The Three Lessons My Big Sister Taught Me


1968. She was in Grade 7. I was Grade 1. Standing on a pile of gravel looking out over the jungle behind the house, my sister passed on three nuggets of wisdom that I have never forgotten:

1. Snakes live in tall grass. Many years of experience, plus the movie "Snakes on a Plane", have taught me that snakes can actually be found almost anywhere. In the bamboo grove. In the office. Among friends. But I believe the intent of the lesson was to keep me from going into the jungle behind the house. And the fact is, if you walk into the tall grass, that is, if you allow yourself to "get into the weeds" you will likely find people there who will betray you. Be warned.

2. Water contracts when it freezes. Ice expands when it melts. I actually got into trouble in Science class when I insisted on this. It turns out that water molecules arrange themselves in some kind of crystalline formation to become ice, thus making ice less dense than water. The point, however, is that water and ice are the same thing yet different. People, too, without changing their essence, can be fluid or solid, hot or cold, big or small. Very useful for dealing with snakes.

3. The sun is a star. Now this little factoid is indisputable. Our everyday, day-in-day-out, workaday sun--like the sibling we take for granted--is actually a star. It's all about the point of view.

Happy Birthday, Liza.

[Originally posted on Facebook on July 5, 2014]

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