wild swimming…

There’s a movement (mostly middle-aged women) in Burlington, Vermont to jump into Lake Champlain regardless of weather conditions. Wild swimming is what they call it in the UK. I love that term, putting “wild” in front of anything makes it more interesting—Wild Netflixing • Wild Potato Chip Eating • Wild Bubble Bathing.

Wild swimming helped me through the pandemic and life’s challenges this year. I took a few dips in Cape Cod Bay as well. Swimming on the north side of Cape Cod didn’t feel all that different in January. Those waters are still cold in July.

I read that it takes roughly six swims in cold water (now the lake is about thirty-nine degrees) for your body to acclimate. I no longer have any hesitation. After a dip I have more clarity and an electric feeling all over. Hey, and a test of bravery that can be completed in about 20 minutes door to door works for me.

Winter swimming would never be something my Dad would’ve considered. However, I often think of him because he appreciated athleticism in any form. I’m quite certain he would’ve loved hearing about my adventures and seeing the photos.

These cold water leaps make me feel athletic, courageous, and a little more capable in other areas of my life too. And now that I’m in what I refer to as the middle-school of adulthood, any way to reduce inflammation seems like a good long-term wellness strategy.

I don’t suffer from diagnosed depression, however, genetically & creatively I do experience more than what I scribbled on a drop cloth many years ago…an episodic hump of the blues. Wild swimming has been a very efficient form of therapy for me.

I’m so grateful for the early swimming adventures with friends that got me hooked. Saturday I took a delightful early morning dip with the friend who got me started in last October. Thank you Parm for introducing me to this crazy sport? activity?

“It brings centering, peace and joy.” —Parm Padgett

Cold water swimming is a mental reset, mad energy and sparkles all over…every single time. —Genevieve Henry, friend & fearless fellow wild swimmer

Thank you to the whole cold water swimming community in Burlington. I’m grateful and proud of maintaining our quirky Vermont reputation. Cheers to many more inspired dips in the future.

Here is a link to a beautiful film by Hannah Maia about womanhood, body image, and the joy of cold water swimming. Thanks for sharing it Katharine.

It’s an incredible endorphin rush. I found that once I had dipped in cold water everyone I met that day looked 10 times more beautiful and the world so much more awesome. It was a real pick me up. —Hannah Maia

https://www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/cold-water-swimming-why-an-icy-dip-is-good-for-your-mental-and-physical-health/

prairie gothic…

Growing up, I felt there were basically two kinds of prairie descendants. Those folks who felt restless and longed for further exploration, and those folks who planted themselves so firmly that no other life was even ponderable.

In my estimation, both ways of living honored the ancestors who headed west and gambled on a new life…deciding, leaving, proving it up, or calling it quits. It all took guts, no matter how things turned out.

“We had no choice. Sadness was as dangerous as panthers and bears, the wilderness needs your whole attention.”
―Laura Ingalls Wilder

anxiety is contagious just like COVID19…

The principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus. Source: CDC.gov

The principal mode by which people can be infected with ANXIETY (FEAR) is through repeated exposure to someone carrying ANXIOUS & UNSETTLED ENERGY.

anxiety:  apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or anticipated ill

anxiety (medical)an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.

Source: Merriam Webster

I don’t want community spread of my free-floating (airborne) anxiety and I don’t want to pick up the anxiety of others either. Not infecting those I’m in contact with is my desired outcome.

When I feel that anxiousness rising, thinking about something calm helps me tremendously. Noticing takes a lot of deliberate & regular practice. I’m trying to be patient with myself while I’m in training.

Do you catch my drift?

As M.A.S.H.’s, Hawkeye famously replied in season 2 episode 15, “I played Left Drift in high school”.

Ah, I miss you Dad. 💜

When I manage to notice & slow down (breathe here) then my anxiety can be observed, treated, and antibodies are given a chance to grow into healthy protective cells.

Me

I’ve discovered a quick visual when I feel my discomfort rising—the bubble in a level…a vintage, weathered flea market level of course. If I’m able to level myself even a little bit, I can stop or at least slow the spread of my contagious anxiety.

Notice how this level is a bit higher on the right side? The table wasn’t even, I had to make a few quick adjustments to get the bubble centered…catch my drift?

I’m trying to be the bubble.

some days require a micro view…

micro: very small

view: extent or range of vision

macro:  intended for use with relatively large quantities or on a large scale

A constant macro view can be exhausting—wasting our time and talents. Most days require us to narrow our focus, take a micro view, and determine where & how we can make the most difference to the people and circumstances we face in our lives.

Notice a difference in your perspective?

Source: Merriam Webster

Thank you Pema, Dusty & Emily…

I’ve been reading Pema Chödrön’s book When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, she writes about hope and fear—

“Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something: they come from a sense of poverty.  We can’t simply relax with ourselves.  We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment.”

HOPE verb: to cherish a desire with anticipation, to want something to happen or be true

FEAR verb: to be afraid of, expect with alarm

Hope was on my mind, so this morning Dusty Springfield’s 1964 song—Wishin’ and Hopin’ popped into my head as did Emily Dickinson’s poem—Hope Is A Things With Feathers. Oh you brilliant, creative women…you’ve been homesteading in my psyche the last few days. Thank you, your timing is impeccable.

Wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’
Plannin’ and dreamin’ each night of his charms
That won’t get you into his arms
So if you’re lookin’ to find love you can share
All you gotta do is hold him and kiss him and love him
And show him that you care

Songwriters: Hal David / Burt Bacharach—Artist: Dusty Springfield

All of this hope talk made me think about parenting, religion, and my childhood. My mother’s prayers for me when I was growing up were that I would eventually become someone or something else—an idealized version of the raw potential she saw in me. Please help Lisa stop picking her fingernails, overeating, cussing, being lazy, not caring about her grades, reading the wrong books, listening to the wrong music, drinking beer, or NOT believing the way I do.

I don’t blame her, this was her programming. I’m sure it felt quite loving hopin’ and prayin’ for my needed improvements. She feared who I might possibly become, and truly believed her prayers could turn things around for me. Her faith then required that she gave the God of her understanding credit whenever my improvements, no matter how barely detectable emerged.

I did the same thing to my children—always hopin’ they would become the best version of themselves. I guess I thought wishin’ for the hidden potential in them to emerge would reflect what a stellar job I’ve done mothering and flatter my ego. Damn, that was my programming too.

Emily Dickinson’s poem, Hope Is The Thing With Feathers reveals the unsettling nature of the never ending loop of constant hope…and never stops – at all -.

Hopin’ I believed would make all of my sleepless nights and heartache worthwhile. However, instead, what I’m finally understanding is that all of that motherly wishin, hopin’, thinkin’, and prayin’ kept me from accepting them as they were/are in the present. I’m truly sorry Ellis, Lucy, and Willa that I did not learn this sooner.

Wishin’, hopin’, thinkin’, and prayin’ doesn’t seem to actually be working in any part of my life now that I give it more though...and never stops – at all—thanks Emily for that reminder.

What if I practiced more acceptance in all areas of my life? What would that feel like? Complacent? Uncaring? UnAmerican? Untethered? Unbelievable?

Let’s experiment, take a moment…breathe, just let the word acceptance settle into our soul a bit…repeat it a few times. Thoughts?

What if right now in America we just quit wishin’, hopin’, thinkin’, and prayin’ for things to be different than they are? What if collectively we ACCEPTED that the God of our personal understanding is desperately trying to reveal to us that all of the political division, rage, wounded egos, destruction, inequality, brutality, greed, spiritual aches, righteousness, grief, and suffering requires our heart’s immediate attention right now and we can no longer keep hopin’ and prayin’ for it to magically disappear?

All you gotta do is hold him and kiss him and love him
And show him others that you care

othering/a transitive verb

by Lisa Lillibridge

to treat or consider 
(a person or a group of people) 
as alien to oneself
 
Merriam Webster

I want to blame
I need to blame
someone else
something else 
anywhere else
for my inner tornado

alienate
vilify
repeat

easy breezy
automatic, unconscious

our world’s challenges
far too complex
and exhausting
to metabolize 
entirely on my own

quell my fears 
confirm my programming
please just tell me who, what, and where
I should other today

my team’s constant drumbeat
deliberate, unyeielding
laboring 24/7 
to justify
their clouding of my inner knowing 

click, forward, like, share, and tweet
fair and balanced
the daily diary of the American dream
all the news that’s fit to print

immutable 
and distracting
like a howling airplane baby

poor mum
damn baby

damn mum
poor baby

othering

seductive 
like an ice cold beer
hot, salty french fries
or another slice of chocolate cake

how did I other today?

those people are not my people
that problem is not my problem
that place is not my place

alienate
vilify
repeat

conformity is obedient and compliant
far easier
than looking in the mirror
and down into my own heart

I know I should not utter a word
until I’ve walked at least 
ten steps in someone else’s
work-boots
sneakers
high heels
wing tips
flip flops
or bare feet

but I do
we all do 
and it’s destroying us

South Dakota gothic…

I’ve always been drawn to remoteness, old farmhouses and a chill in the air. My recent visit to my childhood home in Burke, South Dakota offered it all up for me. A blizzard, below zero temps and a borrowed four-wheel drive vehicle to venture anywhere I dared.

Around Burke, South Dakota—January 2020

Thank you Willa for being my photographic partner in crime.

Sinclair Lewis & prairie stories…

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

Main Street—Burke, South Dakota

the land of enchantment & a little magical thinking…

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.

Somewhere Between Santa Fe & Albuquerque

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. I wasn’t really hungry for dinner after resting, all I wanted was ice cream—Dad’s all-time favorite food.
  4. 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.
  5. 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/
  6. 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.

Tinkertown Museum

http://tinkertown.com/

Dad, understanding the nature of faith might be the most important coaching you’ve done in my entire lifetime.

Thank you.

PS I will do my best on July 13th at the Vermont State Games. https://www.vermontseniorgames.org/schedule/

the absurdity of midlife…

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.