In the most recent mini-podcast of Death, Sex, and Money host Anna Sale challenged listeners to think about powerful songs that inspire them during times of triumph and change.  It's got to be a universal truth that everyone has a power-ballad that has helped them through stressful times and Beyonce's song Ring Off is far and away mine! 

This song makes me think of my mother, it feels like a love song from a daughter to a mother reassuring her and reminding her that she is strong, and beautiful and wonderful and can do anything and everything.  Then in the most amazing flip of narration the song ends with this wise woman's voice reassuring you, the listener, that you're not going to die from whatever trial you're going through but you're going to survive.

One of the most powerful moments for me with this song was when I was on a cargo ship in the middle of a lake in East Africa feeling like for the first time everything that had been going wrong might be going right. 

A picture is worth a thousand words - when it comes to lightening striking expensive equipment. Photo credit Donna Shillington.

A picture is worth a thousand words - when it comes to lightening striking expensive equipment. Photo credit Donna Shillington.

(This is all going to make sense so just bear with me). I was there as a graduate student with my advisor and other scientists studying the geology of Lake Malawi.  We were living, working, and sleeping in shipping containers on this old german cargo ship and the work had been rough.  Lightening had struck our gear not once but twice while it was in the water, the weather had been so brutally hot that the computers were failing and had we had to have water continuously flowing over the tops of the containers to keep them cool, and we were navigating through solid clouds of lake flies (which if you don't know what those are you should google them right now).  

Man-made waterfalls to keep containers cool in the hot weather!

Man-made waterfalls to keep containers cool in the hot weather!

But one morning things just started to turn around, seemingly as if we had finally mustered the power to will it to be so. Thus in the middle of our midnight to noon shift, as this tide was turning, everyone had left to east breakfast leaving me alone to stand guard over the computers in the lab container.  I turned on this song and I just danced my heart out.  I made those 25 narrow feet of space running between the monitors and the benches my stage, spinning and twisting, kicking, and literally leaping down the length of the container, celebrating the levity of finally doing science in the absence of complications.  And with this song and happiness, it almost felt as if my mother was there smiling along with me, being happy with me that things were seemingly working again.

Lake flies on the horizon!

Lake flies on the horizon!

I wish I could say it was smooth sailing for the remainder of the trip but it wouldn't be a research adventure if they had.  Nonetheless, the endeavor was a tremendous success and I'll always remember the encouraging words of Beyonce played for probably the first and likely only time in the middle of Lake Malawi.