There are few moments in life that balance abject fear and unbridled exhilaration. For me, those rare moments have always lived on the ocean, with the towering sky above and the fathomless depths below. The beach is a place to marvel at the ocean, to flirt with its wonders. I see its beauty anew through my little ones' wide eyes. e.e. cummings captured this beauty in a poem:
maggie and milly and molly and may went down to the beach(to play one day)
and maggie discovered a shell that sang so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and
milly befriended a stranded star whose rays five languid fingers were;
and molly was chased by a horrible thing which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and
may came home with a smooth round stone as small as a world and as large as alone.
For whatever we lose(like a you or a me) it’s always ourselves we find in the sea
When you take on a considerable task - say, like the cause of conservation, which Aldo Leopold called “a world of wounds” - there is sometimes little opportunity to foresee the many troubles that will rise before you, mountains of adversity wild and cold. In times like these I have always been impressed by Sir Winston Churchill, who overcame immense barriers – in the world and in himself – to achieve victory. The best of his talents was inspiration, borne of much introspection and honesty. My favourite speech was his delivered to Harrow School, his alma mater, in 1941:
“You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination.
But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period…this is the lesson:
Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”