Midway… An Unspoken Message from the Albatross

Back in 1975, when I was a freshman in high school, I enrolled in a required English Literature class led by a young teacher named Jim Kisling. There were actually two different English Literature classes, and I was horrified to learn that all of my friends were in Mr. Paxon’s class and I would be the only one in Mr. Kisling’s class.  Being an introverted person and highly sensitive to any social situation, school was always difficult for me.  I found security only in the fact that I usually knew someone in each class I attended.  In this class, I knew absolutely no one.  And to boot, I heard rumors that Mr. Kisling taught a very different class than Mr. Paxon.  Mr. Paxon enjoyed the American classics.  Mr. Kisling ventured into Poetry, Medieval and Renaissance Literature.  I was panicked! I was no good at analyzing poetry and interpreting literary text, especially works I considered ancient and of little use to me in the 1970’s.

As it turned out, Mr. Kisling’s class was not as scary as I thought. In fact, after listening to my friends talk about Mr. Paxon’s class, I was quite thankful to be where I was.  As the weeks rolled along I found that Mr. Kisling was quite open to hearing our opinions on prose. Every student’s interpretation was interesting to him.  There was no wrong answer. He encouraged us to look for metaphor, figurative language, imagery, and symbolism. In this environment, I felt comfortable asking questions, and I found I liked the class.

When we studied “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” though, I was stumped and quite thankful we didn’t spend a lot of time delving into that particular piece of work.  It was a morbid bit of poetry that left me with a ghastly feeling. Some bits of that poetry, however, stayed with me over the years.  For the rest of my life, for instance, the albatross signified, for me, something rotting, stinking and wretched. Any time something was bothering me terribly, I referred to it as my “albatross”.

Image courtesy of http://www.midwayjourney.com/ Midway Film Team
Image courtesy of http://www.midwayjourney.com/ Midway Film Team

Recently, a blogger friend who is the author of “Creative Endeavors, The Home of BoxCarOkie.com“, sent me the link to an interesting movie trailer.  This blogger sends me a lot of animal interest stories. But, knowing my gentle heart and love of animals and birds, he warned me about the content of this particular video. He knew I might find it disturbing. It was disturbing to watch, but the video spoke mountains to me. Let me explain a little more about those “mountains”.

I have struggled with an “albatross” around my neck for the last thirteen years.  That is a long time to carry around a rotting, stinking, carcass of a problem.  I was so miserable with it that it permeated every nook and cranny of my being. I reeked of the stench. Its effects on me were visible.  At times, I was prone to dark moods, anger, and bouts of seclusion.  I felt sorry for myself… woe is me.  It was a foul and rank place to vacillate back and forth in.  And then, a couple of weeks ago, I hit rock bottom.  I just blew! I ripped the albatross from my neck, and hurled it out into the abyss of… well, wherever it went!  I yelled the words out, “I am TIRED of HURTING”.  Simple, precise words.  It was not really about anything or anyone; I was simply hanging onto hurt.  Hurt that had become something bigger than life.  It took blurting out my deep, inner feelings before I realized what the real crux of the problem was.  And beneath that albatross lurked other albatrosses… hurts from decades past and more recent hurts. Suddenly, the need to be free of the burden of hurt was paramount!

When Don forwarded the link to, “Midway – A Film by Chris Jordan“, I watched it with a different perspective of the Albatross.  And by that, I don’t mean the literal message about environmental pollution, that is evident in the trailer.  As I watched it time and again, I was deeply touched by my own inner pain.  Pain from decades of personal hurt and abuse. Realization of my infliction of hurt and anger on others. I knew that this small video clip, documenting the plight of the Laysan Albatross, was actually a message from the albatross to all humankind.  It is a metaphor of our times.  It approaches the destruction and carelessness of our planet, of plant life and animal life.  And it spoke to me of our careless regard for the treatment of each other.

