We learn our lessons at every moment. Sometimes hardship serves as tutor, and sometimes joy.
My upbringing traumatized me, but I enjoyed a number of special times. In fact, when your parents don’t care about you and encourage you to stay away from home, you are more free than kids who are watched and protected. At age twelve a friend of mine and I started sailing each summer from Marina del Rey in Los Angeles to Catalina Island some thirty miles offshore. We’d go for two weeks each time, and scuba dive every day. Not many parents would have trusted two youngsters to independently do something so potentially hazardous, but both Mark and I were free.
A couple of times my dad flew in for a few days of scuba diving. I remember fondly those times with him and probably should give him more credit for showing me that attention. One of the most beautiful experiences of my life happened while he and I were diving together.
The underwater landscape around Catalina consists of amber colored kelp forests, which grow from reefs of rough rock that through the otherwise sandy sea bottom. The kelp fronds extend from their reef anchors up to the surface thirty feet above, and they weave a thick, floating mat on the rolling ocean surface. We had just exited one of these kelp stands and were swimming through open water toward another ‘grove’, when we found ourselves surrounded by a school of grunion. The grunion is a silver fish about six inches long, nondescript but with a cosmopolitan tendency to swim together in massive numbers. Thousands of animals schooled around us.
What struck me then, and even more now, was the incredible coordination of their movements. Although the fish could no doubt see each other and feel their collective vibrations in the water, the synchrony of their migration seemed far more precise than could be explained on those bases. The scene was astonishing. All the animals would turn together in what seemed like an instant, as if an invisible message had been transmitted, making the crowd …