“Trees were so rare in that country, and they had to make such a hard fight to grow, that we used to feel anxious about them, and visit them as if they were persons.”
―Willa Cather, My Ántonia
I’m staying in my childhood home in Burke, South Dakota. Today I got up very early to write. I made coffee and stepped out on the porch for some fresh air. I was dumbstruck by the beauty of the sunrise and the moonset in unison over the east-facing field.
Left: today’s sunrise/moonset Right: last night’s sunset.
The moon was so seductive to me that I actually felt a little “witchy”. I hopped in my rental and headed east on gravel roads to get closer to the moon. Deer. Stars. A light wind. Birds chirping. Lovely.
NOTE: Speaking of “witchy”, I was born with an extra finger on my left hand (as was my daughter, Lucy). I’ve been told that it’s the sign of a witch, although from what I’ve read, it was mostly the patriarchy and the churches afraid of women who used herbs and other methods of healing. Oh, men, always so threatened by powerful women.
Once thought to be a sign of witchcraft, extra digits are actually the most common developmental abnormality found at birth. About two children in a thousand have extra fingers or toes.
Marilyn Monroe didn’t have extra digits, urban legends notwithstanding, but Anne Boleyn and Winston Churchill both did. And Atlanta Braves pitcher Antonio “The Octopus” Alfonseca was born with six fingers and six toes.https://www.futilitycloset.com/2005/02/10/a-great-big-hand/
I don’t have a telephoto lens or the patience for long exposure images, but I was able to capture these images. A perfect October experience in South Dakota…chasing a waning crescent moon.
My mother always told me that I looked a lot like Winston Churchill as a baby. Now, I know why—Lucy and I share a rather unique trait with him.
Driving around New Mexico last week made me feel like my 23-year-old self, even though I was competing in the National Senior Games. In 1989 I almost moved to Santa Fe with my college friend, Melissa. At the very last minute, we somehow decided quite randomly to move to Vermont instead. My post-college and midlife selves uniquely collided while I drove around soaking up all of the beauty I was drawn to thirty years ago.
The National Senior Games is a subculture I’m so proud to be a part of now. If you’re at least 50-years-old, regardless of your athletic ability, you should find out how to participate. There are so many options—archery, bowling, table tennis, swimming, track & field, cycling, basketball, golf, road races, volleyball and more. Check out the senior games in your region, many are open to out-of-staters. I might hit Nebraska’s games when I’m visiting South Dakota in August. https://nsga.com/state-games
One year ago at this time, Dad sat in his truck and watched me practice throwing the discus in my hometown of Burke, South Dakota. I wanted to take this trip to the National Senior Games in Albuquerque with Dad. I prefer a lot of time alone, just like he did.
Funny things happened that made me feel like he was indeed traveling with me.
- When I arrived in Albuquerque, I got my rental car and headed north to Santa Fe. While looking for a radio station, a song, Dad surprisingly loved came on: JUKEBOX HERO by Foreigner. I sobbed.
- I had a headache when I arrived in Santa Fe late afternoon, so I (we) laid down to watch TV…Everyone Loves Raymond was on. Dad watched it all the time.
- I wasn’t really hungry for dinner after resting, all I wanted was ice cream—Dad’s all-time favorite food.
- The morning I went to throw, in the lobby of Hotel Albuquerque I met two Vermonters who played on a men’s 75-year-old basketball team. They reminded me of Dad and they were so encouraging. I promise them I would go watch them play in the afternoon.
- I went to the University of New Mexico’s track and field complex to compete (I got 5th place, but didn’t throw as well as I had been practicing). However, I learned something about myself and my over-reliance on Dad’s spirit to give me the extra boost I was hoping for. 2019 Vermont Results LINK: https://www.vermontseniorgames.org/more-vermont-gold-in-tennis-track-and-field-and-swimming/
- That afternoon, during a time-out, Stan and Don came to ask me how I did and told me to go watch the Detroit Metros play (former NBA player on their team). I did. I smiled when I walked into that game, the Detroit Metros were playing South Dakota, yet another sign from Dad. I went out or burgers, fries and milkshakes with them after they were done. A perfect end to my (our) day.
