It was a great way to follow the Olympics, and I often found myself rooting for people like Soviet skaters Irina Rodnina and Alexander Zaitsev after hearing their stories. I discovered the incredible Jean-Claude Killy, and learned about the Norwegian ski-jumpers. It broadened my world to see sports I'd never seen like luge, and realize that athletes in other countries had the same hopes and dreams as the US athletes.
So, my original intention was to write about how this time I’m watching curling and beginning to understand how it works, and enjoying athletes from other countries, not just the US athletes. In a way, I enjoy our athletes more because I see them as part of a greater whole.
He was the host of ABC’s Wide World of Sports, and you always wanted to tune in because you never knew what or who you might see. He had a gift for fitting in no matter the sport or the athlete.
For a time, he covered the Triple Crown, and although it was hard to let go of the quirky Heywood Hale Broun and the great Jack Whittaker, I came to love Jim McKay at the Kentucky Derby as well. It seemed he had the same affinity with the horses that he did with the human athletes.
With the Winter Olympics coming up, there are plenty of sports I watch that are dangerous, like luge and snowboarding. Two of my all-time favorite sports are horse racing and Indy Car racing, and those are also dangerous. I remember watching the Breeders Cup the day Go for Wand broke down. There were two races with breakdowns that day, and I cried my way through the races, but I didn't turn the television off.
Steve Haskin wrote an incredible blog post a couple of years ago, One Death too Many, which brought up some similar questions. He started it off by saying: There comes a breaking point in every person’s life when you ask yourself if your passion in life is worth the heartache that accompanies it.
After only one preliminary session with Dibs, Axline wrote, "I had respect for his inner strength and capacity. He was a child of great courage." The playroom became the place where he could safely explore and express his inner world, and I know that in all of my many readings of this book, I have always learned something about myself every time I've read it.
There are no limits to what Dibs can play with in the playroom. There are paints, and army men, a tea set, a dollhouse, farm animals, and on a very special day, a set of figures and buildings with which Dibs can create his own world. His play with the dollhouse during one session makes it possible for him to express his anguish: "I weep because I feel again the hurt of closed and locked against me," he sobbed.
May we all find the courage of Dibs to be ourselves.
I recently read a blog by Steve Haskin on the Blood Horse in which he wrote about one woman's crusade to save racehorses in danger of being sold for slaughter, and asking why so many who could, do so little. He said that he couldn't do his first Derby Dozen of the year without getting that off his chest.
There's been a lot written and spoken about issues of gender, race, sexual harassment, sexual orientation/identification, natural disasters, genocides, the environment, wars, and immigration to name a few. At times, it feels overwhelming trying to figure out how to respond, and where to put your energies and/or financial support. How do you even speak or write about it without causing offense, even unwittingly?
That's not to say the larger issues don't need to be addressed on a larger stage. They do. But for most of us, trying to figure out what the heck to do or say, we could do a lot worse than follow Dina's example, and follow the words of Dick Francis.
May I deal with honour,
May I act with courage,
May I achieve humility...
To give you some idea of what I love about his novels, and I've read every one of them, I'll describe each of the three I got for Christmas. Decider is pictured above, and is unusual in that the protagonist Lee Morris, an architect and builder, has six children and five of them are with him throughout the book. His awareness of their individual and collective needs, balanced against his personal needs and desires, is one of the through lines of the book. Francis shows us Lee's individual relationship with each of them, particularly Christopher, the eldest; Neil, the youngest (of those with him); and Toby, the troubled middle child. Their presence is woven into the plot, and provides a counterpoint to the dysfunctional family that owns and operates the racecourse with which Lee finds himself entangled. The boys are part of the climactic scene in the book, as both victims and heroes.
If you're like me, you're saying to yourself, no that's not true. You feel that rush of adrenalin when you're afraid, right? And that is accurate. However, when something happens, you are in that moment. You aren't thinking, I'm afraid this dog will bite me. When the dog bites, you react. It isn't fear, it's response.
The fear comes during your anticipation of what might happen. Your mind runs through the possibilities, evaluates options, plans actions. The fear is about what might happen in the future. The response is how you react to what does happen in the moment.
I suppose that each reader will have to determine for themselves what choice I made. I know which one I think I made, and I can only hope that it will translate to the page.
Thank you for your choices, your commitments, your expressions.
Another example of this is showing compassion to yourself, by being present to how you feel, who you are, what you need. So often we push ourselves aside with our to-do lists, and we cover up what's going on inside with lots of activity outside. There is no presence, only absence, which means there is no compassion, only harshness or indifference.
My Buddhist teacher used to ask me, "Why are you killing yourself?" I didn't understand that for a long time, though it felt true, even when I didn't know why. At the same time, when I would talk about being angry or irritated with someone, or even happy, she would ask me how that felt in my body. In frustration I finally snapped at her that my body and I hadn't been on speaking terms for years. I was so unable to be present with myself, physically and emotionally, that she saw it as a form of killing or smothering myself. It took me a long time to see that, and even longer to find compassion for myself.
Compassion is presence. Can I embody that in my writing? That question leads to other questions, and in the end, the one question that really matters is: am I willing to try? It requires both courage and openness, and I will admit I've never seen myself as particularly heroic. In one sense, we are all heroes as we move through our day, present to the world around us and within us. Thanks for your compassion and presence.
I'll be away for the holidays, so the next new blog will be Tuesday, January 2nd. Have a great holiday!
That depth and breadth of mind that I loved in Barack Obama is what I glimpsed in Cory Booker at the DNC last year. It has nothing to do with the color of one's skin. It has everything to do with who they are as human beings, and how they articulate their beliefs and their vision.
I'm only on page 47, and already I've highlighted a number of things that resonate for me, not so much on a political level as on a human level. This is the passage that is reverberating through me these days, and it's a paraphrasing of what his mother said to him:
...the world needs the full measure of your faith, your courage, your boldest thoughts, your most inspiring dreams.
Right in the center of that you'll find the word "courage."
This is the time of year when we often take stock of ourselves, and start thinking about what we'll do different in the new year. When I read those words, I find myself feeling the need to reboot as a writer. What that will mean for me, I don't know. What I do know is that courage will be the essential ingredient in the mix.
I also ran across a journal I kept for a class when I was at Naropa, in which I shared this: I found that a lot of anger has come up...In talking with my teacher, she suggested I try not to identify it or fix it, but just to be with it when it comes up, and let my body work with it and through it. That, of course, is very uncomfortable...
It seems that we are required to bear witness to much that feels unbearable. And there are, in fact, times when we must try to fix things in our world, and participate rather that simply observe. But in the times when we can do nothing except be present or turn away, we need to be present. It's like going to a funeral and feeling unable to find anything to say. The words don't matter. Our wordless presence says it all - we are willing to be there to support someone we care about. That is love.
Wednesday, December 6 update: I heard from my friend, who along with her partner and animals was evacuated yesterday. They are safe, though the fire line is approximately a mile from their home and the fire is 0% contained as of this morning. The winds have died down overnight, but are expected to increase again. Yesterday, according to one news source, the fire burned at an acre a second, the equivalent of Central Park in New York being consumed in 15 minutes.
Carol (Doc) Dougherty
An avid reader, writer, and student, with a penchant for horse racing, Shakespeare, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Wake Up and Write Writer's Retreat Workshop