Happy Birthday Mike Mathias! Thanks for being a great dad and teaching me so much.
What a week. We're still trying to get that sick burnt pork smell out of here. This week was the week at the beginning of the change of the seasons where my allergies attack. I never know what's happening, even though it's happened for the past three years during this exact week. Last year, it was right before the first all-school communion where I had to sing. Two years ago, it was right after I got back from the Dominican. So, I spent the week sleeping and watching daytime television while doing laundry. I discovered that I really liked black TV(My Wife and Kids and Everybody Hates Chris). Yesterday, I realized that it was probably allergies and got a left-over prescription re-filled. Now I am back to being my chipper self.
I am really enjoying crew. So much. I always wake up before my alarm because I'm paranoid about being late and having to cox the next practice. I've never coxed. I don't know how. Don't make me responsible for the boat and everyone's safety please. Although, I have practiced the calls in my head and know exactly what kind of a coxswain (pronounced "cóx-in") I would be. My rowers would never be bored. I would keep them focused for every second of that piece.
On Monday, I counted from the wrong end of the boat. You see, in a shell, the rowers are numbered from 1 to 4 or 1 to 8, starting with the bow of the boat. Evens are ports and odds are starboards. But, the coach names people off starting with the stern, not the bow. I just figured that out today. So, on Monday, I was trying to put myself in a spot to be on the port side, and I counted 4 from the wrong end!! We got in the boat and pushed off the dock, and then I realized that I was in the 5 seat-- on the starboard side of the boat. I had never rowed on the starboard side, but you can't go back to the dock until the practice is over. It's a huge row boat, you can't turn it around just like that. So, I decided I'd just have to pretend like I knew what I was doing. It went pretty well all things considered. I definitely caught a couple of mini crabs ("catching a crab" means that the blade of your oar gets stuck in the water weird. A big one will knock you completely backwards. A small one will stick the handle in your stomach and cause a jerk to the boat) and missed water ("missed water" is what it sounds like-- you do a stroke but don't get any water in your blade. Also causes a jerk because your blade goes through too fast and you rush to the back of the slide) a few times, but for the first time on starboard, it wasn't so bad. The pieces we did that day really helped-- we did some drills and that was good for learning to row starboard. Today I was a port again, and that felt better.
All this green stuff gathers up on the dock everyday and in the morning before we go out, some rowers will pitchfork the dock and try to get all the seaweed and grasses off it. There's tons of it. And it's not just seaweed. There's yogurt cups and other trash and sticks and feathers and duck poop and things that I don't even want to know what they are. So today, I decided to help pitchfork the dock because there was so much seaweed on Monday that we had to walk over piles of it. Great idea, right? No. It turns out that there are other things in the grasses that are still alive! I got a nice big fork full of the stuff and was walking it over to the compost pile and I heard this squeaking, like a mouse would make when it's stuck to one of those glue traps. My grass kept squeaking, and I was freaking out. I wanted to throw my pitchfork and run. I set it down on the ground a couple of times, but there was nothing I could do and I had to get it over to the pile because three other people were all needing to use the same path. And then when I did dump it on the compost pile, I was afraid to look because I didn't really want to know what it was. I do alright with other gross things. Blood is no big deal. Feces are fine. Unclogging hair in the drain, throwing out month-old leftovers, raw meat is okay depending on the cut. But this I could not handle. I was terrified to the core. You have to imagine-- it's dark outside. It's like 5:28 am, and you can't see a thing, and something about arm's length away from you is squeaking and gasping for breath or something and you have no idea if it's going to get loose from the grasses suddenly and fall/jump onto you. One of the guys said it was probably a fish, but that wasn't comforting because then I just imagined its big eyes looking at me and its mouth opening and closing. And, how big is this fish? Is it bleeding? It's probably going to die a slow death now buried in seaweed. This happened twice this morning and I thought I was going to throw up or run away or throw down my pitchfork or all of the above. No more pitchforking the dock for me. I will encourage others from the sidelines.
I keep thinking of this analogy between rowing and faith. Actually, I keep thinking a lot of deep thoughts about faith. It's like I can't get away from them. Somehow, not being at Wheaton where I am surrounded by all things Christian makes me take the Bible more at its word (haha no pun intended). But anyway, the thing about rowing is that you can't see where you're going. You can only see what's behind you. The boat moves forward, but the rowers sit facing the stern so that they can see the stroke, the rower who sets the pace for the boat (the bow moves forward, the stern is the back of the boat). You watch the stroke at the stern or the rower directly in front of you the whole time, and the only way that you know where you are is by seeing the markers you pass along the shore, but you only see them after they have passed. This is like life where we don't really know where we're going, but we know we're going somewhere because we can see the markers along the shore. And we only see them after we've passed them. We've gotta be making progress. So then, who steers the boat? The coxswain. She knows where the boat is going and can see the destination the whole time. It's called picking a point. The coxswain is responsible for the safety of the rowers and will coach them to get to the destination. But the rowers have to listen to and trust the coxswain. There's your deep spiritual metaphor for the day.
Here's a race clip to help you visualize this. This is the Wheaton men's novice team in spring 2008 on the Skokie River in Il. They are going forward, looking backward, and the coxswain is in the stern. She can see the rowers and the race course. Oh, turn the sound down on your comp before you press play.