A former student, the yard and dive photos

I had a lovely chat with a former student today. I had her in a class when she was a freshman and knew her all four years of her time in college and, today, I have the great good fortune to call her a friend. She is, and was, a talented human being. She sat in the back of the classroom, quiet as could be, but she took in everything. Everything.

One of her classmates and friends was loud and over the top and could command and intimidate anyone in a room. She was funny, but Sydney just sat in the back and soaked in everything.

Outside of the classroom she became a staff writer and then a section editor for the campus paper I advised. Her senior year, she was the editor-in-chief of her campus paper. She was also the section editor of two local community papers her senior year. She also carried a 4.0 GPA. She also was honored as one of the top journalists in the south that year. I’m telling you, this woman is talented.

Two years ago now she was on a New York Times team that won a Pulitzer Prize, and if you think I don’t find ways to insert that into conversation you haven’t been paying attention. She’s a book editor and still writes for The Times. Even better than all of that, she does all of these other things. In the last few years she’s taught herself to sew and knit and cross stitch. She has taken up, as an adult and just to try it, aerial gymnastics, and she’s getting quite good at it. She has discovered a green thumb. Late last year she and her husband moved to New England. They are way up there, and enjoying their first real winter.

I was telling her how much I admire all of the things she does. As is typical, I laid it on pretty thick. As is typical, she downplayed everything. She said, “My life is full of more things that bring me satisfaction and make me look forward to the future than I’ve ever had before, and that’s not nothing.”

Something about this young woman, her freshmen year in the back of my class, I knew she’d figure it all out. And now here we are.

There isn’t a term for it, short of the greeting card cliche, but it is so heartening to watch people you like thrive. And to watch them discover the things that make them thrive. Oh! It comes from years of mentally cheering for people daily, and then getting semi-regular dispatches. To see people, who I knew best as students, continue to find ways to learn and challenge themselves well into adulthood, it’s really something.

In my teaching philosophy, I’ve always written that I hope to help teach the value of a true education: the joy of learning.

Best part is, Sydney isn’t the only person I know who has embodied that. Maybe that means I’m on to something. I hope so.

A quick spin through the side yard, just to share some different photos. I got lucky with the light on this shrub, which enjoys a nice golden tint in the late afternoon sun.

This stone path doesn’t go anywhere magical, but it seems like it should, doesn’t it?

We have two-and-a-half stone paths, and one of them does seem like it should go to Narnia. Not this one, though, it just takes you to the utilities. But look! There between the stones!

Is that a periwinkle? An euonymus? Whatever it is, the ground cover is emerging in early February! I am heartened once again!

Maybe I’ll get to the backyard tomorrow.

But, today, we must return to our underwater lair. And if we can’t actually do it, we’ll do it with some photographs from last month. To the deep! And before you do it, I’ve already done. I was humming the opening bars to “Baracuda” at about 65 feet here.

This was our dive master on one of our boats. He was serious until he realized he didn’t have to be. And then he was hysterical. Big laugh. I think his laugh amuses him, too. He reminded me of Carlos Mencia, a little bit. Apparently, in his day job, he’s some sort of underwater welder. So he takes strangers diving as a side hustle.

Imagine that. You get on a boat and that’s where you meet people and, to some degree, you’re kind of responsible for them. Now do that and make great jokes that grizzled vacation veterans haven’t heard before. This is the life of a dive master.

Also, he took this photograph for us.

He was very gracious with his time to do that. We wound up getting quite a few photographs. One day I’ll put that on social media and see if the university will share it. And if they do, this will be a new thing, taking that flag to interesting places and so on.

Also, he wanted to take a photo with the flag, too.

But he never asked what a Rowan was, or what that owl was about. He just wanted a photo, which was cool.

I think I can get about two more weeks of photos out of that trip. And, of course, there are quite a few more videos to upload, too. I may be able to pad this out to spring yet!

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