The Teacher Arrives

By late July, new school supplies were already on store shelves. It was a rude reminder that my quiet mornings of newspaper reading and making my cereal just so before heading to work were soon to end. In scarcely a month they’d be replaced by the daily melee of missing homework and lost shoes and frantic races to beat the school bell.

Also in late July, I got a call at work. The caller seemed to know me and the voice was familiar. I guessed it might be one of my Dixie relatives. It bore an obvious southern accent, slightly nasal and insistent but warm and good humored. “We gotta get you out of your chair,” said the voice. “My wife and I are coming up at the end of the month and we want to take you on a boat ride.”

“Who is this?” I replied.

Turned out to be Peter Rosanelli, a semi-retired doctor from Virginia. He and his wife, Pam, subscribe to New Hampshire Magazine, enjoy it, keep it on the coffee table, but can’t believe we’ve never done a feature on the classic wooden boats of Lake Winnipesaukee. Turns out Rosanelli owns three of them and summers on Black Cat Island. “We gotta get you out of your chair,” he repeated. I’d never met the guy before, but somehow I couldn’t say no. He was right. I needed to get out of my chair.

We arranged to meet at the docks of Center Harbor and boat over to Meredith together in his restored 1966 Century Arabian, then tie up alongside 70 or so other wooden boats for the town’s 33rd Annual Antique and Classic Boat Festival. The starting point was about an hour’s drive from my house and I was to meet him there at 6:30 a.m..

Waking at dawn. I had some second thoughts. What was I going to learn from this? I could tell a Chris Craft from a Garwood and I appreciated lake life. Heck, I’d seen “On Golden Pond” at least three times. I knew Meredith was a cool place with lots of shops and inns. I even knew that tiny Center Harbor had one of the state’s nicest crafty gifts shops, the Yikes Gallery. Of course, the one time I’d driven by it was closed, so I’d never actually been inside. But I could have done all the research I needed on the phone and the Web and at a slightly more civilized hour of the day.

I’d tell you what happened here, but I’m saving it for a story for next summer, and you can probably imagine: the cool of the lake, the humble majesty of the Ossipee range, the quirky grandeur of the floating works of wooden boat art and the lovely and peculiar people who collect and protect them. My eyes were opened to the charms of my state in a whole new way.

An old Zen saying goes: “When the student is ready, the teacher will arrive.” It seems surprising that it took an obstetrician from south of the Mason-Dixon Line to introduce me to the beauty of New Hampshire lake life. But, then again, learning is nothing but a series of surprises, sometimes painful ones but more often pleasant surprises.

This is something for students of all ages to keep in mind as they return to schools or return to the routines of teaching and parenting and going to work. It’s always possible to learn something and have a ball doing it.

Keep your eyes and ears open, and be willing to get up out of your chair when called, because you never know when the teacher will arrive.