At sunrise exercise this morning I had dipped my head down into the bright underwater sky. Little Jellyfish everywhere. New to the island, I perked my head up, alarmed. Treading water slightly quicker, I asked David whether the little creatures dotting the water below us were of any concern.
“They just sting a little,” he replied.
“They’re like the mosquitoes of the sea.”
They have a mosquito for everywhere here, I think to myself.
Later that day, I can chart the mosquito bites, from ankle to knee: from “Orion’s Belt of Irritation” to “The Southern Cross of Misery” There is “Scratchy Major” and also “Scratchy Minor.” I sit at my new desk, in my new office, in my new home, at The Island School, navigating my celestial star-studded skin. My calf and shin tingle with trepidation, as I hold back, because as we all know: itching only makes it worse. I let my mind wander into the space across my skin, thinking of the starry sky we studied last night, on a star-gazing walk, on the most star-streaked night of the annual Perseids meteor shower.
The night before, we had sat in the sand and watched with wonderment as flashes peaked through the darkness at us: elusive, fleeting, magical. I wished upon each one. But leave it to a math teacher to make it all more practical, Matt began with a lesson in celestial navigation. He made the earth into a compass, oriented toward the North Star, measured out degrees, and then asked how far I would sail in which direction, mindfully noting, just where on earth we were. I imagined the planet like a figure someone would use to measure a hypotenuse, a form with axis wrought with dimension. Degrees defined, just waiting for me to find my path.
And I thought of your path, my new students’ paths, arriving in just weeks, and of the degrees and directions that would bring them here. I thought of the navigating, planning and preparation that they must be negotiating. And I wondered if any of them looked to the stars for direction, as they would soon learn to.
As the stars passed, flashed, and disappeared, I wished on each one. And I made these wishes for them, our students, as they come:
May your goodbyes be sweet promises for future hellos;
May your bags be packed perfectly, holding all you will need;
May your last moments at home be calm, precious, and pristine;
May your travels be safe and guided by the stars;
May your mosquito bites be minimal,
and if not, may you have the power to not scratch them.