So, with all of these coincidences, I put an inordinate amount of faith in Dad’s presence with me while I competed. When I got to my last throw in the finals, I truly expected Dad to give me the extra oomph I needed to win or at least take the bronze medal. When I didn’t throw even as well as I had been practicing, I was disappointed.
I kept going over my throws in my head. I realized that I actually relinquished some of my personal inner strength & preparation, relying instead on some form of magical thinking and faith in Dad.
We can have faith in all sorts of ways. However, now I understand that faith alone doesn’t take me off the hook from utilizing my available resources, common sense, inner strength, and resilience.
Dad, understanding the nature of faith might be the most important coaching you’ve done in my entire lifetime.
PS I will do my best on July 13th at the Vermont State Games. https://www.vermontseniorgames.org/schedule/
I love this stage of life…now anyway. At 52, I feel somewhat betwixt & between, not yet old, but clearly no longer young. I have to admit that loving midlife was a slow burn, a process requiring acceptance, laughter, more acceptance, a whole lot of grace and then a nap from the exhaustion of it all.
Midlife seems to have the best analog to middle school for me. Uncertainty. Flop sweats. Mood swings. Junk food cravings. Fear of what others think of me (this is waning substantially now though). Fortunately, at this tender age, I understand that trying something new isn’t so scary, it’s just really exciting.
Actually an epic fail of attempting something new might even have more value than success…at least when viewed through the lens of COMEDY and not EGO.
With that said…
My late, All-American discus throwing Dad/coach and I are heading west to compete in the National Senior Games in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’m terrified, excited, moderately well-prepared and hoping to NOT make a fool of myself. However, if I do, I will have a funny story to share anyway. I’m sure Dad and I will travel well together. Although he might be surprised how many times I want tacos and how much I appreciate good tequila. Oh well, travel’s meant to be a perspective expanding adventure, right? I’ll eat lots of ice cream in his honor.
Throwing the discus in midlife has connected me to my younger and far more athletic self. My senior year of high school I forgot my discus on my way to the state track meet. I was so damn excited about seeing, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” with my friend, Jon that it slipped my mind. Using a borrowed discus, I threw my best ever distance and ended up with the silver medal. I wish I could locate my 1984 yearbook.
My goal in Albuquerque is to toss one that beats my qualifying throw of 69′ 9″ last June in Vermont. Full disclosure, there were only two of us in our age division.
I inherited this autographed discus from the many sports artifacts decorating my Dad’s office. Alfred Oerter Jr. was the first athlete to win a gold medal in the same individual event in four consecutive Olympic Games. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Oerter
I throw next Tuesday morning (hopefully, I remember my discus). Wednesday evening is the “Walk of States”. We will do our very best to represent the 802.
Our team has an 84-year-old decathlete, Flo. I can’t wait to watch her compete. Talk about aging with some serious grit. https://www.mysuncoast.com/2019/03/12/year-old-vermont-woman-still-travels-world-pole-vaulting-competitor/
I encourage everyone to seek out competing in your state’s Senior Games. It’s really fun, the stories and the people are so inspiring. Your only qualification is that you have to be fifty-years old by the time of registration. Here’s the link: https://nsga.com/
Wish me luck and try throwing yourself into something new…there’s always added value in having another story squirreled away in your comic arsenal.
I have to be mindful of which wolf I’m feeding all the time.
Thank you Jeff Govoni for the wolf drawing.
:the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance
I don’t always want to see things from other points of view or walk a mile in another woman or man’s shoes. I don’t have to first feel empathetic or sympathetic before I actually understand my own thoughts.
Maybe it’s best to let our perspectives have their way with us, initially anyway, keep what’s informative and then get curious about how other people view things.
The key I suppose, is not waiting so long that rigidity sets in and we become unable to change course, even as we acquire additional information.
“Shoulda taken a break, not an oxford comma Take what I want when I wanna”
—Billie Eilish lyrics from my strange addiction
Instead of rushing in to validate someone else’s perspective the way I’ve been conditioned to do, understanding what’s happening to my own nervous system regarding an event or circumstance seems well worth practicing.
I’m gonna take a break…more than an oxford comma. After all, I’m not often being chased by giant predators as my lizard brain endlessly tries to trick me into believing. I usually have the time to take a minute.
