“If the wind will not serve, take to the oars.” – Latin Proverb
This is the precept for today, January 10, from 365 Days of Wonder. Mr. Browne’s Precepts: A Quote For Every Day of the Year About Courage, Friendship, Love and Kindness, by R. J. Pallacio.
Sometimes I am simply blown away at how the universe has a way, despite our best efforts be oblivious, to steer us in the direction we need to go. Gently at first, dropping hints like cherry blossom petals…but never afraid to lean on the horn like a truck driver when petals aren’t up to the task. This precept is hitting me like the horn.
Just before the holiday break, inbetween my work with students, in groups and classrooms, I snatched a few minutes to peek into our school book fair. I perused the picture books, then looked for compelling titles for my small group of reluctant middle grade readers. From a side table, a flash of blue caught my eye. The book cover bore the singular picture of Auggie, the main character from R.J. Palacio’s 2016 book Wonder. (Note to you dear reader: If you have not yet read Wonder, find a copy and read it now. It will change your life.)
Once you have read Wonder, you will recall Auggie (the main character) has a teacher named Mr. Browne who has the habit of posting precepts in his classroom. This book, offers up one of “Mr. Browne’s” precepts for each day of the year.
As people everywhere are peering into this yet shiny new year, wondering what it will hold, many are setting goals and choosing words like navigational stars to steer by. I have done that in the past. I like the open-endedness of a word. It can be applied in so many ways. It is not as confining as a resolution. But I have always been more of a precept sort of gal. In my budding days identifying as a writer, I collected them in a green notebook I carried everywhere, tucking them in among poems, quotes, and other oddments I considered ‘writerly”.
But though I have always been drawn to writing, I have never been especially good at the discipline. My muse is fierce when she shows up, but unreliable. If I wait for her appearance, I just don’t write. What we don’t do, we don’t get better doing. As a teacher of writing especially, I need to walk the talk. This year, I decided, one of the ways I was going to hold myself accountable, was to make sure I write something for each Tuesday’s Slice of Life.
I waited this week for something to speak to me. (Hey, Muse, it’s me, Julie.) Much was going on. I volunteered at our local warming shelter (it has been bitterly cold in Vermont). I have been collaborating in reading and writing workshops with my colleagues. I have been calling my senators. I restrung my mandolin. But no flame of inspiration sparked from those experiences. Then my eyes landed on the fat blue book, the one that had been sitting on the corner of my desk since December. That’s it, I thought. If inspiration doesn’t find me, I can use a precept to guide me. So I opened the book.
“If the wind will not serve, take to the oars.”
This message could not be more perfect. Thanks, universe. My ears are still ringing…but I hear ya.