Calm waters even in the roughest weather
Gathering of boats and passengers from all over
Place to mend sails, fix broken rudders, and clean the hull
It was probably decided last fall that I would not be returning to my old school for the 2018-19 school year. However, I wasn’t given a heads up until February when the reality stormed into my life. I won’t go into details (although I find it very interesting how we are encouraged to hide our work wounds like we are supposed to hide our mastectomy scars and deal with the emotional fall out privately), but the experience was extremely disruptive, demoralizing, and exhausting. It left me feeling that I had been sailing out on open water during a horrible squall and my boat had withstood an onslaught of rain, powerful winds and freaky waves.
However, the true beauty of a squall is that it doesn’t last forever, and I found that when the school year was over in late June, so was the storm. I found calmer waters and could assess the damage done, as well as figure out how far off course I had been pushed. I found that while the squall was brutal while it lasted, my boat had not capsized or sunk and I had not quit my students. I had been able to hunker down and finish the school year despite the drama swirling around me. There were a couple of waves in particular that nearly took me out, but they did not, and while my jib and mainsail (which use wind power to propel a sailing craft) were indeed damaged, they were not destroyed. However, my course had indeed been altered.
Now, two months later, I’ve found a safe harbour to hang out in for awhile.
I’ve just finished the third week at my new job, teaching at a year-round alternative charter school, and after the first couple of days I realized that I felt like I was in a good, supportive environment–and images of Antigua’s English and Falmouth Harbours kept popping up in my mind. I have taken that as a good sign.
English and Falmouth Harbours, and the landmarks around them including Monk’s Hill, Shirley Heights, Nelson’s Dockyard and Pigeon Beach, are one of my favorite areas on Antigua, where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer (1992-94). I remember climbing up the windy roads towards Shirley Heights in the dark with Nancy, Mike and Martin to attend an all night concert that included a performance by Rita Marley. I remember straddling the worlds between tourist and local when we would go to Shirley Heights on Sunday afternoons, where the tourists would hang out to watch the steel pan players and the sunset and then leave around 6PM, while we would stay as the locals showed up and we’d listen to musicians perform reggae. I remember watching Sailing Week races take off from English Harbour (which takes place in May each year) with Peace Corps friends. I remember Mrs. Edwards, my co-teacher, and I taking our students to Dow’s Hill Interpretation Center. I remember visiting with Aunt Lois, Uncle Ron, Brian and Anita during Christmas vacation 1992 and spending a lot of time during Christmas vacation 1993 with my Aunt Lois and Uncle Ron at Nelson’s Dockyard (when they were sailing a lot in Michigan), trying to score a ride on a sailboat. The best we could do was a ride on a dinghy during a fun race (that included a crew that went topless, if I remember correctly), but we had fun anyway. I remember heading to English Harbour when my parents and sister came to visit, as well. I even remember walking with my school for a ‘walk-a-thon’ to Pigeon Beach from our school in the village of Bethesda for a picnic, game of ’rounders’ and a swim.
I also have some very special memories of time at English Harbor and the area around it when Terry and I (finally) visited Antigua at the beginning of 2017.
My new school represents a calm, supportive environment where I can regroup, mend those damaged sails of mine, and re-chart my course. And I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity.