I’d Rather Be a Happy Turtle (Chinese) from “3 Timeless Parables For Regaining Perspective” (http://www.dailygood.org/more.php?n=4871&fb_source=message)
Assabet River June 2011
Zhuang Zi was a brilliant philosopher and strategist who lived in ancient China. His abilities were many and several rulers sought his services. One of them, King Wei, sent his courtiers out to Zhuang Zi’s pastoral home to invite him to come to Wei’s court and be the leader’s chief counselor. They found him there fishing by the river bank.
Seeing his poor situation, they thought Zhuang Zi would jump at the chance for status and reward. Yet when they made their proposal to him, he said, “Once upon a time there was a sacred turtle, which was happy living his life in the mud. Yet, because he was sacred, the king’s men found him, took him to the royal palace, killed him and used his shell to foresee the future. Now tell me, would that turtle prefer to have given up his life to be honored at the palace, or would he rather be alive and enjoying himself in the mud?”
The courtiers responded that, of course, the turtle would be happier in the mud.
To which Zhuang Zi replied, “And so you have my answer. Go home and let me be a happy turtle here in the mud.”
A friend sent me this parable a week ago. It’s been a very hard month for me and this parable really spoke to me. But, 23 progress reports to write, numerous assessments to correct, a new graduate course to teach, a paper to write for a course I am in, three after-school meetings, and two broken hearts to soothe, put this blog on the back burner. But I promised myself when I finished my progress reports, that this post would be my reward. So, instead of researching the Colonial America unit, checking grad student responses, or working on foundation stuff, I need to respond to this parable.
Storm Drain Behind Our School 1/27/2012
For the past two weeks, I have spent a lot of time in storm drain areas. The key to getting water samples from these outfalls is that you need to be out there when it is precipitating. So, myself and three students have done just that. We have been out in rain, snow, and sun. I’ve also spent some time before the sun comes up gathering samples from other locations for the students to analyze. To some, this may not seem like a good time, but for me and my three students, it has been exhilarating. The students also blogged about this:
“My most memorable experience was going down to the Storm Drain when it was freezing cold and raining. This probably doesn’t sound like much fun, but we got to see and take samples of what it looks like when the water comes out of the drain, and where it goes.”
“Reflecting back, even though I learned a lot every time we conducted experiments or visited the river, there was one time that really stood out that I learned the most from. The time that we visited the storm drain when it was raining really increased my understanding of my group, the other factors of the SuAsCo Watershed. When we marched down there, the storm drain was full of mucky water and there was a streams of polluted water heading towards the river. This raised my understanding of my group because before that, I thought of a pollutant as a simple fluid or solid or gas that makes it harder for plants and/or animals to grow. But here I was staring down at this filthy water that contains all of the town’s contaminants sitting in an area of ground with absolutely nothing alive. Now I knew what pollutants we were dealing with more than ever.”
“The most memorable experience I have had so far is going down to the river for the first time to get samples when it
Following the Path of the Storm Drain 1/27/2012
was pouring rain. We went outside and there was snow and ice and we were expecting only a few drops of water to be coming out of the storm drain but we got there and found a huge pool with water rushing out of the pipe and a fast moving stream of runoff leading into the river. We were all cold and soaking wet while taking the samples but when we got inside the things that we found were definitely worth the trip.”
Standing in a pool of water, watching the water rush out of the rusty outfall pipe has been an incredible experience. I have been going down to the river for six years behind our school, but I am now looking at it with an entirely different lens. But even more than a different lens, it has reinforced my belief that I am like Zhuang Zi: I’d rather be a happy turtle in the mud than just about anything else. And the funny thing is that some of my students are also becoming happy turtles in the mud as well.
Moore's Swamp June 2011
Over the past year, I have had the privilege to watch Blanding’s turtle hatchlings hatch, release two turtles back into a swamp, track nesting female turtles, look for released head-starts, and sink a six-foot PVC gauge into the middle of a vernal pool three (soon to be four) times. Each of these experiences have provided me with a huge rush. Like standing in the pouring rain collecting samples from numerous storm drains, to feeling the cool water in a swamp, to sitting on the banks of the Assabet River, this teacher is totally happy when participating in these types of experiences. For me, there is something liberating, something that really makes me feel alive when I’m mucking around out in the natural world. There is something joyful and soulful while I am involved in these experiences. One of my students wrote about sinking the vernal pool gauge for the second time: My memorable experience during the project was sinking the gauges. Even though this was due to the fact that it got stolen, it was still fun to go trudging in the mud and sink a gauge. It was just exciting to go in water/mud that was about a 2 feet tall and sink a gauge. Now don’t ask me why it was fun it just was.
One of my favorite songs from the show “Glee” is “Singing in the Rain”
I’m singin’ in the rain
Just singin’ in the rain
What a glorious feeling
And I’m happy again
I’m laughing at clouds
So dark, up above
I’m singin’, singin’ in the rain.
Great Meadows July 2011
This parable came from a blog entitled “3 Timeless Parables to Regain Perspective”. Standing in the middle of a downpour yesterday in a stream created by the storm water helps me regain the perspective of what is important. This allows me to appreciate that life is glorious, that simple things like being out in a driving rainstorm can make me happy. The greatest gift that I can give to my students is to also pass on that it is not the status or reward that Zhuang Zi passed up, but it is the simple things in life; the ability to appreciate things like storm drains and catch basins and muddy vernal pools, the joyfulness of standing in the pouring rain, the ability to be a happy turtle in the mud is the only status that truly matters.