One foot grounded, one foot in the mystery

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March 26th 2014
Published: March 26th 2014
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March 26, 2014 2:56 PM

Just like writing a poem for the midday moon yesterday, I’m procrastinating writing my Akaroa research report today. Not intentionally. I just got hungry and Mazzy Star was on the radio again. Fixing my 2:00PM late breakfast of Wheatbix mixed with muesli (we don’t get Wheatbix back home - delicious to nerd cereal eaters), I noticed I was on my second to last serving of cereal - and milk - my last banana, and the muesli bag was already empty. That bag was free, left behind by a Banks Peninsula Walk tramper. I discovered the bag of homemade muesli beside a braided flax ribbon and a note on a pillow in the track huts that I cleaned every day in exchange for accommodation at Ōnuku Farm Hostel. The note said, “You may keep this flax or leave it for the next person.” So I kept it. I put it in my car for good luck, ever thankful for the positive energy of the person who braided it that protected me from getting stopped or ticketed while driving on an expired California driver’s license. That had run out too, last month on my birthday.

I enjoyed my second to last bowl of cereal in New Zealand (this trip around), walking around aimlessly looking at things in the house I know as home. The empty muesli bag on the bench reminded me that the purple candle I’ve had since I moved to New Brighton had only one night of light left in it. My favorite lip gloss was so low I had to dig with my pinky finger to get a fix. I’d run out of the world’s greatest Tom’s toothpaste and anti-aluminum deodorant, and my all-purpose healing coconut oil was down to drips. On the table, The Gisborne Herald was the backdrop for my torn, plastic Kiwibank wallet and a stack of Akaroa expense receipts that would draw the last possible dime from the project piggy bank. An old green, tethered and greasy-fingered paperback Official Speedway Engine Manual sat on the table and the genuine, hard-working, old-time Speedway heroes I became such close friends with while I lived in New Zealand almost gave me reason weep when I leave, but instead symbolized a reason to return.

This morning, I had a telephone job interview the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce, Florida, situated close enough to my best friend in Alabama and my son in North Carolina. I can only handle the South for so long, and since I’ve always wanted to know what it is like to live in Florida, temporary seasonal work at the Smithsonian from May to August sounded sweet as.

Studying for my interview, I dug up an old paper I wrote during an internship with Seymour Center at Long Marine Labs, where I led marine mammal tours and taught marine science in the discovery lab and touch pools. I re-read notes from Science Education and Interpretation classes and found “My Interpretive Philosophy.” Three years ago my instructor, Brian Dowd-Uribe, said I would be glad to have this paper one day. He was right. I had just found some of the best advice I ever wrote to myself (even if it is a bit idealistic and fantasiatic):

“I prefer to teach with our feet on the trail, our hands in the water, our noses in the flowers, ears in canopies of the trees, tongues tasting honeysuckle, and our heads in the clouds. Listening is a language. Hear the wisdom of nature’s voices, wind or water. Hear the collective wisdom of all people who stood in this spot before us? It is all connected and so are we. Keep one foot grounded and one foot in the mystery. The world is magic."


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