Previous month:
September 2018
Next month:
November 2018

October 2018

The Power of Passion

 

Tucker Winstanley
Personal Narrative – The Power of Passion
10/31/18

The Ocean is My Refuge

Screen Shot 2018-10-31 at 8.38.03 PM

"Follow your passion, it will lead to your purpose"

~Unknown

    The ocean is a gift to all who passionately enjoy it. It brings me peace and calm in a busy world. Each summer, when school ends and soccer takes a hiatus, I move to Kennebunkport, Maine for the summer. There is much to love about this town – my friends from all over the Country, my job as a CIT teaching tennis, the local Ben & Jerry’s and candy shop, the beaches, skim boarding and tubing. But, I’d trade it all for my time on the water. This summer I spent every free moment on Nemo, a small whaler I learned to drive early in the summer. Nemo is my escape from  chaotic days. One day, in late July, I took Nemo out past the jetty to the mile marker. The seas were fair, with small rolling swells. My goal was to catch mackerel to use as live bait to catch striped bass back at the docks. I cast my line and it was not long before I had five in my live well. One might think with my bucket full that I would head back home and yet, I seem to always find a way to prolong my time on the water. On the water, time stands still, my head clears and my heart is full. It is a refuge from daily life. It’s an unfiltered connection to the environment. Except for an occasional engine roaring by, it is almost silent on the water. There nobody asks me to do anything. I have total freedom to just be. I know it’s not realistic to think that I can always have this peaceful, carefree time, but I cherish it. There’s no question I am passionate about my time on the ocean. I would never presume that you are, but I hope that you have that place that you are passionate about, that brings you peace and calm, and visit as often as you can.


The Call of the Wild

Tucker Winstanley

Freshman English

10/28/18

Adapting to Challenges in the Klondike

 

“So that was the way. No fair play. Once down, that was the end of you.”

― Jack London, The Call of the Wild (Chapter 2)

    The wild wolf advanced, but Buck held his ground and their two noses made contact. As the wind whistled through the trees, the wolf tilted his head to the sky and howled. Other pack members sat down and howled and Buck joined their shrill call. The wolves were neither friend nor enemy. Suddenly, the leader of the pack dashed into the woods and the others followed. Buck followed and now the pack was complete. Charles Darwin once said, “it is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” In the book, The Call of The Wild, Jack London presents several examples of both humans and dogs who have suffered in the wilderness from the consequences of not adapting. Buck, the story’s main character, quickly learns that not only do adaptors survive, but that his own survival will require him to adapt to an even greater extreme by devolving from a domesticated dog to a wild beast.


    Of all of the humans and dogs in The Call of the Wild, Buck, a half St. Bernard half Scotch-shepherd mix, understands best the role of natural selection and adaptation. Kidnapped and sold by dog traders, Buck is taken from his gentle life as a domesticated pet and thrown into the life of a working sled dog in the harsh Klondike – a role he is initially unprepared for. Used and traded by several masters and working with different dogs, Buck witnesses examples where humans like Hal, Charles and Mercedes and dogs like Curly die because they have not adapted the skills to survive. Buck learns from their deaths. At the end of Chapter Two, Buck is famished due to a shortage of food for the sled dogs. Starving, Buck realizes that he has to adapt new behaviors to survive in the pack:

“He swiftly lost the fastidiousness which had characterized his old life…While he was fighting off two or three (dogs); he ate as fast as they; and, so greatly did hunger compel him, he was not above taking what did not belong to him… This first theft marked Buck as fit to survive in the hostile Northland environment. It marked his adaptability, his capacity to adjust himself to changing conditions, the lack of which would have meant swift and terrible death.” (Chapter 2)

This simple scene around feeding time shows how Buck has adapted to his new life in the traces. In his past, Buck is mindful of being respectful and polite. In the Klondike, however, Buck recognizes that to have the energy he needs to pull the sled and fight off other dogs, he needs to aggressively and quickly eat while at the same time maintaining a watchful eye on other dogs that might attack him. This multitasking proves to be important for Buck’s survival. In addition, Buck is now willing to steal food from other dogs. While this is likely outside the morals of a domesticated dog, it is what is required of Buck to survive in the wilderness. This scene is just one example of small but effective adaptations Buck makes to both his behavior and his mindset to survive life in the wilderness.

