Sunday Morning ~ Letting It Be
Cikacita mang’a, cileke, mawa, cituluka. ~ When it shows a crack, just leave it alone, tomorrow it will come out.
July 31, 2022
The college here on the island hosts a summer institute in July, described as a week long “ideas festival”. They gather experts on topics affecting our environment, lifestyle, and future with a different theme each year. This year the topic was “Our One and Only Ocean” and I found it transformative. I am usually impressed by the speakers and format, but when I saw the topic this year my heart sunk a little. I’m not usually moved or motivated by marine biology, though I appreciate those who are. Although not drawn to the topic, I was craving some intellectual stimulation, so decided to attend. I listened to speakers tell of their attachment to the ocean, how part of it they feel, and wondered what was wrong with me? How have I missed this passion? They told childhood stories of their introduction to the ocean and how they were instantly hooked. It was forevermore a part of who they would become. I listened, riveted and perplexed, as my story is so different. My childhood ocean stories are not the beginning of a lifelong love affair.
I was never a swimmer. I flunked my swimming test at camp when I was eight and wasn’t allowed at the dock with the other kids. I was skin and bones, couldn’t float, was always cold, and had a fear of drowning. I still do. I find nothing pleasurable about putting my body in cold water. Scuba diving isn’t anywhere near my bucket list. I don’t even like visiting aquariums that much. I am very happy to stand on firm ground and look at the water. I appreciate those that make a living from the sea and provide the seafood I love. I will never balk at the price; it’s a hard living. The sea doesn’t call to me like the mountains do. It’s crazy that I should end up living on an island but that was the compromise I made with my husband. He loved the ocean, boats, and sailing, and wanted to live near the sea. He spent weeks on a schooner when he was a teenager tracking whales in Newfoundland and Labrador. When we first started dating, he told me stories of being the only one on the boat who wasn’t seasick. I listened as if he were Magellan, quite unable to relate. I love nature and am happiest outside. I try to live as close to the earth as possible, and when I say earth, I mean the parts not covered by water.
When I was a kid we went to stay with my great uncle in Nova Scotia. A priest and a fisherman, he was pastor of a parish in the town of Shippegan. We drove over bridges and took ferries to get there and were welcomed with great fanfare. It felt exotic and made me feel special. We slept at the big rectory, attended church events, toured the fish canning factory, and went out on his fishing boat. That last excursion was billed to the kids as a great adventure and I remember being excited and a little scared about being out on the high seas. I was up before daybreak and ready to go, but it didn’t take long for that mood to vanish. Once out on the ocean, I lay curled up on the bunk below, seasick, miserable, and could think of nothing but wanting to go home. When my father made me go on deck to watch them haul in the nets, the flapping fish, the water, the rocking boat, was my idea of hell on earth. We fished for cod with a drop line and I hated it. I wanted my feet to be on solid ground again and that’s all I could think of. For years, just the discussion of a fishing boat made me a little nauseated. I decided long ago that watching Jaques Cousteau specials would be as close as I would come to underwater discovery.
So, I was surprised when the week-long multifaceted look at the ocean, rooted in storytelling and history, innovative, creative, and forward thinking, left me inspired and hopeful. I feel like I missed out on a great party. As I listened to the speakers’ stories of falling in love with our ocean I was captivated. There are great minds doing great things. It made me feel a bit small, like I’m not living up to my potential. There is so much I don’t know, so many people working to preserve and improve our world. Photographers and explorers for National Geographic told us how they began their careers. It seemed the lot of the charmed and sainted. It was superhuman to me. So when an audience member asked how the commoner could possibly be granted the kind of privilege those on stage had, the speaker (a renown underwater photographer) answered, “Start taking photos in your backyard. Do it a lot. Get good at it.” I laughed. I loved that answer. It’s true of anything. How can we become senator? Run for school board or town council. Be good at it. It all made me rather hopeful. Learning about the potential for restoration and preservation made me hopeful. Listening to young female aqua farmers made me hopeful. I had not expected ending each day in such a state of hopefulness and gratitude. In this time of impending climate doom, watching my garden withering in the drought, hopefulness was not an emotion I’d felt for awhile. But I feel a shift. No one wants to be on a suicide mission so hopefulness is imperative right now and I am glad we’ve gotten a dose of it all around. The marine preservation projects, the Democratic movement on climate change, the vote in Kansas, all make me feel like we can turn this ship around.
Now it’s grandkids time! Nothing more hopeful than that!
Love to all,