This painting of tranquility and peace hangs with my daughter in Wisconsin. I hope it helps her to keep warm in the winter time. I thought of this painting because my Holly brought something to my attention last month that has solved a forty-year mystery.
You see, I am not the most graceful person in the world. That's a fact. When I was a kid, I excelled more at sports that were more "bull in a china shop." I'm more gorilla than gazelle. It's just how it is.
I've come to accept that over time, but recently I've kinda found out why.
At the tender age of 21, I found myself adrift in the sea of life. I dropped out of college, and I needed some direction, so I turned my life over to the United States Government. Being the slacker that I was, I thought I would join the United States Marines. Heck, I was looking for a bit of discipline and direction. What I needed was a transformation, and I got that by the bucket-full.
When I told my friends that I had joined the Marines, these were their standard reactions.
The third, I thought, was phenomenal and actionable advice. So as a recruit at MCRD San Diego, I had only one thing in mind. Don't get noticed.
I decided that keeping my head down was the least cost method of getting through boot camp. By least cost, I mean, minimal effort for maximum reward. I wanted to do the job well enough that I didn't get in trouble, but not good enough that I would get noticed. I tried to keep to myself, follow orders, and simply do the job. Easy, right?
It turns out that just doing your job and following orders is a skill. It gets you noticed.
My Drill Instructors made me a Squad Leader. What does it mean to be a squad leader? Well, it means that, not only to you get the brunt of the Drill Instructors attention and displeasure, you get special attention when someone else in your squad screws up too. Double the pleasure, double the fun!
Somehow, in their attempt to make the platoon a cohesive marching unit they made me the Guidon Bearer or as we called it "The Guide." The Guide is the guy in the front of the platoon carrying the platoon flag. He sets the direction of the platoon. He also gets thrashed when ANYBODY in the platoon messes up. The blame goes all the way to the front of the class where the Guide sits.
Drill Instructors take a lot of pride in making their recruits a solid marching unit. It's their job. Marching is essential to Marines. Marching is the orderly movement of masses of people from one place to another.
There is also a competition at the end of the recruit's time in boot camp where the platoon and the Drill Instructors get graded on their performance on the "drill field." That makes it very important.
I have to admit, when I see and hear an experienced group of Marines in time, covered and aligned, moving as one, I get filled with a bit of that "je ne sais quoi." It can bring a tear to your eye. Click on the photo below or here to see a video of the Marine Corps Silent Drill Team. I never get tired of it.
Marching requires a couple of things. The following requirements are not from the Marine Corps Drill Manual, but rather, they're my private interpretation.
Now, let me tell you, I was a fantastic marcher. I could strut with the best of them. I could do my column lefts, and my column rights, half-steps, quick steps, and even the most complicated rifle movements with ease.
One thing I didn't mention above is that marching well also requires you be able to walk in a straight line. That, I am physically and woefully incapable of doing.
I walk like an alcoholic on a three-week bender. I can't help it. I could never really figure it out. Why the hell can't I walk in a straight line?
I swear I would fail any field sobriety test.
Alas, they fired me. Well, not so much fired as relegated. I was no longer the Guide. I was demoted to squad leader all because I couldn't walk a straight freaking line; I was outta there.
But why can't I walk a straight line?
Why do I run into things all the time?
Could it be slamming my head into a metal pole when I was 12?
Was it the pucks, sticks, and fists that connected with my face when I was playing ice-hockey?
Did I suffer too many concussions from my ill-fated attempt at a boxing career?
Finally, after sixty years, I may have come across the source of all my woes.
Last month, when we were in Montreal, Holly happened to be walking behind me. She said, "Dad, do you have problems with depth perception?" She said it was fascinating to watch me nearly careening off of every lamp post, blind man, and building corner in my path.
She explained that it might be because of my astigmatism or more accurately, my amblyopia (lazy eye). When I was about six or seven years old, I was made to wear an eye patch over one eye to try to strengthen the weak one. I was a child pirate. Imagine the ridicule that one brought.
It all seems to make sense now. I don't know what the heck I'm going to do about it. There's probably nothing I can do, but knowing makes me a bit more comfortable and confident.
That brings me to my upcoming trip on the Appalachian Trail. I'll need to make sure I don't trip over roots, run into trees/snakes/bears/poison ivy, or misjudge the edge of any cliffs I pass by while I'm easin' on down the long green tunnel.
I'll take all that under advisement.
But, I'm sure Brian will throw me a line if I need one.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
TRAIL MINUS 284 DAYS AND COUNTING