Saturday, December 8, 2012
Hobo dreams, part 1
Today I remembered my childhood hobo dream while walking the dog. As a child I used to stare down long railroad tracks and imagine following the metal and wood road for days on end, imagining where the journey would take me. Power lines held the same allure, the double wired lines that seemed to cross the entire country. Riding in the back of my parents car, I would stare out the window, the power lines stretching across fields off into infinity. My feet would begin to itch with the desire to walk, and I could see myself with a pack and stick, travelling the world along the already cut paths of these power lines.
My dog and I started our walk the normal way. From our apartment we followed a grassy field, crossed the road and walked through a new neighborhood, the kind with large houses close together and few trees or plants. After circling the suburban and highly controlled neighborhood we returned to the apartment property with the plan of finishing the walk on our nature trail. The apartment complex is built along one of these sets of double power lines. I can stand in front of the main apartment building and look both ways along the power lines, looking off into great distances. I began to wonder what I would see if I followed these pathways. I remembered my childhood dream as I walked toward the nature trail. This trail is one of my favorite walks, but it is also a highly controlled pathway, covered in landscape bark and lined with signs reminding us who can enjoy the walkway, residents of the apartments only, and how, clean up after your pet and no fires please. I wanted to walk under the power lines; I wanted raw untamed nature, not controlled and carefully parceled out nature. At the start of the walk the ground was easy, a bulldozer had recently pushed dirt off from under the power lines. Quickly the ground became softer and a little wet. I passed plenty of deer tracks. Grass grew high on either side of the path and within just a few minutes the grass had covered the entire pathway. I was now walking in thigh high grass, following a thin animal trail. Even though it was December, it was December in South Carolina and it was possible that snakes or ticks could still be hiding in the grass. I walked carefully keeping my eyes and ears open.
After a few minutes I ran into a wall of dirt, higher than my head from the bulldozer. As my dog joyously ran up the mound, I tried to find my way around it. From the car these pathways seemed clear and easy, but all along the way there are obstacles. I chose to walk around still in the high grass, still following the game trail, made probably by the deer. After a few minutes of walking I came to the back of a neighborhood, rough high grass ended in perfectly manicured lawns, bright green grass glowing and screen porches looking at me. If anyone were home, and looked out what would they think to see a woman in her 40’s and her dog strolling behind their yards as if she were in a park? Very few people are home during the day, and I was able to walk undiscovered.
The exploration of the power line trail ended as we entered deeper into the neighborhood. Someone had pushed a huge pile of pine trees and debris into a wall across the pathway, and the only way to continue would have been to walk through someone’s yard, and I was not ready to do that. I turned back and finished my walk on the neatly designed nature trail. I stopped to reflect and enjoy the views at the crab dock, and I saw a bald eagle fly to a tree with a beak full of twigs. I guess nature is to be found where it chooses to live, whether the area is controlled by covenants or rules. That makes me even happier than getting to follow the hobo dream.On my next walk I plan to follow the power lines in the other direction, and see where they may lead me. You never know. I also plan to take my camera and binoculars to the crab dock, I want a photo of the bald eagle. Hobo dreams live!
Monday, December 3, 2012
Dove and Sailing around the world as a teen
I think it is time for another book study. After running away with Sam in My Side of the Mountain, we should hop on a sailboat and really see the world. Robin Lee Graham sailed around the world solo, starting at the age of 16. Even though he had his parents’ permission he fits my idea of a runaway adventurer, dropping out of school and seeing the world. He learned more from his travel than he could have learned from any brick and mortar school.
Dove, his book about this adventure, was the first sailing travel book I ever read. Later I enjoyed many others such as Tinkerbelle by Robert Manry, Sailing Alone Around the World by Captain Joshua Slocum, Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebi, and John Steinback’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez. Each journey is different, each person is different, but there are certainly similarities. Readers get the opportunity to share a little of the adventure. We can learn a little about what it is like to be completely alone at sea every day, day after day. I am amazed at how much planning it would take to prepare for any of these adventures, and it takes a true level of personal discipline to stay alert and ready for trouble.
