Weekly Photo Challenge: Staying Afloat and Rising Above Like Neil Marks

This little sailor in front of an antique store caught my eye last summer when we were visiting Greenport, Long Island.  He is bravely staying afloat and rowing against the tide.   (In fact, his task is to hold a door open in a strong wind.  Isn’t he a charming door stopper? )  But for me, he personifies the metaphor of “staying afloat”–finding the courage to fight the current (demons, criticism, ostracism, illness, financial difficulties) and “weathering” the risks and perils that are swirling around us, leading us ultimately to safety.  Shakespeare offers a slightly different interpretation in the quote below.  He advises us to ride the tide in life and seize opportunities when they arise.  They may seem like a flood–threatening to overwhelm us.  At the same time, they offer great possibilities.  He also warns that if we don’t “take the current” and rise to the challenge, our lives will be thrust into shallow backwaters and certain misery. 

There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.–William Shakespeare
Row, Row, Row.  Antique Sailor Doorstop, Greenport, New York

Row, Row, Row. Antique Sailor Doorstop, Greenport, New York

This is a tough life lesson.  But, if we are fortunate, we struggle through obstacles and find the courage to overcome them.  Along the way, we might find inspiration from people who have faced tremendous adversity, but refused to let it define their lives.  They inspire us with their courage and willingness to rise above obstacles and ultimately triumph.  One person who always inspires me is our dear friend, Neil Marks.

“Marksy” was a world-class Australian cricket player in the early 1960’s, who was born into a sporting dynasty.  From the time he could swing a cricket bat, he longed to become a famous cricketer, like his father Alec and brother Lynn.  But he was born with a rare and serious congenital heart defect.  This never stopped Marksy, who played hard throughout his teens and joined the elite pantheon of professional cricketers in New South Wales.  A Sheffield Shield cricketer, he scored a century in each of his first two matches. Marksy kept playing hard, earning the admiration of fans and racking up accolades, until one day, he collapsed on the field.  Several doctors tried to repair his damaged heart, but the surgery required skill and expertise that was rare in 1963.  After several unsuccessful open heart surgeries in Australia, Marksy was facing certain death.  In the space of a few months, this 21-year-old athlete was seriously weak.  His weight had dropped to under 100 pounds.  Marksy’s family learned that only a handful of surgeons in the world could perform the delicate and extremely risky surgery that could save his life.  One of them was John Kirklin at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  But Marksy’s family didn’t have the funds to fly him half way around the world to America and pay for the surgery.   When his fans got word of this, they raised the money to fly Marksy and his parents to America and pay all their medical and living expenses.  The surgery saved his life.  But he never let his “ticker” define what he could and could not do.   When he couldn’t return to professional sports, the career that had inspired him, he seized the opportunity to go into business with a friend and started a successful insurance company.  He married Kay, the strong, loving, and supportive woman who stood by him.  Together, they raised 3 daughters, who have grown up and married and have children of their own.  Since retiring, he has gone on to become a successful writer and author, earning more accolades.  Now in his 70’s, he faces more health obstacles with his usual grace and optimism.   Once I asked him, “How did you feel when you couldn’t play sports anymore?”  He replied with his usual candor.  “You just move on, mate,” he said.  “You don’t let it stop you.”  (To read more about Neil, click here.)

Here are some other photos of “rising above.”   This weekend, we took a walk through East Town, a community in Grand Rapids that is surging back to life after hard economic times.  We could still see vestiges of hardship, like this crumbling facade of a church, trying to stay afloat, despite financial difficulties.

Trying to Stay Afloat, Crumbling Church, East Grand Rapids, MI

Trying to Stay Afloat, Crumbling Church, East Town, Grand Rapids, MI

The third photo of a mural on a storefront on Cherry Street reflects the optimism of those who are working hard to revitalize the community.  In fact, I’m sure Marksy would agree that optimism is the key to “staying afloat.”

Mural, East Town, Grand Rapids copy

Balloons Afloat, Mural, East Town, Grand Rapids, MI

Do any of these images “speak to you?” Why?  What is your definition of “afloat?”  Who has inspired you during tough times?  To see more images on this week’s theme, click here.   Thanks, as always, for your critiques and have a wonderful week!

10 replies »

  1. This has been a tough week for ‘rising above’, mostly it has been a week of struggling back to consciousness before the next dose of painkillers arrived. I would say the silvery black and white sea at the top of the page struck me as a relentless force, it may be unforgiving, but it is also an unstoppable force. That perhaps nature gives each of us some small part of that strength to rise above, when it is needed most.


  2. Hi Kirizar. So sorry you’re on painkillers. I hope your health returns soon and you can get off the meds. The b and white shot was taken in Cape Cod. And yes, you’re right. The sea may be calm one moment and a fierce force in the next. Feel better!


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