Thursday, September 19, 2013

Avast, Pull Together!

I am a big fan of fellow UU Robert Fulghum, and many years ago my favorite librarian and I enjoyed listening to All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and other works as we spent many  hours on road trips in the Southwest. I was reminded of the title this morning, when I was telling a colleague about my new hobby of rowing. As he asked how I was doing, I almost responded with the "I'm busy" mantra of educators and other professionals, but I said, "keeping active" instead.

I actually meant it in the same way -- look at me and all I'm doing -- but as I said it, I realized that I really have been active for the past year in a way I was not previously. I told him that I had been rowing, and then I realized the beauty of a phrase I will be hearing later this evening: "Pull together!" It comes after we have all come to the harbor at the end of a work day, scrambling perhaps to get there in time, and then doing the complicated dance of getting ourselves into the boat and the oars out of the boat, and the whole setup into a safe place to begin rowing. The actual phrase is "... annnnnd: Pull together" as our boat steerer will lead up to the exact moment when everyone is perfectly ready, muscles taut and minds focused, so that we get the boat moving in a straight line.

This evening, that moment of pulling together will be our signal that it is time to do a bit of real work. Real work by the standards of a group of modern, middle-class professionals in need of a workout, that is: not real work compared to the rowers of the whaleship Essex, for example, or many others who toil daily in fields and factories the world over. It will be a bit more work than usual, only because of an upcoming regatta this weekend, for which we are doing some last-minute training.

And the reward for that work will be the other nautical word that I have come to appreciate: "Avast!" It means stop, which sometimes means there are more instructions coming. But it also means rest: take a moment to enjoy the privilege of being quiet on the water for just a few minutes. 

In my year of rowing, I have written several posts on this blog about the technical things I have learned. But these three words -- avast, pull together -- capture the true lessons.

And after we have enjoyed our moment of rest, it will once again be, "Pull together!"

Image: Whaling City Rowing

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