Ripples in a Pond

“All my reporting life, I have thrown small pebbles into a very large pond, and have no way of knowing whether any pebble caused the slightest ripple. I don’t need to worry about that.

My responsibility was the effort.”

Martha Gellhorn, Journalist, b.1908, d. 1998

I recently came across this quote in a piece written by TV presenter John Campbell.

The article was about how he had personally discovered the colonial history of Taranaki, the illegal confiscations of over one million acres of Maori land, and the enduring problems associated with that to this day. A good read if you are interested –

The article was all the more poignant for me as I grew up in Taranaki on a small farm not far from New Plymouth (Ngamotu). As a child, I remember the bullet heads often found around the farm, evidence that some armed clashes between Maori and colonial forces took place in that area.

However, this post is not about the injustices done to Maori in Taranaki, severe as they were.

Instead, it is about the quote from Martha Gellhorn. Martha Gellhorn was an American novelist, travel writer, and journalist considered one of the great war correspondents of the 20th century. She covered all the major conflicts during a 60-year career.

Why this quote?

I often ponder how far to go when writing a blog post. This blog is the River Valley blog. River Valley is an adventure company and lodge, so should I limit what I write about to topics directly relevant to these subjects?

Yet, I find I want to write on a range of subjects seemingly not directly connected to what River Valley does or offers. I use the word “seemingly” here as there is little doubt in my mind that everything is connected, and what happens socially, environmentally, financially and how sustainably directly affects River Valley, even if that is not obvious at the time.

So I write a mix of posts. Some make more sense when considered a communication from River Valley, while others may appear more peripheral, and a few would appear to have nothing to do with River Valley at all.

Back to the quote from Martha Gellhorn and those pebbles and ripples.

I imagine many writers, especially when writing about subjects they are passionate about, want to make a difference, whether that be drawing attention to something or encouraging direct action of some sort.

More often than not, the problem is that nothing happens at all, other than maybe a few comments on Facebook. Having experienced this at various times, I know it can lead to feelings of frustration and impotency.

This is why this quote from Martha Gellhorn resonated with me so much.

I realised I don’t have to worry about whether the pebbles of my blog posts are making ripples in a very large pond or not. My responsibility is simply to write these posts and put them out there.

Understanding ripples is truly liberating.

Brian Megaw