Running beach Don GrahamI don’t know how she reached the age of seven years old without learning to run, but she hadn’t.

I guess she hadn’t seen the point. There weren’t any reasons that she couldn’t run — she’d never even been told “No running in the house!” by her parents (probably because she didn’t) — she just didn’t run. She could walk, slowly or quickly, as the moment required, but she didn’t run.

Now came the day that she wanted to. So she set out to learn.

Running isn’t like walking (you heard it here first, folks!). In walking, there’s always one foot on the ground. When you’re running, there are times when you sail through the air.

She’d watched her friends and family, and even slowed down movies, so she knew this. So she started with hopping.

First she hopped back and forth with both feet together. Then she tried hopping on one foot. Then she hopped from one foot to the other: back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

She tried making longer hops forward.

Then she tried making one one-legged hop forward, followed by another, followed by another.

She fell down on hop number four.

That might have been discouraging, but she only sat up and congratulated herself for picking a soft field to practice in.

She tried different approaches. Sometimes she hopped a little more sideways (kind of like a crab) and sometimes she tried crossing her feet back and forth in front of her (she gave up that one pretty quickly). When her feet got tangled up, she’d try the same thing again, and if it tripped her the second or third time, she tried something else.

She kept at it, remembering to experiment through the process, and keep her mind on the goal.

By the end of the day, she was running around the field with a grin as wide as the sea. She wasn’t fast, it was true, but she was authentically running, and she knew she’d get faster with each new day.

Her friends, it must be said, were very impressed, both with the running, and with the smile. Together, they charged off into each new day.

Photo by Don Graham. Used by permission under Creative Commons license.

A Proper Dinner

Adélie_Penguin_regurgitates_krill_for_its_chick_(5917753158)Usually, I try to tell stories about creatures that live here on these islands (or in the seas around them), but not today. This story is about birds who live far away, on the shores of Antarctica, where it is distinctly colder than it is here.

It’s about penguins.

You’ve heard of penguins, I’m sure. They swim rather than fly, and they’re always well dressed. What other creature wears a tuxedo twenty-four hours a day?

Well, this penguin was a young one, and he knew what a “Proper Dinner” consisted of.

He knew that a Proper Dinner was important. After all, he was always dressed for it.

So. Here’s how a Proper Dinner goes. Mom or Dad appears at the nest after hunting for fish out in the water. And you, as the young one, you stand straight up and tall. You throw your head back and open your mouth, and Mom or Dad sticks their beak in your mouth and…

How do I put this?

Well, let’s just say that food that was in their stomach goes into yours.

If that sounds gross to you, it does to me, too. Which makes us people, not penguins.

In any case, that was a Proper Dinner for this young penguin, and after all, he was always dressed for it.

One day, though, when Mom appeared, she was carrying an actual fish in her beak. And when Sister put back her head and opened her mouth, mother put the fish in.

Sister swallowed it right down with every sign that she enjoyed it, but Brother knew that it wasn’t a Proper Dinner.

Sure enough, Dad appeared shortly afterward, and like Mom, he had a fish in his beak. Brother looked at it, and it wasn’t a Proper Dinner.

So he didn’t stand up straight. And he didn’t put his head back. And he didn’t open his mouth.

If he could have, he would have folded his wings across his chest, but he couldn’t, because penguin wings don’t do that.

Sister got the fish. And Brother had to wait until Dad went away, caught some more fish, and returned to feed Brother what he’d already eaten, so that he’d have a Proper Dinner.

This went on for two days, which is an endless amount of time when you’re a young penguin. Mom and Dad brought fish, and Brother wouldn’t eat them, and he’d wait, hungry, until they returned with a Proper Dinner.

Finally, Mom and Dad had had enough. They wouldn’t do this any more.

Has that ever happened to you? That Mom and Dad wouldn’t do something for you any more?

You, too, eh?

So they stood there and eyed him with the fish dangling from their beaks. And he stared back with a gaze that slowly fell away in the face of their united disapproval. He slowly raised his beak, and opened his mouth. A little. Then a little more. Until Mom tucked the fish onto his tongue.

He swallowed.

To his utter astonishment, he liked it.

“Well,” he decided. “I guess there’s more than one way to have a Proper Dinner.”

“And after all, I’m dressed for it, whatever comes.”

Photo credit: By Liam Quinn from Canada – Adélie Penguin regurgitates krill for its chick, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Moi Questions


A school of moi.

Today I’m going to tell you a fish story.

I mean, literally. I’m going to tell you a story about a fish.

This fish was a moi, which are well known here in Hawai’i for being a fish that only the ali’i, the royalty, the most powerful people in the islands could eat in the ancient days. That’s not how the moi think of themselves, though. Who really think of themselves in terms of who is going to eat them?

There was one young moi who was always asking questions. I mean, always. He’d ask one question, and get an answer, and then he’d ask another.

“What’s that bright light up above the surface of the water?”

“Why are the corals different colors?”

“What’s that coming toward us, with all the holes? Should I avoid it?”

(Well, yes. It was a fishing net.)

“What’s that shiny thing on the end of the grass-like thing? Should I eat it?”

(It’s probably best not to eat the fishhook.)

Probably the most common question, though, was one he asked over and over and over:

“Is that good to eat?”

“Is that good to eat?”

“Is that good to eat?”

Let’s face it, that’s an important question when you’re a moi.

With all his questions came something else: He got to know the answers. Other moi started to ask him questions, because they thought he’d probably asked it already and knew the answer. Much of the time, he did.

When he didn’t, you know he’d turn around and ask that question of some other fish.

He always had moi and moi questions.

A decided groan greeted that last remark.

Moi swim in great schools, and if you’ve ever seen a school of fish, you realize that when the school turns, then a new leader emerges. The one who had been at the front is now at the side, and someone at the side is the new leader of the school.

All the other moi learned to feel very good about having this curious moi as their leader. When he was in front, they didn’t swim into fishing nets. When he was in front, he didn’t have them chase after fishhooks.

So his questions made him a valued leader among the moi.

That’s true of you, too. If you ask questions, if you seek after what you don’t know, if you keep learning, well, like our curious moi, you can be a success in school.

More groans.

Seriously. It will help you in school. But it will also help you make a better life. Ask questions, even when your parents, or your teachers, or even I start to look like you’ve asked a lot of them. It’s OK.

Because you’ll be learning, and thriving, and growing.