Thank you Willa, Lucy and Ellis for introducing me to Billie Eilish. Damn she’s really something.
“This world of ours…must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”
—Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Fear in America”—mixed media • layered digital image—2018
NOTE: There is no pattern. I doodled. It’s random.
Our brains don’t like chaos, we want to believe things are connected, not random.
Researching pattern seeking got me thinking about conspiracy theories…of which I am not immune. I went down a rabbit hole after 911, wanting to make sense of the attack on our nation and all of the lives we lost. I really thought I was finding all sorts of insider information. I wasn’t.
Humans are pattern seeking creatures. There’s so much interesting research on this subject. Our brains are capable of gold medal worthy gymnastic moves to confirm our preconceptions. I know I like feeling that confirmation buzz. That heady feeling has a shadow side though.
“A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.” —Daniel Kahneman
This quote reminded me of when I hear a song I initially don’t like. If I hear it over and over, it begins to grow on me. Next it becomes familiar…I even begin to like it…hell, maybe even love it, playing it often. With repetition my brain will eagerly override my initial dislike and discernment. This is great when you’re making a conscious choice.
Not so great when the goal is manipulation or brand loyalty.
hate + repetition = acceptance
“The premise of (most) conspiracy theories is inherently unscientific.”
“You should be skeptical of any theory that starts out with the exact same premise every time: Some malevolent and ill-intentioned individual, group, or organization is somehow out to get you.”
“It is not wrong to have a hypothesis. What is suspicious, however, is when that hypothesis never changes.”
“The interesting thing about conspiracy theories is that they start out with the need to confirm a particular premise (i.e., some evil actor must be responsible).
“…psychologists refer to it as a fundamental attribution error—the tendency to overestimate the actions of others as being (intentional) rather than simply the product of (random) situational circumstances.”
Here’s an example of FUNDAMENTAL ATTRIBUTION ERROR:
My husband started the laundry SO obviously he thinks I’m lazy and not holding up my end of our shared household responsibilities. OR…and far more likely, he needed some clothes washed and is just doing the laundry.
It’s so easy to make this error. I know I need to slow my brain down a lot more often before I jump to conclusions in many aspects of my life.
We inadvertently create mini conspiracy theories when we attribute people’s actions as personal and not situational in their nature.
The trick is to learn when to take a moment to see if our attribution is actually accurate.
When I slow down my pattern-seeking brain, I feel more in control of the chaos around me. When I don’t, and I often don’t I feel far more anxious and uncertain.
If all thoughts are creative & inform our reality, then noticing our thoughts must be a survival skill of sorts. We can see our though patterns emerge by paying attention. I think about this, I feel hopeful. If I think about this, my heart races. If I think about this, I feel rage. We don’t have to stuff our negative emotions, they’re trying to tell us something. It just means asking questions about why these particular thoughts are so front and center right now. WHY?
Here’s my noticing list from this morning…6 to 8am.
MUSIC & HEART: My husband plays Summer’s End by John Prine on the guitar. Today, there was a story in the NEW YORK Times about this gorgeous song. Jeff watched the video through the eyes of a father. I watched through the eyes of a child. Summer’s End video & lyrics
DEFINE: I learn something when I look up the definitions even of common words.
- FEAR/transitory adjective—1.to be afraid of 2. to have a reverential awe of
- OTHER/adjective—1. not the same 2. different
- EQUAL/adjective—1. like for each member of a group, class or society
THOUGHTS ON GRIEF: Elizabeth Gilbert from the Brain Pickings Newsletter.
“People keep asking me how I’m doing, and I’m not always sure how to answer that. It depends on the day. It depends on the minute. Right this moment, I’m OK. Yesterday, not so good. Tomorrow, we’ll see.”
INSPIRATION: An 18-year-old delivery guy at Steve’s Pizza in Battle Creek, Michigan does something so full of heart. Steve’s Pizza story on CNN
ALL POLITICS ARE LOCAL: South Dakota’s democratic gubernatorial candidate, Billie Sutton was on Morning Joe today. www.suttonforsd.com
I believe that differing viewpoints bring dynamic ideas to our challenges whether in our civic, social or private lives.
A fork in the road indeed for the good people of the 605.