Bird Observer: The Birding Journal for New England

Bird Observer

The Birding Journal for New England

August 2016

Vol. 44, No. 4

Musings from the Blind Birder: Achieving the Swing

Martha Steele

In The Boys in the Boat, a riveting book about the 1936 Olympic gold medal-winning eight-man crew from the University of Washington, the author Daniel Brown frequently uses the term “the swing.” In many team sports, a high-performing athlete can carry the team to victory, despite the ineptitude of his or her teammates. But in rowing, as Brown so eloquently writes, to be successful all individuals in a rowing boat must be performing in perfect harmony together, giving him or herself up with a profound trust in teammates so that the whole achieves its swing. Writes Brown, “All were merged into one smoothly working machine; they were in fact a poem of motion, a symphony of swing and blades.” At these moments, crew members feel a sense of elation, almost a separation from their individuality, as they and the boat are in their swing.

I have often thought of this concept since listening to Brown’s book, applying it to many situations where members of a group shed their egos and their personal ambitions to help or harmonize with others to achieve a shared goal accompanied by emotions of elation, satisfaction, or gratitude. I try to think of my guide dog Alvin and me achieving our swing, where we are working in perfect harmony with each other, stepping together in perfect balance and rhythm, responding to each miniscule movement of the other, shedding our individuality for trust in each other to achieve our own poem of motion.

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