    By Chapter Seven, Buck moves past minor adaptations in his behavior to a more significant decision to devolve into a wild beast to survive. While at first Buck’s greatest threats were his masters’ “club” and the “fang” of other sled dogs, it becomes clear that the greatest danger to Buck is the wolves outside of his camp. In response, Buck physically gets stronger and tougher and emotionally he develops instincts of the wild wolves he once feared and devolves into a killing beast:

“The blood-longing became stronger than ever before. He was a killer, a thing that preyed, living on things that lived…surviving triumphantly in a hostile environment where only the strong survived.” (Chapter 7)

Now the stakes are higher. It is no longer about being a messy eater, or stealing from another dog to survive. Now it is about killing to survive. At this point in the story, Buck doesn’t just think he needs to make changes, he is “longing” to be a killer. This shift in Buck, from recognizing that he needs to adapt to devolving to the point that he instinctively and deeply needs to prey as a “killer”, shows he has moved from consciously making changes around how he eats amongst the dogs to instinctively acting and thinking like a wolf.

    The Call of the Wild should be a required reading for all high school students because it is not only suspenseful, but it provides important lessons on survival that humans that can learn from. Most stories need a challenge or conflict that characters face to move the story along. The themes of survival of the fittest and devolution to survive provide this focus to The Call of the Wild. These themes are important to the book because without them this would be a somewhat boring book on sled-dogs and their masters' long trip across Alaska. The need to adapt or die and the decision by Buck to devolve to a wild beast are responses to conflict that make the story interesting. The theme of survival of the fittest and the importance of evolving, or in Buck’s case devolving, provide important lessons for humans who must adapt like Buck. Buck’s example is extreme, but it demonstrates the importance of being flexible and adjusting to meet the situation one has been faced with. The theme of survival of the fittest is right from Darwin’s textbook. The only difference is that here, in a little over 100 pages, London is able to teach the reader this concept subtly and in a way that is more interesting than a textbook by providing examples of how characters’ decisions around adaptation and evolution impact them over time.


    By the end of the story, the change in Buck is significant. He has adapted to his environment. His strategy has been to devolve into a wolf. The reader is left to wonder how Buck has changed so much and what will happen to him. The author reassures the reader in his last few words of the book that there is no question that Buck’s adaptation and devolution were exactly what he needed to do and that all is right because of it:

“He may be seen running at the head of the pack, through the pale moonlight or glimmering borealis, leaping gigantic above his fellows, his great throat a-bellow as he sings a song of the younger world, which is the song of the pack.” (Chapter 7 )



 












London, Jack, et al. The Call of the Wild. Puffin, 2013.




The Power of Family

 

Tucker Winstanley

Freshman English - Personal Narrative

10/25/18

 

 Family Sticks Together

IMG_5965

“Surround yourself only with people who are going to take you higher”

~Oprah Winfrey

    Healing the sick takes both modern medicine and the old-fashioned support of extended family. When I heard my grandfather had cancer I knew it would take an expert team of doctors and effort from our family to surround my grandfather with love and support in a way only a family can. At six years old I remember being crushed when I heard my grandfather, someone I considered invincible, could die of cancer. That night, as we sat around the family  dinner table, it was clear to all of us, that we could not sit back and hope doctors could heal him. He needed our love and support to get through this. My grandfather received the best care at MGH, for which I was grateful. Extended family cooked meals for my grandfather and helped with errands. But, there was a sadness and tiredness in my grandfather. My response was like any six year old - I colored him a card. He loved it and taped it to the mirror in his house. Each day I drew a card and dropped it off or took a photo and emailed it to him. These cards seemed to lift his spirits and he brought them to his treatments and shared them with nurses, doctors and other patients. Soon, all the grandchildren and children were taking turns making the daily card and the collection grew. At the same time my grandfather’s energy and smile grew. We were helping him by lifting his spirits so he had the energy to handle his radiation. Thankfully, he is now eight years cancer-free. I believe the Western medicine combined with the love and support provided by my family, cured my grandfather. Family brings unconditional love that helps cure those things that hurt us. If you don’t have your own close family, don’t worry. Family does not need to be blood-related. Find that group that cares for you unconditionally, and harness the power of your family to take care of each other.




