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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Hardest Kind of Learning
The hardest kind of learning happens in the night
when you wake from the weight
of a single thought
that settles
in your mind
like a
that finally hits the ocean floor
long after it leaves your grasp,
and you sit upright—eyes wide in the dark…
still holding in the gasp.
It takes a long time for some things to hit me. I can talk about a fact or event, mark it on a calendar, believe it's real, anticipate it, etc., but sometimes things just don't hit me until they happen. Sometimes, in fact, they hit me long afterwards.
Take last week's Florida trip with our seniors. We had a great time, came home, and stepped right back into reality. Yesterday I stared at some pictures of Destin that made it all seem like a blur. Tomorrow night those seniors graduate. One year ago on this same Friday night, my second daughter graduated. Where did that year go?

Four years ago on that night, my oldest daughter graduated. In exactly one month, she's getting married to her high school sweetheart who marched with her on that night. We've been talking about their wedding since July; it's marked on the calendar; I know it's real and I'm very happy about it; we're anticipating a great event... but it hasn't hit me yet—not fully. I wonder when it will.

I wrote the poem above several years ago after snapping out of a dream that sat me up in bed.

In the years following my father's death, I would randomly dream that he was with us again in very familiar settings. It was as if he was "on leave" from heaven. We were all aware that he would not be there long, but it felt natural and we'd not say or do anything that would cut short the visit. It's been years since I've had one of these pleasant dreams, but the night I wrote the lines I had awakened from one in which I was trying to say something to Dad alone.

The Christmas Break before Dad died we were visiting home. Dad and I had discussed something the night before I drove back to Iowa from Michigan. [I was putting my nose in my parents business and telling him to hire a contractor to build the breezeway since Mom had been waiting for years. He was disappointed that I had intruded and simply assured me that her breezeway would be done soon enough. I regretted having said anything.]  When we hugged goodbye on the driveway, I sensed we still needed better closure. I regretted that I had spoken my mind the night before, but I didn't say anything. I later wrote him a card about it and told him how much he meant to me. Mom assured me he got the letter and appreciated it and that everything was fine. Dad and never talked about it again, and our phone calls made me more eager to visit face to face over Spring Break, but before that time together came, we were called for his funeral.
The evening after the service, Mom called her five kids back to their bedroom to give all us an article of Dad's clothing. As we were sorting through things, I found my long handwritten card in the top of his sock drawer. I was happy to see it there. I left the letter and took an old polo shirt of Dad's. Some may think it strange, but twelve years later I still have that shirt in a Ziploc bag. I love the smell of it.

Anyway, the night I woke from this dream, I wanted to say something "in person" to Dad, but reality started seeping into the cracks of the dream and he was suddenly no longer sitting on the couch when I turned to talk to him. I sat up in bed, holding in an empty sob then blurting into the darkness, "You were right, Dad!"
The gravity of thought is measured not by weight but impact.
A week ago this morning, as our return jet was taking off from Florida, I looked out the window and saw the turquoise water by the white sand become deeper and deeper blue. It reminded me of this title poem.
Our first full day in Destin, we were all swimming in that lightest band of blue. Some of the seniors had never been in the ocean. One was seriously afraid as she put it, "because of all the fish and sharks and stuff out there," but she eventually joined us.
Some of her classmates reassured her there were no sharks in the "gulf" part of the ocean. I didn't say anything, of course, but that isn't true. The strange thing about the ocean is that sharks, whales, and all sorts of sea creatures really are "out there" in the deep. It's just so vast we tend not to trip over them as we swim in the waves.
To illustrate the metaphor of this poem: if you were on an ocean liner over the average depth of the ocean (about 2.5 miles deep), it would take hours for a rock dropped from your hand to hit the ocean floor. If the ship were traveling at standard cruising speed (roughly 30 MPH), you could be 70 miles or more from the splash point when the rock poofs in the silt on the ocean floor. That's hard to fathom, isn't it?
Wreckage of the RMS Titanic (postcard above) was found at about 12,500 feet below the surface. That's ten Empire State Buildings down.
"The oceans are WAY deeper below sea level than the cruising altitude of our jet from Destin to Detroit was above it. The Marianas Trench is over 33,000 feet deep, nearly three times as deep as the ocean floor. Even whales never go below 3,500 feet. They only go deeper when they die. Yes, like all creatures, whales eventually die and most of them sink to the ocean floor as "whale falls." They are preserved in the near freezing temperatures for several decades and each huge carcass creates a macabre "feeding" ecosystem all its own.
The ocean depths still hold many mysteries—that's why it's called the final frontier of earth. If my timid student had seen this video or these creatures of the deep, we would never have convinced her to take her first dip in salt water.

