Learning was the last thing on our minds when donning our swimming costumes we made a dash for the silvery sands of the Varca beach, in Goa. We never set out with any remotest agenda that we might learn about the sea creatures; about how to brave the rising and crashing waves; about the saltiness of the water and whether that makes swimming easy or difficult compared to fresh water.
And yet, in the middle of all the energetic playing and bathing and jumping in the waves, the amount of observation and conversation that ensued makes me wonder at the magic of natural, unplanned, unscheduled learning. The same kind of learning that I wrote about in Part 1 of the “Learning Every Moment” series: Learning on the Railway Platform.
In this post, I’m capturing some deep and tender learning moments from the silvery Varca beach of Goa.
Connecting With Star Fishes on the Beach
While jumping up and down in the waves and trying to find our foot-hold, we could have missed those beautiful, tender creatures on the ocean floor. But, one glimpse at the lone and lovely star fish made us stop and stoop – to get a closer look. The waves came flooding over the star fish, hindering the view. That made me run at once to a little boy on the shore who was sitting next to his beach play-kit. I requested him and his mother to lend me a strainer for a few minutes and I ran back to where the star fish was.
I gently scooped the star fish onto the strainer with an inch of water in it.
Now, it was easier to touch it, get a good long look and admire its tenderness; brood over its vulnerability and reflect on its forlorn, defenseless status…
Pari touched it in the kindest sort of way so as not to hurt it; all the while wondering if she might unknowingly step on some star fish in the waves below, on the sand.
We placed the star fish on the shore and spent some more time looking at it to notice any visible signs of movement – it was so still.
The previous evening when we first came on the beach, Pari was quite scared of the wildness of it. She wouldn’t let go of Avie’s hand. But this time, she was much more relaxed and was soon playing on her own and insisted that we do not hold or support her. I think that spending the first 30 minutes in shallow water with the star fish, made her comfortable and relaxed. The ferocious image of the sea, in her mind, was replaced by the gentle and delicate interaction with the star fish.
In the next couple of hours on the sand and in the water, a number of questions and discussions transpired. From why our eyes burnt when sea water sprayed to how the salty water affects swimming vis-a-vis fresh water to why we balance better when sitting with our back to the waves…
The observation was intense. Watching the colours of the horizon change from sky blue to mustard to orange and then scarlet and finally deep purple was a live tutorial in art.
Spending so much time looking below at the star fish also made her acutely aware of the pattered floor of the sea and how it soothed and massaged the soles of her feet.
The tiny weeny shells with gorgeous ridges was the most beautiful sight of the evening for me. Beauty indeed lies in detail. I collected a bunch of those to embellish a mirror or a picture frame.
In my previous ‘Learning Every Moment’ story, I shared that being receptive to our curious instinct and sense of wonder is the key to natural learning. Also, being humble and accepting that what we know is just a tip of the iceberg; that learning never stops – will lead to a lifetime love for learning.
Through this story, I observed that natural learning will flourish when we slow down to soak up the beauty around us. Living at the pace we do in our urban dwellings, we never have the time to connect with ourselves, let alone with our environment and surroundings. Even when we go holidaying, we pack a dozen places to see in a limited span of time. All we want is full bang for the buck. The ‘bang’ we do get but it’s akin to battering of the soul.
So, let’s slow down. Take a deep breath. Look around. Soak in. Revel in our sense of wonder. We’re all life-time learners.
Are you not?