Image courtesy of http://www.midwayjourney.com/ Midway Film Team
Image courtesy of http://www.midwayjourney.com/ Midway Film Team

I hope you will all find the beauty in the message the albatross offers us in this video by Chris Jordan.  Unfortunately, it is easy to turn a blind eye and ignore this message.  It takes courage to accept the gift nature has to offer sometimes.  The lives and deaths of the albatross are not in vain, if we come to realize the message they leave us.

For me, the albatross is no longer a symbol of woe.  I realize now, the morbid, ghastly poem from Mr. Kisling’s class, actually focuses on humanity’s relationship to the natural world. It calls us to recognize humankind’s insensitive and destructive relationship with nature (and each other), and the consequences that result. As I read my own words on this subject, I think, “Wow! It took 37 years for me to realize the true meaning of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”  Still, I believe Mr. Kisling would be happy to know I finally “got it”.

© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


45 thoughts on “Midway… An Unspoken Message from the Albatross

  1. What an incredibly talented and gifted writer you are Lori. It is no easy thing to put together a piece that is personal and inspiring too. It takes courage as well as honesty and it would all be wasted if not woven together by your articulate and powerful voice. Thank you my friend.

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    1. What a wonderful compliment Mike! That means a lot a lot to me. Thank you for standing by me and for always encouraging me to write and photograph. Your friendship means so much!!

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  2. I love when things come together, even if it takes 37 years, LOL! But seriously, look at where you are now! There will always be people that make it their mission to make our lives miserable, or so it seems. You, however, have found a happy place with FD on your little piece of land, with all your little rehab animals, and the rest that Mother Nature blesses you with to live amongst. You always seem happiest when you are on a walk in the canyon, snapping pictures of birds and wildlife, or catching a glimpse of Daisy Deer with her new herd. THAT is happiness, fulfillment, love, and about as far from any albatross as one can get. I love you! Great post, Big Sister!!

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    1. Oh, Baby Sister, you know my heart! I AM happiest with nature and the wild things. FD and I do live a wonderful life here. And you’re right, it’s an amazing thing when it all comes together! I have not forgotten the people who brought me here… nor have I taken lightly the people who accompany me on this amazing journey. I’m so glad you have walked alongside me, encouraged me, and kept me company! I love you too, so very much!

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    1. Thank you Margaret! I just posted to your blog this morning… I believe that drawing of yours spoke directly to me! So many ways to express the deeply moving things of life… I’m glad we are friends.

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  3. I would have never thought in a kazilion years that you were not a great student. Why? Your writing is incredibly good to me. You have an ability to take something ordinary or mundane and make it a fascinating read. Were you aware that Coleridge suffered a great deal of pain, both physical and mental, and was an opium user (in the form of laudenum or tincture of opium)? I often wondered when I read “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” if Coleridge’s “albatross” perhaps had a deeper meaning beyond the metaphor that is usually taught and that was his opium use.

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    1. Hey Louis! No, it’s not that I wasn’t a good student. I studied hard and did well in classes. It was the “social” aspect of school that was difficult for me. I’m introverted, tending to do better by myself. I was shy and quiet. I didn’t do well with the “noise and chaos” of crowds and groups.

      I was not aware of Coleridge’s personal pain. You could be quite right about the deeper meaning of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. Thanks for advising us of this… very interesting!!

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      1. Oh, I see. I felt that “social outcast thing” often because of my status as a military brat and moving around a lot. I went to ten different schools before graduating. The high school that I graduated from (Hampton High in Hampton, VA) is a perfect example in that most of my friends were other military brats because a lot of the “townies” looked down on us. I made the situation worse by being one of those fortunate students that did well without studying much. Getting good grades without a lot of effort and being a male was difficult (it was NOT cool for guys to make the honor role) and I probably pissed off the “townies” even more as a result. With that said, my 9th and 10th grades were spent at The International School of Bangkok, Thailand and there I made friends from all over the world. There were 40 some odd countries represented at school and we were ALL “outsiders” and my experience of that was a real eye opener in learning to be open to new ideas and different ways of looking at things at such a young age. It was a treasured experience and I think of it fondly even after all this time. Imagine being 14 through 16 years old and going to a school where you had friends from Thailand, India, S. Korea, China, and many of the European countries including the Northern European “Nordic” countries. Most of us WERE “outsiders” so no one looked down on others. I consider that to be the most fascinating learning experiences I have ever had.

