#30til30: Days 26-30

Read more about this project here.

Day 26 (August 4)

About a year ago, I decided to like baseball.

For someone as sports averse as I, this decision doesn’t make a lot of sense. But I had recently moved to a new city, and my quiet apartment felt pretty empty. Luckily, baseball and its unending season to the rescue!

Baseball and I are a good match, as far as sports go. It doesn’t move quickly, which most detractors cite as a negative. For me, the plodding nature is soothing. Plus, when I invariably lose focus and miss the one exciting part of the inning, I look up, and there is a replay, or four from different angles and speeds, to educate me.

I love the ritual of baseball, the patterns of play and the managing and the announcing. The game itself is rife with statistics. I don’t understand the rituals or stats, as a very lackadaisical fan, but I am pleased that they exist.

I also love that some of the players are old or slow, but they can still drive a ball deep into the outfield and so are still valued. I like that their uniforms allow me to see their faces, which sounds dumb but makes a big difference when I’m trying to tell them apart. I don’t understand the comings and goings of the players mid-season, but like I said, I’m not bothered to learn the ins and outs. I just want the game on in the background, and my favorite guys playing, and that’s all I need.

My team is the Royals, by the way, for no other reason than a friend made me watch Royals games all throughout graduate school. Plus, I like the colors and I already knew the guys, and the stadium was nice, and oh, they had a good year a few years ago, so that’s enough for me. Salvador Perez is my favorite player, because he has a megawatt smile, seems to enjoy his teammates, and splashes them with water during post-game interviews after a win. Also, he’s a great catcher.

All that to say, last night, I went to my first remembered MLB game, the Rays vs. the Brewers (my parents say I went to a game when I was 6, but the memory is lost). Tropicana Field is ugly but climate controlled. The Rays lost 2-0. There was a devil ray touch tank. I wore a floral baseball cap and loved every moment. Even the ones I only saw during replays.

 

Day 27 (August 5)

We haven’t been out to see a sunset yet, because it’s been cloudy most evenings. We attempted tonight, and here’s what we got.

I’ve been a little restless today, a little vacation tired, a little inwardly emotional because of upcoming endings and beginnings. I also have a low-grade toothache that I’m obsessing about since I don’t have dental insurance. Or a dentist.

I’m also thinking too much about the internet, of all things. I’ve been seeing terrible things happen online to people I don’t know but respect, and I’m starting to believe maybe the internet is bad. Or at least a good portion of it. Or at least who we have become because of it.

I just deleted a bunch of hand-wringing paragraphs that led to this: the internet itself is not bad or good, obviously. It’s a space in which people interact, and people can do that in bad or good, kind or mean, ethical or unethical ways.

So, then, how do we learn to interact well? How do we remind each other that words mean something, that they have consequences, that they can wound? Even if the other person is an unseen stranger, miles away? That discussions need to begin with respect and relationship, not abuse and distance?

(I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I could make the sunset picture a metaphor. That would tie this all together nicely.)

I’m not quitting the internet. That would be foolish and I wouldn’t last a day. Just like that one time when I tried to quit sugar (don’t @ me on how quitting sugar changed your life). But I can choose how to participate in online culture. The clouds will always be there, the dross and the filth. The internet has scores of dark clouds. But the light often finds a way to peek through.

Light like my dad doing the morning news roundup from his iPad. FaceTiming with my siblings. The podcasts I love and the gifs that make me laugh. My internet best friends who speak with hope and wisdom. And the virtual birthday party my two real best friends are throwing me.

So, yeah, the internet sucks, like toothaches and cloudy sunsets. But it’s also really great, like oceans, sincerity, and sneaky sun rays that come through anyway.

 

Day 28 (August 6)

Things I did today:

•Counted about 38 sea turtle nests in 2/3 of the beach on my morning walk. When I was a kid, I was thrilled to find one. This late in the summer, they’re everywhere. Baby turtles, just growing beneath the sandy surface.

•Retied my swimming suit top approximately seven times, and each time, no matter how I tried, the knot was left of center. Finally, I gave up and hope it looked like a stylistic choice.

•Saw a flock of pelicans, ten strong. Those are big birds, brown and wide.

•Saw a giant dark mass swimming in the water. I don’t know what it was but I choose to believe it was a manatee. It would swim near people which shows it wasn’t very smart and those people would just gasp and not run away. True manatee behavior.

•Was very brave when surrounded by small shiny fish in the ocean. The feel of their small bodies brushing my legs was like pinpricks. I know it should have been magical, but I was not into it. They would jump up unexpectedly, and at one point I said aloud, if you jump into my swimming suit, it will be the death of us both.

