Before stepping onto the Roseway, I gulped down a non-drowsy dramamine, taking a swig from my water bottle so it wouldn’t get stuck in my craw; all of this “off stage” action was completed outside of the last public restrooms at the dock before boarding our vessel for the day. The Roseway is the schooner that our Ocean Classroom students use as their home away from home each fall trimester. On the last Saturday in July, a group of Proctor people and their families were getting an “amuse bouche” - a little taste - of what it was like to voyage on the same open seas that Proctor Ocean classroom students get to behold.
Someone said it was a perfect day for a sail--sunny and not too hot. It would warm as we traveled. As expected, our jackets and windbreakers were already getting very little use, yet the air was beginning to warm as we imagined what the day on our journey might bring. The only sense of anything being different or out of the ordinary since the last time I went aboard a sea vessel is that we were wearing masks on the bus ride down to Gloucester but were able to doff them as we boarded the ship and stayed above board on the boat.
The last time I was boat side - not just taking a fast ferry to an island - was a decade and a half earlier aboard a fishing boat in the middle of San Francisco Bay, accompanying fourth graders on a scientific and scenic research ship. No pre-emptive motion sickness meds were needed back then, and it probably would not be necessary this particular Roseway day either, but I wanted to hedge my bets a bit and not have vomit down my shirt in case the weather turned ugly. What was different about this day compared to that day nearly 15 years ago is that it was an exquisitely beautiful day as opposed to cold, dreary, and foggy.
Thirty-eight passengers set sail from Gloucester Harbor to Boston Harbor on what was a five hour tour. The entire evening before, and morning of, had me thinking about all of the wonderful people I keep meeting. Indeed, I am getting to know so many good and fast friends that seem to be in abundance since I arrived in Andover last month. Dinners, bike rides, boat rides, canoe rides, visits on trails, walks along the rail trail, time in office, visits in Adirondack chairs, and so many more places that lead to people and their stories - their very lives and the lives of their families and friends.
On our way out of Gloucester Harbor, I noted the new landscape. Seeing the harbor for only the second time (the first time I made a pilgrimage to Gloucester was to see the place where one of my best friends grew up). Other than both of us growing up in regions of the country where northern accents were king (or queen), Chicago and Boston adjacent, we became coaching buddies, teaching colleagues, and friends, at each others’ weddings, birthdays, and true-blue. What makes one a friend? What makes someone “true-blue” when it comes to being there for each other?
Time and place.
Out of my mind’s reverie and back aboard the Roseway, looking around the boat at my shipmates, seeing each anew, each and every person offered a sense of groundedness and connection to each other and to “place.” Rooted. Grounded. Connected. These are all words used to describe home and friendship.
These are also words used to describe Proctor specifically by the people that I meet each day. People who either call Proctor home or who once lived here and now offer what only Proctor alums know. Proctor is our anchor. Shared memories that we make bind us to the place and each other. Someone once said that it’s not quality time but quantity time.
We strive for each. Time and place. But it’s time and place that expands to fit and fill those who have come from all over the country or all over the world--soon again. It calls to them. Calls us back. Calls us to be great and grounded. When away from her, people tell me that they miss Proctor like the ferocity of missing a loved one or a cherished familiar.
It’s our time. It’s our place.
Brian W. Thomas, Proctor Academy Head of School
Curated Listening and Reading
This week’s blog makes me think deeply of my good friend Elizabeth Alexander’s poetic memoir called Light of the World. Alexander, as some of you may remember, read her poem “Praise Song for the Day'' at President Barack Obama’s first inauguration on January 20, 2009, which is about the everydayness of time and place and people we love.