can never be dominated or mastered by mere humans, however experienced or knowledgeable. We are nothing against its strength, we can be swept along by it just like the tumbling weed or the churning sand. And however mighty or impressive the civilisations that we keep on building, it can all be swept away by one wave, like a sandcastle built too far down the shore.

I am not a water baby; I keep my distance, admiring the beauty and charm of a simple, single wave but still deeply conscious of who is more powerful.

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