The Northern Michigan JournalPREVIOUSNEXT

by Mark Smith

"This is the biggest challenge I've ever had to face in my life."
--Heard on NPR this morning in a story about a third generation rancher in Fargo whose cattle are frozen under 12 feet of snow.
"You're either a survivor or you're not a survivor."
--Tony Bullimore, rescued lone yachtsman
Tony Bullimore was counting his blessings on January 10, having been rescued in the Southern Ocean by the Australians after a four day ordeal of survival in an upturned sailboat. Alone in 50 foot seas, Bullimore survived on very little water, and half a chocolate bar. His story is inspiring. The pitch black hole of an airtight bulwark was his home for four miserable days. He survived, suffering only mild hypothermia and frostbite. "I really thought I'd bought my ticket this time," said Bullimore.

Bullimore's mental toughness was obviously a factor in his survival, and in true British fashion he scoffed at the idea that he might need trauma counselling. Bullimore said he would much prefer a beer. "You work it out for yourself, what would you sooner do: go and have a beer down the pub or be counselled? It doesn't take much to work that one out, does it?" (Times of London, Jan. 14) While admitting that he was "slightly emotional" at the huge crowds that welcomed him home, Bullimore seemed determined to go back and do it again at the first opportunity. No big deal. Is he "in denial" or is he just well adjusted?

Meanwhile, out in Fargo, the wind blows and the snow drifts. You think we've got it bad? Imagine having to dig your way out of a second story Otter Creek Music of Suttons Bay--on and offline, the best source for all your music window in the middle of the night, in sub zero temperatures, in an effort to get to your stranded cattle and dig a path for them to escape the storm. It takes a special kind of determination to endure that kind of hardship. Perhaps the key lies in the word challenge.

We in Northern Michigan know what hard winters are like. Those who cope well with these days full of snow know enough not to take it personally. It's a challenge, not a punishment. This is the time of year when Mother Nature forces introspection on her wayward children. Keep it in the realm of the physical. It's a challenge. Nothing philosophical or existential needs enter into the equation. Days without sun can trigger seasonally adjusted depression. Best not to take it any further than that. Best not to contemplate the deeper meanings of life when nature is at a low ebb. It's a challenge, an endurance contest at times, but ultimately a real experience. I think we like it that way.
Also by Mark Smith
Learning the Language
back to school...
Whip It Good!
Man v. March
Redemption Songs
The Art of Teaching in the Age of Information.
Mark Smith is a teacher at Leland Public School. Among other things, he edits and webmasters a journal of student and teacher writing, The Beechnut Review.

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