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        1. Awesome Louis! I consider that life is a giant learning process. We all learn so much from our experiences… gaining understanding, compassion and great love along the way!

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  4. Wow, I am having a weak signal day and was unable to see the video because of stopping, starting, and freezing so I downloaded it to RealPlayer. That movie trailor is VERY hard to watch.

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    1. Yes it is, Louis. I always feel, though, that our lives are not lived in vain when we leave a “message” behind. These birds make us aware of the consequences of our actions. Hopefully, we will create change in how we treat all living things, our planet… and even in how we treat each other.

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  5. I had a very similar thing happen to me in Year 9 (the year I turned 14). My parents had separated a few years before and my father decided that he might like to take up with my buxom French English (what a juxtaposition that is! ;)) teacher. I, being the wonderfully rebellious child that I was, decided that I didn’t like her fawning attention (in a vain effort to gain brownie points with my father) and wasn’t very nice to her to say the least…my efforts culminated in a less than attractive picture of her that she confiscated from me (no doubt thinking that I was writing a treatise about how wonderful she was…must have come as a bit of a shock! 😉 ) and her having me transferred to the “Advanced English” class “You are wasted here Frances”…(CRINGE!)…no friends, a class full of people that I didn’t associate with and I retreated into my books, the language and my head where all good stories come from…a classic combination of fear, angst, forced retrenchment of your comfort zone and a sudden desire to express yourself (albeit in nasty pictures of your dad’s amour 😉 ) awakened at 14? It’s no WONDER I have 4 million muses all trying to get their point across at once! 😉
    It takes hurt for us to realise our place in life…its a bit like failure. No-one ever learned anything from constantly succeeding. We think of being hurt as the crux of all evil but as we work our way through the processes of recovery and fight our way to the surface where we can smell the roses and feel the sun on our skin and know that all is right with the world and we learn. You have to let things go before they can be purged from you and your albatross sounded like it was particularly pungent and foetid after all of those years of allowing it to hang, rotting around your soul. I am glad you expelled it to the 4 winds where it belongs…you will start to heal now :). Just don’t pick the rotting thing up again! I can’t bring myself to watch that video. The albatross is like our ravens…a harbinger of messages, a traveller that gives us direction and when you see what our so called “civilisation” has done to not only the albatross, but so many other creatures that we live with on this amazing but troubled planet it breaks my heart. I can’t help that poor albatross. It has gone to the great albatross heart in the sky, BUT I can do everything I can for the ravens, the wrens, the native animals, the birds, the insects and the ecosystem. I can make seed bombs and hurl them into parks and the local bushland. I can change Serendipity Farm into a little oasis of green and cooperation between the earth and we humans who certainly know our place in the world. As low as we are and as simple a life as we strive to lead, our bellies are crawling with our best friends the earthworms and there are FAR worse habitats to exist in… Again, glad you tossed that rotting albatross…we all have our albatross moments. We all have something that eats away at our souls at our weak moments and if we let it…it’s all about whether we choose to let it or not. The choice is entirely ours to make.

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    1. Fran, that was just beautiful and your words spoke to my inner spirit! You expressed “hurt” very wisely. It was good to write this post, and connect so much with a realization… that albatross of “hurt” – a difficulty I’d struggled with for a very long time!

      The video IS difficult to watch, but you understand the point it makes. I too, do my best to create a place where animals, birds and various other life forms, can flourish and thrive. I do what I can to be kind to the planet. Sometimes it feels like one small stab at change, but encouraging others, and writing or telling folks about what we’re doing, to me, makes all the difference in the world. It’s one of the reasons I love reading your blog posts. You and Steve are wonderful, loving and caring people!

