This is my eulogy for my college professor at University of Portland -Becky Houck. She was head of the BIOLOGY department and loved the ocean where she would take field trips and show us all why she concentrated her efforts on the sea:
A Walk on the Beach
Silhouetted against the sky, arms wide,
She spoke, “The Ocean brings us life. A wave,
A breeze, tides surging up in renewal…
And then retreating to the center of
The deepest darkest places on the planet…”
We listened to the things we heard and watched
Her bend to touch a shell the receding water
Left behind as a ‘treasure dear’ for us to
Find, in this perfect time, as we waded,
Walking along her favorite beach.
The sun rose high above the student group.
Their faces golden in the light of late
Afternoon. Houck’s hair, all tousled, wild and
Wispy, was angelic in appearance:
Enveloping her haloed head
With something we all knew to be pure love.
It came to me then. This woman was magic.
I thought back- the lecture hall on campus?
In class, her excitement lifted us
To a place where science began to be
More than her sweet passion! Catching
Our breath as we wrote notes before the bell?
No one wanting class with Houck to end.
Back on the beach as I stood, enthralled,
That instant when she pointed to a pool,
Taught more to me than words or books could prove
About one woman’s desire to reach our souls.
“A nudibranch,” she explained- a flash of
Neon colors glistening in the palm
Of her gentle hand. Then she slipped it back
Into the quiet pool around our feet.
We walked on further down the beach.
“Anemones right here”…. “ Bubbles from a
Clam who is trying to stay safe from harm.”
The list of varied specimens grew
Until attention turned to sea birds
And, finally, the sky and sunset.
The final moment on the beach seemed bittersweet.
We looked hard at the colors of the sunset.
Our faces reflected yellow-golds and corals.
Our eyes, once violet, green, blue and changed
As the softened sunlight glowed bright and dimmed.
We stayed as long as we could, watching the
Brilliant colors change to silver as
The sea blended into the disappearing sky.
The tide was in. Another cycle complete.
Our short time of hands-on experience
With the darkness descending around us
Was coming to a close. We left the beach-
Climbing into waiting cars, we drove off
To get a bite and get some needed sleep.
No one spoke. Our heads full of Ocean tales:
Of creatures come to life in hands and sight
But, mostly was our change of heart and sheer
Delight in what we saw and how we learned.
I looked over to where Houck was driving.
She smiled her smug little monkey-faced smile.
Eyes on the road, she beamed. She knew she had
Us ‘hooked’. No one who saw what she shared
That day could leave her class unchanged.
Tide going out?- a look at haloed
Excellence and love? To spend a single day
Touching nature until the tide came in
Under a glorious sky?
And given all she had to teach,
There would be nothing better than
On a beach.
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