Learning facts like this about the less familiar faces and places of the sea is fun and easy with the internet, but the facts of life are just splashes in the water. The Hardest Kind of Learning happens some time later when the realities of life finally settle in.

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Blogger Jody said...

Which is why wisdom comes time and experience...and I am beginning to 'enjoy' the aging process I am in the midst of in life. I enjoyed this post, your thoughts, your stories, and your poetry again here, Tom. Always so insightful, practical, and interesting rolled into one.

31/5/07 8:19 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

I love the poem and definitely learned more about the ocean - maybe too much after viewing some of those creatures! Yikes!

Julie in Colorado

31/5/07 12:23 PM  
Blogger Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I liked the poem too. You covered a lot of ground with this post.

31/5/07 1:18 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Gaining wisdom as you age is not automatic, but when we do it sure is a bonus. I've put the relevant posts from "Borne" to this one into a color booklet to use as cards with our gifts for the seniors.

I've been googling ocean info since last week. It is fascinating. I agree about those deep sea species--they look like pure science fiction. Fortunately, they never come up from the depths. I'm confident there's still lots to discover down there.

Perhaps too much ground for one post. It's really two posts: (1)what prompted the poem in the first place and (2) why it came to mind last week. My wife is out of town so I wrote last night until I got tired.

31/5/07 5:31 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Of course, my favorite in your post is about your dad. I had the same kind of dreams about my dad after he died suddendly. It has been a long time since I've had that kind of dream but I look forward to the next one! The poem so accurately describes the experience.

I also enjoyed the ocean "stuff". I love science and get caught up in internet info sometimes. It just opens so many doors in my mind.

This is a very sentimental time of the year and with the approaching wedding you get a double dose. Treasure each moment!

31/5/07 6:30 PM  
Blogger the walking man said...

Yes being a smart mule...but i found that loss of both short term and long term memory is the best solution for waking up in the middle of the night...swimming in the ocean and getting hit by that rock also helps too.

I have a child getting married this year, I do remember giving him a check to help pay for it but when is it or more importantly how much did I give him?

*sigh* i guess this heartbeat is good enough for now.

31/5/07 8:03 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I remember a post of yours several months ago about a teddy bear made of your father's coat. The strange thing about those dreams was how casual and "normal" it felt to interact. I didn't particularly like the movie CONTACT with Jody Foster, but the surreal scene when she's talking with her father on a beach is sort of how it feels, but we'd just be eating a meal or something at my mom's house. My siblings have had the same kind of dreams.

Life sometimes is one heartbeat at a time. Am I remembering correctly that you were in the navy? If so, you've probably spent some time on the surface of that 12,500 average depth. I've never been out far enough to lose sight of the shore. My wife and I have "a deal" on hold for a cruise, but we can't seem to find the time to take it.

31/5/07 9:22 PM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

This is one piece that will require study on my part, that is I am going to have to read it two or three times in order to get its full impact.

I love the visual way you present your poem, Tom.

31/5/07 11:12 PM  
Blogger HeiressChild said...

beautiful posts tom. the hardest kinds of learning make the deepest impact--perhaps because of the hardness we endure thru the situation. i'm glad i am where i am in life. when a younger person calls me old, (being smart), i tell them they'd better hope they live as long as i have, know as much as i do, and look as good as i look. *lol* (that last part is funny). a great teaching you've given us. thanx.

1/6/07 1:09 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

You noticed! When I first jotted down the thoughts years ago, they were not in this form, but every now and then I like to try the various techniques used in poetry. This form is an attempt at suggesting the splash at the surface, the sinking of the thought, and the spreading poof of the impact on the ocean floor. =)

It's funny but because of your blogger name including the word "child" in it, I've always assumed you were younger and therefore immune from having anyone call you old. =)
Glad to know you are among us "older and wiser" types. =)
I think I know the meaning of your blogger name, but could you direct me to a post that explains it?

1/6/07 5:53 AM  
Blogger the walking man said...

Generally speaking the horizon is 15 miles away due to the curvature of the earth, 25 miles from shore and you can no longer see ambient man made light and the stars become like you're in the far desert where you can see all of them.

