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Posts Tagged ‘Gifts from the Sea’

The last few weeks seem to have been filled with a tumult of activity and voices and Yachats beckoned once again.  Here on the Central Oregon Coast, life is quieter and slower; Yachats is one of the most undeveloped parts of the coast (the amazing restaurants here not withstanding), and the minute I am within view of the ocean, I start relaxing.

Each time I am here, the hours for quiet reflection and thought bring me to a deeper understanding of whatever has been driving me just before I came.  Today, walking on the beach with Bear as the tide receded, I realized that I feel greatly privileged to be teaching, and I feel greatly privileged to still work with veterans who are sick from the anthrax vaccine. 

The teaching end of the deal was something I decided just about six years ago, when I made up my mind to go back to school and get a Master’s degree so that I could make the career switch.  I feel lucky that I was able to tell Mom about the decision in August of that year, just two months before she passed away. I wasn’t totally sure what I would do yet, only that I wanted to go back on the ship (www.semesteratsea.org) and that I wanted to go back to school with the goal of teaching in mind.  She was thrilled about both ideas.  I did go back on the ship, briefly, for an alumni reunion cruise to the Bahamas a few years ago.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu was on board, and that alone made the trip an incredible experience.  But I also found out that, contrary to my experiences at 19 on my first voyage, by now it was entirely possible for me to get seasick.  Our first night out at sea after leaving Fort Lauderdale was “a wild and stormy night,” and the ship was tossed around pretty strongly.  I had to leave a meeting in the student union and go outside for some air, and got very little sleep.  I’m not sure that a four-month semester at sea is any longer in my best interest, though I’m certainly going to look at some of the shorter educational voyages that are held every year.

Back to teaching: I’m enjoying it three times more than I ever anticipated.  I love the interaction with students, even though it’s primarily online.  I love the thoughts and creativity that come my way across the keyboard.  I love our live chats, and the SKYPE calls.  I’m working on putting a video component into our online classes, but that might have to evolve a little bit more.  Nevertheless, teaching is an enormous pleasure and privilege.

Working with veterans and active-duty service members – something I’ve done for over nine years now – is also a wonderful privilege.  I spent the early years not knowing how to handle things emotionally; the knowledge that our government has conducted more than one medical experiment on the troops over the years, usually without their knowledge, is appalling and tragic.  I could not believe this was my country.  But I’m also an advocate of changing a country from within, not throwing up my hands and walking off.  The anthrax vaccine was then, and is now, an unproven, dangerous drug.  Just ask the FDA where the peer-reviewed, published research studies are; they only exist for the original cutaneous anthrax vaccine, not for the re-configured vaccine that is supposed to protect against inhalational, or aerosolized, anthrax.  The years of bungling, sheer stupidity, greed and blatant attempts to save face are documented on the web site I run, www.mvrd.org– the Military Vaccine Resource Directory.  The vaccines are on my mind because while I was walking on the beach this morning, I called a vet in Michigan who wrote to me last weekend detailing his massive problems since being forced to take the anthrax vaccine, in one e-mail writing, “PLEASE HELP ME.”  The phone call this morning was the third for fourth time we’ve been in touch this week. He won’t need me constantly; I have a network of people whom I can contact who can and will reach out to help him.  It’s a good, close, caring community, but it’s a tragic one.  It’s a community that should never have to exist.

While I’m on the beach, these thoughts are in my head, but they aren’t swirling and noisy as they so often are at home.  They go deeper and quieter.  The sound of the ocean is a steady rhythm against life here; and the beach reflects the entire cycle of life and death and the tides that bring both.  I think often of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gifts from the Sea,” and know what she meant.  Here – for someone who has spent a lifetime dealing with what it takes to establish those “mutually beneficial relationships” between a business or organization and its publics; who has studied and worked in public relations since 1980 – here my relationship with myself and the world around me settles into something peaceful and quiet.  Here I understand a lot more about the ties that bind.

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