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      1. Ditto :). Hurt can either gird your loins or lay you low and it’s entirely up to us which way we let it affect us. That’s probably why I won’t watch that video. I get very affected by things like that and would rather just “DO” something than lament something that is out of my sphere of influence. You are absolutely right about telling and showing people what we are doing because that way, more and more people get the message. I only have 130 odd readers (and most of them probably don’t read my posts 😉 ) but at least some of them do and what I say resonates with them and perhaps they tell their friends…and their friends tell their friends and with social media being a click across the world, who knows how far someone’s “share” can go? A bit like ripples on a pool or the butterfly effect :). At least we are trying 🙂

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        1. Yes Fran!! And I completely “get” not watching the video. I don’t need to see a lot of that kind of thing because I know, like you, what it means and I try to create something better. By the way, I love your blogging… it’s a wonderful thing to see your work in your part of the world! You and Steve live a very different life from many of us, and I find it fascinating. It’s been very educational as well. Keep writing, my dear friends!

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  6. Another beautiful piece of writing, my dear friend. You’re right, that video is hard to watch but it’s very important that its message gets out to as many people as possible. So thanks for sharing it. Somehow I’ve never read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, but perhaps now I need to. Poetry has never been easy for me, but oddly enough, I was just trying my hand at writing some short poems last week. Hmm, maybe this is a sign that poetry (as a writing form) has something to teach me. We’ll see, I guess.
    And I’m so glad to hear that you tossed your stinking albatross into the far reaches of the galaxy!!

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    1. You know, I was exposed to a lot of great writers and types of prose in high school, but I just wasn’t mature enough to comprehend much of the meaning at that point in my life. Many young people can’t possibly understand the content of adult writing because they haven’t “lived” many experiences. So, I think, many times what we study as young people, doesn’t mean much until we’re much older. Fortunately, the albatross stayed with me, though not so much for the deep meaning of the poem. Now I get it. I think all sorts of varied media appeals to us at different stages of life.

      I’m glad too to have flung that albatross far and wide. What a wonderful, free feeling it is to have cast it away!

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  7. Oh, Hooray! I knew all the squirming and thrashing about would yield results. What a stroke of synchronisity to get that video clip. The Universe conspires to assist us!

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    1. You are sure right about that Sandy! The Universe puts everything just where it needs to be at the precise time! I feel so much better. This has put me in the mood to get out and about! I just can’t believe how FREE I feel!! YAY!

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  8. Such an inspiring and eloquent post. And what a connection to make, that our personal hurt corresponds with our conflicted relationship to this world that is everything to us. Thank you so much.

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    1. Oh, thank YOU! It’s always such a good feeling to know my writing is understood! I felt this was such an important post for me personally. I truly have felt a “letting go” of hurt as a result. Thank you for your kind words my friend!

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  9. Lori, wow. You know your posts always reach me in a pretty profound way, whether it’s Daisy Deer or a lost bird or a book. Inside, I’m laughing and crying and smiling and hurting all at once as I read this, for this is as profound as it gets. I can only congratulate you for your strength and let you know what an inspiration it and you are – and since you’ve been there all along for my ramblings and nonsense about my own albatross(es), you also know how much I can use some genuine inspiration.

    I could go on about how much I love and appreciate the connection you make between your pain and that we humans inflict on the planet and all its residents, but just know that I do.

    In short, Lori, you ROCK. Count me among those hoping that you indeed rid yourself of that albatross for good. All the best to you.

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    1. Thank you so very much, Sid. Nature speaks to me from a depth that I can’t explain. I am just the writer, expressing what the messenger shows me. But what really impassions me is when the message applies to me personally. Feeling the message and knowing its worth… creating something good from it, prompting change and awareness in myself – it’s the best feeling in the world!

      I think we all need inspiration from time to time. That is what I get from you each time I write something that strikes a chord with you. There is a connection… an understanding and compassion. It’s a cosmic wonder, something unexplained! And it feels wonderful to share with others. I appreciate your comment so much Sid. What a wonderful and thoughtful friend you are! By the way, only one other person has ever told me I ROCK. That just made my day!!! 🙂

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  10. And it will take another 37 years to make a connection to something else – the wonderful thing called life keeps calling to us to look deep, change, reflect, and create. That video should make everyone feel an urgency to do something to change our consumption. You would enjoy 70 Degrees West and their efforts at raising awareness of plastic pollution, as well: http://70degreeswest-explore.com/ Beautiful, thought-provoking post.

