Called to remove a diesel engine from a boat, Robert tried to convince the owner the engine was good. Unfortunately, his involvement came to late; the owner had already lost confidence in the engine and could think of nothing more than getting rid of it. In pieces when Robert arrived, the owner was all too happy to give it away. Thus, what to do with the engine was quickly solved, and we gained a valuable teaching tool.
The engine was brought to Robert's work-room, a temporary resting place for many new and gently used boat parts and materials in transition to new homes. The first of its kind under this land-based roof, the rusty, corroded diesel engine was mounted on a dolly and covered with a repurposed sunbrella "custom" cover. There it remained while I sailed further and further away with one set of clients and Robert was completely consumed supporting another.
November began a month long period of scraping, rust treating, and discovery. The more I cleaned, the more questions I asked of ever patient Robert. One by one, the reasons for being deemed "unreliable" became undeniably clear: loose and incorrectly replaced fuel line connections, cracked gaskets, dirty zincs leading to constricted and totally blocked water passages, gunk-covered, scarred cylinders... its amazing it worked at all!
Moving deeper into the engine block, tears actually fell as I developed a much deeper understanding and yes, "relationship", with this diesel. As Disney anthropomorphized the clock and candlestick in Beauty and the Beast, hearing this diesel's "breathing pattern", and feeling its strain when I covered the intake turned this foreign machine into a living entity struggling to take its next breath. Suddenly maintenance grew from something I did out of a sense of responsibility to something I longed to perform out of care for the engine itself.
Checking challenging understandings stated in "lay-man's" terms against Robert's expert knowledge, explicit vocabulary, and art for crafting meaning-rich analogies, fed my hungry neurons. Unconsciously returning to an education background, my level of questions deepened while considering how these concepts would be explained to another. Roman philosopher Seneca the young noted, "While we teach, we learn", thus we engaged in a real-life chess game back and forth, "Check," "Check mate", building my sensitivity to this steel creature, until finally developing the syllabus for our five day course Diesel Engine for the Layperson.