How Penguins Do It --- Testing the Waters

Many years ago, when I quit my job with Amnesty International USA to travel across the country to a place called the Pacific Northwest, a friend in Boston told me this story. When a group of penguins come across a body of water they need to cross, they cluster together and push their "leader" off the ledge. If all goes well, the rest dive in. If instead, the lead penguin gets eaten by a predator, the others find an alternate path. That cozy pack they travel in therefore has an alternative motive.

My friend told me this story because I was quitting a perfectly good job to start an MFA program in poetry. It didn't make any logical sense. Except to me. A few short months later he left his job with Goldman Sachs to become a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa. I know that leaving my job with Amnesty was one of the best decisions of my life. I can only hope his dive ended up half as successful.

So often as we (I) get older the diving into new experiences becomes more difficult to do. There seems a better chance of a shark or polar bear in the water below. But I also know that if I don't take chances in my writing and in my life, the alternative is to feel stymied. I think my belated New Years resolution is to take more risks. I'm not as interested in the high dives as I am in the internal reckonings. I just know life is short and I don't want to regret what I didn't do in mine.


  1. Great way to think about taking a risk.

    In the late 1990s while visiting South Africa, I had a chance to see penguins dive into the ocean (they bray like donkeys, btw); it was a singular pleasure.

    1. I know those penguins! The ones from Robbin Island off of Cape Town where LI lived in the 1990's. They were called "Jack Ass" penguins for reasons that remained unclear.


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