The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

My Old Kayak

I have recently returned to kayaking on the Swan River in the early morning or the late afternoon. This is a pastime I have enjoyed for many years, although there are often rather long hiatuses in between. It is a wonderful time of the year because, although it is cold, there is not much  wind and this makes for ideal paddling conditions. My kayak is old; 34 years old to be precise. I have thought about replacing it and getting a new one, but for the amount of kayaking I do, and the standard I am at, there seems little point. It is a perfectly good kayak and it has served me well, so there really is no reason to throw it away. It carries scars from collisions with rocks as well as the sturdy repairs of my father, a man far more well-versed in the art of fibre -glassing then I am.

I love getting out onto the river for many reasons. Below are some of them, which I think apply to life more generally. Hopefully both you and your son have something similar to  this which provides the opportunity to reflect on how you live your life.

Sometimes, I am tempted to turn off the alarm and go back to sleep. Some days it’s rough. Some mornings it’s cold and dark. Some evenings it rains. Some days I force myself to get up and go. Some days, I just can’t. There is always a part of me that knows it will be worth it. There is another part of me that knows I will be able to bask in the self-righteousness of knowing I have done a hard thing while many slumbered on or stayed inside where it is warm. Knowing we have done something challenging, that gives our routine a jolt, is a good thing.

Sometimes, there are stars still glowing. Sometimes there is the repetitive blinking of the red and green navigation markers. Sometimes there is the big old moon just sitting there waiting patiently for me to finish and the sun to rise. And some of the sunrises and sunsets I have seen have been spectacular. There is something special about the sky being reflected in the millpond of the water near Claremont. I feel a balance is restored to me afterward. To be outside, to be  in  the landscape, is a powerful thing.

I have learned to listen more intently. For the call of a seagull, for the engines of larger boats. And to look more closely. At the sky. At the world reflected in the water’s surface. Through the water to what lies beneath.  We can all be much more aware of the world around us.

At the start of my paddling, I pause, as I set myself the task – a direction and goal: which way is the wind blowing? Where am I heading and at what point will I turn and head for home? Half-way through, I get to the point of having to turn around and return to my start point. That is hard because I can see how far I have yet to go and I know there is no other way to get there but paddling. Sometimes, you just have to keep going.

I have developed what some might describe as a growth mindset which has started to infect other parts of my life: I try to go a little bit further than I thought I would; even if it is only thinking about going a little bit further, it is still a change in my approach to every task. I now entertain the possibility that I can do more and, by doing, so I find that I can.

At the end, I look forward to that moment as my kayak hits the beach; the satisfaction that I have done it. But there is also the knowing that the job isn’t done yet – I have to  get the kayak out of the water and lug it to the car and onto the roof rack. And then I  have to  lift it off again when I get home.  It’s a good feeling to know when the job is done, and it’s okay to reward myself in some small way.

I enjoy being alone; having time to think. I am always amazed at how few people there are out enjoying the river. I enjoy having to take a new perspective on things: in a kayak, you are low, close to the water level, looking up at the world. It is almost a child-like view, and it gives you a sense of scale and insignificance.

Sometimes, the wind does  blow  and I find myself fighting my very old, stubborn craft as it tries to head up into the wind and away from the direction I want to go.  Sometimes we  have to  work hard to move in the direction we wish to go.

Sometimes something unexpected occurs – dolphins jump out of the water as though in some sort of performance; or an osprey bathes itself in the shallows at Point Walter. But there are also familiar things – the nesting cormorants between the Scotch and Christchurch boat sheds; the marker at Point Resolution; the sandbar at Point Walter. Life is about finding a balance and a rhythm between the new and challenging and the familiar and comforting.

Wellbeing Events

We have had a busy two weeks, with the following events occurring or being planned and I am grateful to the many, many students and staff who have participated in these events and made them so enjoyable:

  • Year 2–12 gathering: 
    On Tuesday 16 June, we had over 40 Year 12s join our Year 2s in the Senior School library where they all read their favourite books, before we headed up to the lookout at the top of Collegians’ House and then had morning tea on the verandah;
  • Year 5–12 leaders’ gathering:
    On Wednesday 24June, our School Captain Charlie Bevan ran some team games with Year 12 and 5 leaders mixing in together to play tunnel ball and corner spry;
  • Junior School leaders’ lunch:
    I was fortunate to receive an invitation to this function thanking this semester’s leaders for the fine job they have done;
  • Junior School leaders’ speeches:
    Those boys keen to lead in the Junior School next semester addressed the school after lunch. The way the boys spoke was both thoughtful and respectful;
  • Year 6–8 Yogi in Residence: 
    Plans are well underway for us to run a week of Mindfulness in Middle School during class time in Week 2 of next term. More information will be provided to the boys closer to the date;
  • Middle School Boarding: 
    On Wednesday 24 June, I met with our Year 7 and 8 boarders for the first in a series of sessions designed to get them thinking about their own development, their wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around them. These will run in Week 10 and into next term;
  • Year 10 Wellbeing afternoon:
    On Thursday 18 June Helen Heppingstone ran a mindfulness session for all our Year 10s. Mr Williams spoke to the boys on the important topic of Intimate Images laws; and I talked about shifting their thinking and behaviour from that of a boy towards that of a good man;
  • Senior School Men’s Health Week:
    In Week 9, our Year 11 students ran House meetings and mentor sessions, exploring the idea of the ’new normal’ – looking at what we have learned about ourselves and our world since COVID-19 hit. In Chapel, Charlie Bevan spoke with three Year 11s who bravely shared their experiences during this time. Terry Zhou spoke about the challenges of being here in Australia and unable to get home to China; Brenton Macauley spoke about being back in the Kimberley and Josh Ledger spoke about being in Canberra with his family 
  • Brain Reset sessions:
    These continue   each Wednesday after school and we will continue to offer these sessions for Year 11s and 12s next term.