Defining Relationships

Tucker Winstanley

Literary Reflection

Mr. Fitzsimmon’s Class

10/10/18

Every Relationship Defines Who You Will Become

Screen Shot 2018-10-12 at 7.52.34 PM

You are who you are by virtue of the company you keep.

-       T.B. Joshia

    The people you surround yourself with over time will eventually shape who you become. Jack London’s novel, The Call of the Wild, talks about this idea through the relationships Buck has with his various masters. Personally, the meaningful, long-term relationships in my life are with my relatives, teachers, coaches, and friends. Besides my friends, I have had no control over choosing these relationships. Not all of these relationships have been positive, and yet all of them have shaped me. Although Buck is just a dog, the author is able to use Buck’s relationships with his owners to show the impact close relationships can have in one’s life. While Buck has several owners with whom he has symbiotic relationships, there are others with whom he struggles. But each of these relationships plays a role in who Buck becomes and how he evolves over his lifetime.

 

    Written in 1903, The Call of the Wild tells the story of Buck, a St. Bernard mix, whose life is defined in many ways by the various masters who come to own him over the years. The story is set on the West Coast of the United States and Canada. At the start of the book, Buck is living with his master, Judge Miller, in Santa Clara California. There Buck has “the dignity that comes of good living and universal respect.” (The Call of the Wild, Jack London, page 3) But when Buck is suddenly kidnapped by the Judge’s gardener, Manuel, he is forced to move north to less civilized parts of Canada where he faces for the first time a number of tormentors who care less about his well-being and more about the money they can make off of him and their ability to dominate him. A stout man with a red sweater is one of the tormentors early on who referred to Buck as a “red-eyed devil” and is the first of many to strike Buck into obedience. Here Buck learns that “a man with a club is a lawgiver, a master to be obeyed, though not necessarily conciliated.” (13) Then there are the French Canadians, Perrault and Francois. He doesn’t love these men, but they recognize that Buck is hardworking and so even though they whip him, they are fair, calm and impartial.  Here Buck learns the importance of hard work and how to lead. When they are forced to give up Buck, he lands with the Scotch half-breed, who is more than willing to shoot dogs who cannot perform, which is a very quick lesson in how he views his relationship between he and Buck. When sold to Hal and Charles, he finds himself with masters who were “slack in all things, without order or discipline” (76), irritable, impatient, willing to beat Buck for not meeting their unrealistic demands, and lacking in gentleness. “They were callous to the suffering of their animals.” (81) With these masters Buck is barely living and has lost all spirit. It is not until the end of the book when Buck is rescued by Thornton that he finds “love, genuine passionate love.” (90) Buck’s relationship with Thornton is based on respect, devotion and faithfulness. It is the relationship that Buck has always looked for, but he cannot forget the relationships of his past. As he has moved from master to master, the harsh working conditions and masters have shaped him in ways that he can never undo. Even though he has landed in a great place with Thornton, he cannot escape the fact that his previous masters have left their imprint on him.

 

    I’d like to think that who I am is independent of those around me and yet I know from personal experience that I am affected by them. One example, for me is the various coaches I have had in club soccer over the years. There have been those that have been very invested in my development, respectful of me as a player on and off the field, and fair and honest with me as an individual. They have cheered for me when I have earned it and forgiven me when I have fallen short of what they expect. But, there have also been coaches who have treated me and my teammates terribly. They have criticized, instilled fear, embarrassed, guilted and argued for no reason. They show up at the practice or game mad and they take it out on the players. Like Buck, I cherish the coaches who wanted nothing but the best. They worked hard for me and I work hard for them. And, the nasty coaches, well sometimes they just got me down, and other times they made me angry enough to want to be better, to show them, to stand up to them. Buck has both of these types of relationships and both of them define who he is and who he becomes. When I play soccer, I can’t help but have a little bit of each of these coaches in me, for better or for worse.

 

    London wrote this book not to point out the importance of the relationship between dogs and their master, but to show the reader how important their own relationships are in who they become in their life. Through Buck’s travels with these masters we see the positive and negative impact people and relationships can have on others.

 

    Like Buck, we all aren’t always lucky enough to choose who we are in relationships with, but if given the chance to choose your company, do so very carefully.