•Read a book about teaching to hopefully make me stop blaming my forthcoming students for ending my summer. I hope they’ll extend the same rational thought to me.

•Picked up more shells on the beach, bringing my shell total to what seems to be several hundred.

•Parted my hair on the other side because I burned my scalp real bad on my real part. I barely recognize myself in the mirror.

•Signed up to transcribe an episode of one of my favorite podcasts for fellow West Wing fans in the Deaf community. Hundreds more folks volunteered than were needed, which reminds me there are good (nerdy) people on the internet.

*Saw some glorious sand art. It’s a beautiful thing, to make something so temporary, that will be washed away with the next tide.

•Walked down to the public beach where there was a drum circle. Old hippies, rastafarians, young percussionists all on the same beat. People danced however weirdly they knew how. I couldn’t help but think that’s what church should be like. With maybe a smidge less pot.

 

Day 29 (August 7)

Today was the last day for a few things. My last day on childhood beaches, my last day in this particular decade, my last day with family. Essentially, the last day of summer.

Endings always make me melancholy. Beginnings often make me anxious.

Yet today gave me two transcendent experiences to carry into these beginnings.

One was at the Ringling Museum of Art. The Ringlings (yes, the circus ones) built a huge pastel pink mansion in Sarasota in the 1920s. They also built an art museum. We only went to the museum, which is filled with Ruebens and oil portraits and really terrible placards (adding to my fodder for my dream “museums as rhetoric” class). The art was beautiful but stodgy, but the sculpture plaza was incredible. Nothing like seeing a replica of the David surrounded by palm trees.

The museum has acquired a few pieces of modern art, including an installation by James Turrell that was influenced by his Quaker upbringing and his psychology education. It is a room with green lush vines growing on the walls and up the white columns. Brown traditional pews are set up in a square, facing the center of the room. In the very center of the room, there is a square cut out from the ceiling, open to the sky, no glass as mediator or barrier. Today, the sky was the bluest blue. The room breathes. Its stillness moves. Its silence speaks. The me that is Quaker and psychologist and lover of quiet places wanted to stay there, breathe there forever.

Transcendent experience number two happened earlier. Remember that dark blob that swam through the water yesterday that I watched from the beach? Well, he came by again. He came by me and the family, as we floated in the ocean. Only 15 feet away, a submerged dark mass approached and passed us by. When he was about 30 feet beyond us, he poked his squishy snout above the water and raised his wide paddle tail. A manatee. A manatee swam by me in the ocean. In the wild. A real manatee.

I was, as you might expect, beside myself. It was a pre-birthday miracle.

So. As long as I can be surprised and thrilled, as long as I can be moved, I will choose to welcome the beginnings, saying good-bye with gratefulness.

 

Day 30 (August 8)

This morning at 6:15 AM, I went out to the ocean one last time.

The rest of the day was filled with car rides, saying goodbye to parents, ridiculous Orlando airport security lines, a long flight. Then seeing my best girl Sara, drinking champagne, opening presents, looking at old photos, eating too much Mexican food. So much glorious birthday.

But it started here, with the moon high in the sky, reflected in the ocean, shadows of palm trees. The waves were calm, the water insanely warm.

In these last 30 days, I’ve chronicled a busy month that’s taken me from Fort Worth to Boston to Siesta Key, from goddaughters to grandparents, from humid to more humid. I’ve graded and read and walked on multiple beaches. I’ve seen family and friends who are like family. I’ve eaten great key lime pie and had some magical manatee encounters.

The goal was to count my days, to live in the moment. I didn’t always do that. But I lived the last 30 days, writing every day. Which meant I stopped to think about those days instead of moving quickly to the next moment. Stopping can be hard to do. So can writing.

30 feels no different than 29 years and 364 days. No new aches and pains, no cataracts, no memory loss (other than the usual). Today is just a day. I have no new insights, no grand pronouncements about aging or the passing of time.

Yet I’m grateful for this chronicle of the past 30 days. It’s good to see where you’ve been as you ponder what’s coming. A new semester, new classes, a new job, new colleagues. Maybe some new habits, new passions, new surprises.

Today I’m just thankful to be here. I was once a baby with cancer, but now I’m mostly grown: healthy, smart, kind. This world is imperfect but beautiful, and I want to know it more over the next 30, 40, 50 years. Much life is ahead, God willing. I want to see it, to write about it all.

Thank you for the birthday wishes, the encouragement. Thank you for listening, counting the days with me. I’ll write more about this day soon, but for now, thank you.

On the beach, a woman walked by me and said, “Good morning, young lady. Isn’t the moon beautiful?” I wanted to say, “Today I’m 30” but all I said was “Yes.”

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