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    1. Thank you for the link Kat!! I always hope we “get” the message nature sends us, and I hope that each of us finds it within ourselves to create change. It does take some work and effort, but I often thing of what the planet has given us. We haven’t done a very good job as a whole, to protect it and care for it. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

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  11. That was a really beautiful post! I had a great English teacher in high school too, that I’ll never forget, it is a wonderful thing to learn the power of writing and how inspiring it can be! Thanks for that 🙂

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    1. Thank you! So many people are influential in our lives, helping us to find the creative spirit within. Hopefully, we too can encourage and help others develop the gifts they own, deep within.

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  12. Lori, I’m so glad that you are finding the path to letting go of the hurt. I sometimes think I am on my way and then break down at the most surprising, and often inopportune, times. I had seen this film a few months back. It makes you feel absolutely wicked to own even a little bit of plastic anything!
    xo
    Still thinking about your most recent dream… so amazing!

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    1. Thanks Lynda! I’m not sure what’s going on with me but it’s as if the Universe has opened up and I’m soaking up the messages and experiences like a little sponge! The dreams keep coming… and they’re amazing. Glad your home was the place to tap into such a lovely and meaningful experience! That was a powerful dream!

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      1. Good!
        PS: Buddy is absolutely pining for you. The poor boy is wandering the house and checking every room. He sniffs at your bedroom door and then comes back to me as if to ask where you are!!! I am giving him extra attention, but it is just not the same. He really misses you. 😦

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        1. Lynda, I have to admit I have “Buddy” withdrawal myself. That makes me even more sad to know he’s pining away. I know I was spoiling him with massages, but I think we bonded on a whole different level. I sure do miss that sweet boy… and… (sniff sniff) I miss all of you!! I was feeling like FAMILY!!!

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  13. There is such value to living among nature and interacting with it and it’s inhabitants who are in need of assistance – people who wander woods and field feel a connection – a unity with it all – see life/society/environment more personally, yet are able to leap to the big picture: the universality, the complex relationships. Outdoors isn’t just dirt and stick to these.
    I fear the kids who live in crowded areas with little outdoor time – study in schools with no windows. Computer screens can hand them what you get from being in outdoors. So how can they understand the complexity and value of nature – and it’s child, science?
    I’ve seen similar videos – and real birds, turtles, fish, crabs – we live near the coast and the evidence washes up.
    Great post – well written (and I never really liked that poem – did better with it in college, maybe high school is just too early for it – sounds like you had a great teacher)

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    1. I agree with you! Interacting with nature and even just “getting out there”every once in a while is often all we need to do in order to see what we’re doing to our planet. When I first saw the movie trailer, I immediately thought not only about nature… animal and plant life, but also how awful we humans treat each other. The problems you speak of; life/society/environment, seem overwhelming at times. All I know is if we each do our part, and help to inform others, then we are making a dent in awareness.

      I’m sure Mr. Kisling was frustrated with us at times. He was a great teacher, but you know how it is with young people. Few of us had a real appreciation for what we studied in school. I think you’re right, some of what we had to endure in school, came at the wrong time. I appreciated much of my education at least a decade later. A lot of it was completely forgotten and never used!! I often think curriculum is way off base. I feel there are other studies that are of more importance in life…

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    1. Hello to you! Thanks for asking about me. I’ve just been busy outside lately, you know how it is in the spring! We were lucky last night, as we were just to the north of the real volatile weather! I’ve been outside this morning but it’s blustery and cold! About a 40° difference from yesterday! I’m hoping to put a blog post out today. We saw Daisy again last night! She’s been visiting just around 10:30 about 3 times a week. It’s so good to see her again, and it’s just like old times… she’s just as affectionate as ever!

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  14. Hey there L. Sundog,
    That’s beyond cool to be seeing Daisy again and so often too. It almost sounds as if she has you in her social calendar. Surely not the calendar on Facebook as I have not figured that one out yet.

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