For Ann, a fundamental starting point in assessing any life is an understanding, as nearly as possible, of one’s world view and all the forces and experiences which created it. From there, through analysis, that view can be deconstructed and reconstructed with greater knowledge and understanding. And growing up on the schooner Wander Bird provided much of the foundation of Ann’s world view.
The United States evolved around the belief in rugged individualism and, despite the motto E Pluribus Unum (Out of many one), its economic system and government function more along the lines of “every man for himself” than “we’re all in this together.” Steeped in this notion, many who live here are quite comfortable with it, whether it benefits or hurts them. But Ann grew up on a ship, where working together for the common good, not to the advantage of individuals, was the only way to a successful and safe passage. A life in which her father was the captain, the final arbitor of all major decisions, but who respected the work, experience and wisdom of those who performed the daily tasks, provided the model for her world view. It, therefore, should come as no surprise that Ann felt uncomfortable in a culture which glorified individualism and found much to her liking in China, where the people were striving for a more communal way of living.
Additionally, the constant change of scene, that is part and parcel of life on a ship, created in Ann a love of change that many others often fear. Ann’s father explained this well when he wrote, “Wander Bird was Ann’s world; Wander Bird alone seemed fixed and unalterable. Very frequently, after a night’s rest, Ann would come on deck and find entirely new surroundings tied up to the ship by strong lines.”
Many children, who are raised in a wandering life, are in precarious circumstances and in uncertain economic or political conditions. Ann’s wandering was a secure and comfortable backdrop for the ever-changing landscapes and people around her. Hence, change was not to be feared and the very name of the ship, Wander Bird, would become a metaphor for Ann herself.
Of course, Ann did not come to live on a ship on her own, but through the choices made by her parents, two courageous and adventurous people. Their story is an important foundation for hers.