Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lost and found

Alec demonstrates proper hand position--and paddle balancing skills.

Yesterday, we led a three-hour tour semi-officially titled “getting lost with the out-of-town instructors.” We were to lead a small group on local waters, identifying flora and fauna and sharing local knowledge. Robert and Kerrie helped us file our float plan and suggested a few routes appropriate to the group and conditions. Then Kerrie went to get our three participants, leaving us to prepare our boats and gear.
As soon as she was safely out of view and earshot, we confided to each other that while we felt confident with our navigation skills and our ability to safely shepherd three novice paddlers up and down Queenstown Creek, we have an almost pathological inability to remember the names of plants and animals and those things with fins or shells that live in the water. We call these conditions “floraphasia,” “faunaphasia” and “pescophasia.”
Fortunately, we were able to keep our categories straight. We agreed that most of the living things on land that don't move and aren't man-made are plants, that creatures with wings that fly or sit in nests are generally birds or insects, and that most of the moving stuff in the water is marine life. Feeling much more confident, we awaited our hapless participants.
As it turns out, we got lucky in a variety of ways. While our three participants were interested in nature, they were far more excited about being on the water than in identifying plants and animals. We had a great time poking into coves, discovering methane in a marsh, and running into a rare Maryland alligator. (It turned out to be a log.)

Alex comes nose to nose with a rare Maryland Alligator.

We accurately identified several bald eagles and found some of their nests. We even had time to stop on a sand spit, where our guests were delighted to find several colors of sea glass and helped us rescue three stranded horseshoe crabs.

Sharon looks for beach glass while the tour participants compare their finds.

It was a lovely morning, and all of us went away happy.
In all seriousness, we had been a bit nervous that morning. We weren't sure how well we would be able to guide a trip in an unfamiliar location, so we focused on what we felt were our weaknesses. That could have blinded us to what our guests actually wanted, which was an opportunity to enjoy being on the water together.
We think it's quite natural, when preparing for any class or a trip, to worry about whether you'll do the best possible job. We typically brainstorm ideas, make an outline, write it down, worry about whether we can pull it off, make a lot of jokes, run out of time and hope for the best. When we tune into what our students really want, not just our concerns about what we think they want, we generally find things turn out very well.

This poor guy would have died if we hadn't rescued him.
(The horseshoe crab, not the tour participant.)


Unknown said...

Thoroughly enjoyed this day's adventure. Looking forward to reading more and catching up with the first part of your trip. Have a great time! Cyndy

Jim and Cyndy said...

'Give the people what they want.' I think it is easy to be concerned in a new place, and it sounded like a great time! I wish I were out on the water with you all.