On it, we occasionally had swim call in it, three men posted with rifles watching for fins of sharks and two life boats in the water in case a sailor forgot he learned how to swim in boot camp.

But that is for the next chapter of the Walking man Story "Going to sea" when i feel like writing it.


1/6/07 6:38 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thanks for the update on my questions. That is just what I was looking for. Those effects happen out in Great Lakes, too, but the average depth is only 279 feet (It's deepest part is 923 feet. Meaning over 500 feet of the Empire State Building would still be above water if it were in the deepest part of Lake Michigan.) Not to mention it doesn't have all those bizarre deep see species, whales, giant squid, sharks, etc. So I can see why the sailors felt better with a "fin patrol."
If you do write the story, write two versions and make one PG so my daughter can learn about "Going to Sea" without seeing and hearing more than she should. =)
I think that would be a great post.

1/6/07 3:34 PM  
Blogger the walking man said...

I'll try for a pg version, being to sea is one of the most memorable parts of my life.

1/6/07 7:42 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

I liked the poem. The entry was a b it long but interesting. It made one stop and think.

1/6/07 8:22 PM  
Blogger Tracie said...

Very VERY nice Tom. I love the poem.

1/6/07 10:32 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Looking forward to it. Are you familiar with John Masefield's poem "Sea Fever." I think the opening line is "I must go down to the sea again to the lonely sea and the sky/and all I ask is tall ship and a star to steer her by." Something like that...at the end there's something about a sailor telling a yarn. =)

Dr. John,
I knew it would be too long from the start. It's really two post but I hate to separate them when (at least in my mind) they were directly related. At any rate, I'm glad it held your interest. I learned a bunch of new stuff in that second part. (I never heard of Whale Falls and never even wondered about what happens to all the whales that die of natural causes "out there." Read that link...it's kind of creepy.

I'm sure we've all had those "sit up in the night" moments of truth. In this case I've never forgotten it. As a former teacher, I can say there is a tendency in education to equate "learning" with the gathering of facts, and it's true that leads to knowledge, but I have met many truly wise people in life who had far less "knowledge" than those who benefited from their wisdom. Sorry about taking so long to say knowledge and wisdom are two different things.

2/6/07 9:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You craft words well in creative and unexpected ways and have a talent for evoking unusual imagery...or describing heartbreak.
Keep writing and I'll keep reading.

2/6/07 10:55 PM  
Blogger Mike M said...

Great blog!! I will be back for more!!


3/6/07 9:13 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I suspect you are related to me. =) If I'm wrong, take that as a compliment. Seriously, I do enjoy the craft of writing (more so than say the craft of making potholders at camp =)and knowing my words makes sense is very encouraging. Thank you.

Welcome to POI. We look forward to your return.

3/6/07 1:57 PM  
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4/10/07 12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too have had those same types of dreams of dad's brief visits. You describe them as happy dreams and they are, but, like you, I always seem to leave things unsaid. It's funny, I had the first one of those dreams sleeping in Fort Walton Beach FL at the end of April 1995 -- less than 15 miles from Destin and less than 30 days after his passing. That flight back to Michigan from Eglin Air Force base was filled with much reminiscing and tears. When we flew back to Florida on April 9, we were able to look down on the same sea strand that you show in the picture. I recall earlier on
April 1, that Heather and I were going to call Mom and Dad as joke and tell them we were pregnant -- we didn't. Little did I know that day and that "joke" were to become so poignant in my life. Thank God for his strength in the storms of life!
Love, your lil brother, Jim

1/1/08 12:56 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Until your birthday party last Sunday, I didn't know you had written this comment. I often miss comments on old posts.

I did not know (or did not remember) that it was from Fort Walton Beach that you flew home for Dad's funeral. Funny how things like that are forever etched in our minds.

I'm so glad I was able to come to your 40th Birthday party. I was able to go to mom and Dad's grave, see our 97-year-old grandmother, and celebrate with you all in one afternoon--and on Mother's Day no less. Driving Mom's car home alone, I was singing all the songs she taught us as children. The next morning I woke from a dream in which I was talking to Mom on the phone about the evening we shared. She was happy that we'd gotten together, but said, "It make me feel..." but then she didn't finish the sentence. "Left out..." I whispered. "Yeah, sort of." She admitted, but her voice was not sad. Then for a split second I could not remember why she wasn't with us at your party. Then I woke up.

14/5/08 1:44 PM  

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