“Once the fabric of a just society is undone, it takes generations to weave it back together.” —Deepak Chopra
As my girls head back to their second year of college, the memories of my family’s past summers are making me exceptionally nostalgic this year. Last week I walked Cape Cod’s, Town Neck Beach in Sandwich before heading north to Vermont.
So much flooded back to me…oh, the remarkable nostalgia of middle age.
While admiring the rocks, I got an idea for a photo series and a way I could honor this time of transition.
My memories feel both permanent and somewhat elusive, they can come and go as the tide shifts…just like these rocks do every six hours.
New England Patriot’s recently retired tight end, Rob Gronkowski once remarked, “I just like the beaches in summer, man.”
I wholeheartedly agree, Gronk.
No one can entirely escape their inherited genetics, the often told family stories, or emotional baggage of our ancestors.
Often, the burden of our family karma, or ancestral grief can feel far more like a cumbersome steamer trunk than a convenient carry-on bag. Thankfully, we actually don’t have to drag the damn steamer trunk around for the rest of our lives. Sometimes these are simply stories told through generations, held too closely and past their expiration date of relevance.
Recognizing that I actually had a choice took a very long time. This has provided a certain emotional liberation that I don’t yet entirely understand. However, I do know that I feel much lighter and have freed up some emotional bandwidth for matters in the here and now requiring my heart and energy.
This post-it note was visible through a garbage bag while I waited for my tank to fill. I had to tear a little hole to fish it out (and scrape off some gum). It was worth it to me.
Was it written and then discarded or received by the person who cleaned out their car? I’ll never know. I will always wonder.
This message works for a lot of different occasions and situations throughout in my life.
Last night we had a wild storm—tornado warnings, wind, heaving rain, lightning and thunder. I’ve always loved storms. After it passed, the neighborhood was eerily quiet. My daughter, Willa and I stayed up until things settled down.
I get up really early, always have. I don’t like to get up in the 4s…however, anything after 5:00 works for me. I fed our cat, Karen, headed out to get a coffee at Dunkin’ & listen to my book, City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert—sooooo good, and survey the storm damage. We only had leaves covering our deck and a few small branches here and there, nothing major to report.
I ended up at the bottom of the hill at Town Neck Beach. I was the only one in the parking lot at 5:25am…rare actually. Another car pulled up, a man got out and walked onto the beach in the rain. There was just something about him that I found quite intriquing. He didn’t seem sad, but clearly he was in a thoughtful mood. A fisherman wondering about his day perhaps? A visitor seeing his long-planned day at the beach with his young kids thwarted? Or perhaps just a guy on his way to work who likes storms as much as I do.
He took pictures of the stone sculpture that somehow survived the storm. I can’t imagine that someone built it in the dark between 11pm and 5am. It’s design is structurally mighty impressive. Damn.
I waited for him to get into his car, then I got out to get a shot of the sculpture as well. Walking the beach I found myself looking out at the exact spot a friend’s ashes were scattered a few years ago in one of the most sorrowful and stunning moments I’ve ever witnessed in my 52.8 years.
The beach reflected the generous spirit and remarkably unique inner wildness of her this morning. I know she would’ve loved the images in this post and be grateful that I didn’t mention her by name. That was simply not her style.
I just finished reading Main Street for the third time. First, I was 20 (college), then 25 (just married) and last week at the uniquely tender and remarkably nostalgic age of fifty-two.
Lewis’ character, Carol helped me understand both why I had to leave South Dakota and why the prairie is so doggedly a part of my identity (and my art)…even though I left nearly three decades ago.
“The days of pioneering, of lassies in sunbonnets, and bears killed with axes in piney clearings, are deader now than Camelot; and a rebellious girl is the spirit of that bewildered empire called the American Middlewest.”
― Sinclair Lewis, Main Street
June 6th, 1907 is Frida Kahlo’s birthday. She truly was a women so extraordinarily ahead of her time. Her example of individuality, boundless creativity, courage, and resilience is needed now more than ever. Frida’s influence throughout the world is a marvel.
Frida, please help me understand, why it’s taking so damn long to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment? Phyllis, I’m well aware of why after doing some research.
“EQUALITY OF RIGHTS under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.“
I needed to learn more about the history of the opposition to the ERA. Feminism, Gloria Steinem, ERA—these were almost dirty words when I was growing up in South Dakota in the 70s and 80s. I was told that it was Phyllis Schlafly who had womanhood and traditional gender roles all figured out.
I’m a feminist and I was a stay-at-home mom. Sometimes I dreamed of working, while my working friends dreamed of being home. Many Dads worked part-time or at home. The kids were fine. Marriages survived. We didn’t have a culture war. And yet…100 years later, the same crap is still being debated and the Equal Rights Amendment has not been ratified. EQUALITY WILL RUIN FAMILIES, REALLY?
The Equal Rights Amendment to me seems like a matter of simple legislative “housekeeping” just as Phyllis Schlafly thought women should be delighted to do at all times. Only one more state is required to ratify the ERA…come on Virginia…Arizona?
A few details about Phyllis Schlafly’s life were conveniently left out of her anti-ERA messaging. Perhaps a classic case of, “do as I say, not as I do”. I doubt it would have changed anything though? She certainly was a brilliant grass roots organizer and marketer. I have to give her credit where credit is due.
Phyllis Schlafly had her law degree and according to her LA Times September 5, 2016 obituary: “Critics said that though Schlafly presented herself as a traditional homemaker, she often traveled, had a full-time housekeeper and a personal assistant, and a resume that most feminists would envy.”
So, while thinking about womanhood and the examples of Frida & Phyllis, i realized that they have both been inspiration to me—in very different ways.
Sometimes, we’re inspired by someone and their life just ignites our imagination. Other times we need someone/something to push against, so our own views and voice can emerge with more clarity and depth.
Thank you Frida & Phyllis.
LEARN MORE: https://www.frida-kahlo-foundation.org/
“At the end of the day we can endure much more than we think we can.” ―Frida Kahlo
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/
Last night I awakened at 12:45am in a sweat with my heart racing. In my dream, I threw the discus so poorly in the competition that I blanked out my final five throws. I was being consoled by fellow senior athletes and we were laughing our asses off, sharing stories of our epic failures.
So, with my fear of total failure subconsciously out of the way, I now have to prepare myself to do my best. YIKES! Failure, I’m pretty comfortable with (especially as an artist, things fall apart all the time), success and having to put my money where my mouth is, I find far more daunting.
WHAT IS FEAR TO YOU?
Fear isn’t always to be stuffed away and avoided. Try inviting fear in, get curious about what it’s trying to tell you? It may a gift to you so you can see what needs to be confronted in your life.
NOTE: Today, I’m going to the rattlesnake museum. I’m am so afraid of snakes, I thought it might be a great way to prepare to compete tomorrow.
This hasn’t been my favorite year of my life-loss, sorrow, transition, cut-off, illness and so on. However, I’ve learned a lot and I’m proud of my resilience. We have to remind ourselves (often) of all the times we made it through life’s many challenges.
We are so much stronger than we think.
For inspiration, the spirit of my Dad and I are heading out to the track and field complex at UNM to watch the finals in the sprints. The first race is the 90-104-year-old women and the 50-meter race. Damn, if that isn’t inspiring, what is?
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.