when the world feels like a batshit crazy place is pretty challenging. I don’t know the best way to access a more grounded version of myself, but I do know the quickest. When I’m acting childish and feeling like I deserve more (or less) of whatever—a little gratitude for all of the good things in my life seems to ground me the most.
Gratitude not attitude seems to do the trick.
grounded—mentally and emotionally stable: admirably sensible, realistic, and unpretentious (Merriam Webster)
I’m not entirely sure about “admirably sensible” or “unpretentious“. However, feeling grounded, well, that’s worth a little exploration.
I shot these images somewhere northwest of Burke, South Dakota last Saturday. I really want to learn more about the history of this house. If anyone sees this and has more details, please let me know. The starkness and that big South Dakota sky just made me swoon.
I can just imagine the stories of the families that lived there. Work & Rest. Health & Illness. Joy & Heartache. Births & Deaths. Bounty & Scarcity. Warmth and Bone-Chilling Cold.
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.
The Bargain Store by Dolly Parton
My life is likened to a bargain store
And I may have just what you're looking for
If you don't mind the fact that all the merchandise is used
But with a little mending it could be as good as new
I learned a lot about myself over the last three months,
it wasn’t easy, but truly necessary.
With Loving Gratitude,
PS The autumnal equinox arrived in the early morning hours of Sept. 23 (at 3:50 a.m. Eastern), the halfway point between our longest and shortest days of the year. It’s funny how my “middleness” shows up in nearly every aspect of my life.
Well hello autumn, you know you’ve always been my favorite… shhhhhhh don’t tell summer.
Ain’t it funny how the night moves When you just don’t seem to have as much to lose Strange how the night moves With autumn closing in
—Bob Seger, Night Moves
No wonder I love this time of year, I’m constantly reminded of my “middleness” in nearly every aspect of my life.
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.”
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 Gamesin 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.
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 thinkingand 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.
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?