In Dove Robin was alone, all problems had to be solved by himself with his own ingenuity and abilities. Being alone all the time could cause problems, loneliness and fatigue, low spirits and doubts. So many people need human interactions to keep them on an even keel. Robin enjoyed meeting people along the way, but he was frustrated by crowds and what he saw at times as herd like thinking from people. Robin got to experience many cultures, at least on a superficial level and he was impressed with those people who loved and lived simple healthy lifestyles.
Recently I watched the movie Dove. Several times I wondered if I had seen it before, but I had not, it was the memory of the book confusing me. I remember as a young teen enjoying the book, but not enjoying the story as much once he fell in love. I wanted more of the adventure, solitude, and the sailing. I felt like the girl got in the way of all that I was interested in. Robin’s father felt the same way, and there was strife between the father wanting Robin to finish his goal of sailing alone, and Robins desire to be with the girl, Patti. The movie emphasized the love story and strife even more than the book. I suppose a movie of only solitude and sailing would not attract that many people.
I think the movie highlighted that which is most difficult in these large adventures, overcoming the doubts and discouragement to actually finish and reach the goal. A character in the movie, a writer and photographer from World Travel Magazine told Robin that it was not the sailing around the world that matters, it’s finishing that is the thing. His readers needed encouragement to take up and finish goals, and people that climb mountains or hike across deserts, or sail around the world are excellent examples. I agree that the success of any adventure or athletic event, or goal of any type depends more on the mental skills than physical. There will always be those give up moments and tests to your endurance and your desire to achieve the goal. Isn’t this true in our regular lives as well? How many people fail to achieve their dreams because they give up when it becomes difficult?
Robin did finish; he circumnavigated the world alone, in 5 years. He married Patti. They endured the difficulties and experienced the enjoyment of life together, raised two kids and are still a couple, living in Montana. I feel certain he learned how to finish his tasks, his goals while sailing, and this gift helped in the difficulties of his regular life. I may never sail around the world, but in reading his story, and others like it I can be reminded to keep on trying and pushing toward the goal, to not give up when storm clouds enter the horizon.
There are many benefits to reading travel adventures beyond the obvious plain enjoyment. Reading these books fueled my desire to see the world, to learn more about sailing, and to adopt the spirit of not giving up. I have been on hiking trips and been so tired I wanted to stop, but in thinking about these books I remembered their low moments and the joy they felt in finishing, and I lifted my boots and took one more step.
After reading this book I wanted to feel the power of a boat sailing across the ocean, sails full and only the wind and the boy, or girl at the rudder. I wanted to enjoy the solitude of watching a sunset over the water, drinking hot tea and catching fish. I wanted the experience of being alone in nature for days on end, the freedom, responsibility and even the domesticity of life on the boat. Just as reading the book gave me some knowledge of sailing terms, I felt like I had a small window into that kind of life. I felt like if I wanted to badly enough, I could learn how to sail and begin my own adventure. Even though the closest I have come to sailing was a couple of classes in a lake in GA and a Boy Scout trip to the Bahamas, his life didn’t seem so foreign. When I had the opportunity to be a chaperone for the Boy Scout Tall Ship adventure in the Bahamas, the first thing I did to prepare was reread Dove.
Here are my suggestions for studying Dove with your students:
Read the book, then map out the journey. Notice how Robin planned the trip watching the weather, including not sailing during hurricane season. Study the time of his trip, why could he not sail through the Suez Canal? What was going on in South Africa during his visit? Robin used a sextant to chart his course, he didn’t have GPS or computers to find his locations. Learn how a sextant works, as well as the basics of sailing. If possible end this book study with a sailing trip or class, I can’t think of a better way to reinforce what you have learned. Robin was fascinated by simple healthy lifestyles, and at one point he observed a mother cooking pancakes with mashed bananas in the batter. What are some of the nutritional challenges to eating and stocking a boat for a trip such as this? Maybe end the study with a seafood meal, and banana pancakes!