Thursday, October 10, 2013

Summer Waters

The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope. - Buchan

Over Labor Day weekend, Victor and I woke up at 5 am and headed out to Sheepshead Bay for a day of fishing on the The Marilyn Jean IV.

It was my first oceanic fishing trip... Ever.

Turns out, I'm a pretty good fisherman. We caught 21 fish - 14lbs - and I loved every minute of it; after all, I've been addicted to boats ever since I was a little girl. 

Growing up, school days were volatile. I was what polite people (and kind social service workers) call, "a challenging kid." I turned out ok though - I even delivered the student president commencement speech at my graduation from USF School of Law. 

Part of the reason why I didn't completely fall off the grid was because as chaotic and out-of-control 10 months of the year were for me, summers were conversely quiet and structured. My beloved grandfather was at the center of my calm; a respite from a violent and unrelenting Sandy-size home front storm. Since I was 9 years old, my grandfather and I spent early summer mornings on the lagoon behind our Jersey Shore house, on a wooden row boat - hunting for ruddy-colored crabs that were clinging to the piers.

Those moments - just grandpa and me - are some of my sweetest and most foundational childhood memories; and probably why I grew up loving surfing and wake boarding... the brackish smell of salt air has always managed to stir a deep sense of peace within me.

My grandfather died last year, and I miss him every day. He would have been proud of my Labor Day catch. I see so much of my grandfather's heart and protection in Victor; even my grandmother has drawn countless parallels between the two. I am blessed that Victor met my grandfather before he passed, and that they both more than approved of each other - they admired each other. I don't think it's a coincidence that God brought Victor into my life just as he was starting to take my grandfather away ... And it's on the water where I feel the closest to all three. 

My grandpa - Frank DiMaria April 21, 1922 - April 21, 2013

He remembered the time he had hooked one of a pair of marlin. The male fish always let the female fish feed first and the hooked fish, the female, made a wild, panic-stricken, despairing fight that soon exhausted her, and all the time the male had stayed with her, crossing the line and circling with her on the surface. He had stayed so close that the old man was afraid he would cut the line with his tail which was sharp as a scythe and almost of that size and shape. When the old man had gaffed her and clubbed her, holding the rapier bill with its sandpaper edge and clubbing her across the top of her head until her colour turned to a colour almost like the backing of mirrors, and then, with the boy’s aid, hoisted her aboard, the male fish had stayed by the side of the boat. Then, while the old man was clearing the lines and preparing the harpoon, the male fish jumped high into the air beside the boat to see where the female was and then went down deep, his lavender wings, that were his pectoral fins, spread wide and all his wide lavender stripes showing. He was beautiful, the old man remembered, and he had stayed.” 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Back to School and Extinct Indians

It's been a while since I last wrote; you see, the month of September for teachers is like April 14th for tax attorneys.... an insane blur. Days are filled with new classes, new students, new administrative demands, back to school nights, open houses, faculty meetings, department meetings, summer reading projects, 5am alarms, essays, quizzes, and dress code detentions.

I primarily teach upper division literature honors courses, but this year I also have one section of 10th grade American Lit Honors. During the first week of school, one of my sophomores reminded me that I have to readjust my expectations a bit for my younger students....

Me: "Alright everyone, what do we know about Native American culture?"
10th grader: "All I know is that Native Americans are extinct."
(other students nod enthusiastically in affirmation)
Me: "Respectfully, I think a lot of Native American people would disagree with you on that."

During the rest of the class, my mind kept conjuring up visions of an "extinct Native American" stoically standing next to a Woolley Mammoth in a display at the NY Natural History Museum - spear in hand, ready to take down the mighty tusked beast.

Let the year begin....

The Spider Grandmother did give two rules to all men, not just the Hopis. If you look at them, they cover everything. She said, "Don't go around hurting each other" and She said, "Try to understand things." - William Least Heat Moon.