Summer of ’20

The Bow River, with Baker Park & Bowness Park on either side.

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A little bit of summer is what the whole year is all about.”

John Mayer

“If you’re not barefoot, then you’re overdressed.”

Unknown

With the arrival of summer, do you have any plans for this summer?

51 years since the inception of that famed “Summer of ’69” song, may it be said and remembered that this summer was our summer.

This seasonal season has been greatly, long-awaited for, like the joyful anticipation of the awaiting during pregnancy. This is especially true of us who live north of the 62nd parallel. It’s where much of the last eight or so months have been lived enclosed in an ever-increasing, gruelling, and gloomy climate of winter. True, this year for us hasn’t been as bad as winter’s past, even without seeing a tremendous amount of that white stuff. It still seems far too long since seeing that good ‘ole green stuff. 

So, what are your summer plans?

In the midst of a much-needed and called-upon easing of restrictions, in the hopes of getting back to “normal.”

Remember that word – or time? It wasn’t that long ago, or so it seems.

Anyways, back to the joys of summer.

A few questions for you to ponder and reflect on and jot down on some paper:

What hopes do you have for this summer?

What dreams do you have for this summer?

What ideas do you have for this summer?

Take your time here. There is no rush. It is something to think about and consider upon, during any amount of time you can spare (which we all have plenty of these days) from when the sun rises or sets. 

The idea in this exercise is to simply awaken your heart and to increase the joy-bomb within your heart. To generate longing, to put it another way. 

The purpose is in the anticipation of goodness upon your soul. Think of it as an opportunity to shift and change your focus in this political and economic climate, like a sailboat changing its direction to go with the wind at its back…and to really let loose and just go!

It’s an invitation to invoke the tangible and the real; to create the memories that will undeniably sustain us through the next winter months ahead.   

When the golden colours of fall skirt across the lake, will you be content leaving summer in its wake?

Summer flowers in bloom at Baker Park.

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”

Henry James

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

John Lubbock

“In early June the world of leaf and blade and flowers explode, and every sunset is different.”

John Steinbeck

The Sweet Spot

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

[T]he plan today was just go out and do my best for 18 holes. That was my thought throughout the day — just keep doing my best. Do my best.

Hideki Matsuyama, 2021 Masters Champion (1)

That sweet spot on the club face. Man, oh man!

That is what keeps us all coming back to this game of golf.

Just to be clear, (as if I really need to say this, right?) the sweet spot is hitting your golf ball in the dead centre of the golf club you are hitting.

Often, just hitting it once during a round of golf (9 or 18 holes) is enough to keep anyone coming back to the course and to try and do it again.

There are many feelings we experience when this happens. It’s: exhilarating and exciting; fantastic and phenomenal. Simply put, it is pretty sweet. Oh yes, it sure is!

This type of experience, in my opinion, is right up there, if only just a little bit behind, the ultimate gaol of getting a hole-in-one for any golfer.

True, the odds are much better at hitting the centre of the club face than the other, but the sensation is essentially the same. And I believe that it was designed for this purpose. Golf is a lot things; however, singularly, it is this experienced feeling that heightens the drama and enjoyment of the game. I for one am testament of this.

Hitting the sweet spot feels about as elusive as it does to actually hit a hole-in-one. In that, one can’t predict when it will happen or if it ever will during the course of play. There seems to be no aspect of planning or timing for these events to coincide. It just happens. And then, it’s over. About as quickly as it came. And then we move on to the next shot, or hole, looking to repeat the same shot-feeling as before. For most of us, we soldier on, for what feels like and can actually be quite a disparity of time.

Because golf and life seem to be so interconnected our ultimate aim in life is to find our own sweet spot. That is, to find our groove for that one thing that keeps us coming back to live our life well; both consistently and day-after-day. There are many words used to describe this, such as passion, calling, gifting, etc. Above them all is our concerted effort to discover and then do what we were created for. To achieve our purpose, in other words. That is the ultimate shot in life — for yours as it is mine.

Notes:

(1) https://www.masters.com/en_US/news/articles/2021-04-11/matsuyama_carves_his_place_in_history.html. Accessed April 18th, 2021.

Tectonic Shifting: A Reflection of Our World Today

Photo by Naeblys on National Geographic

Though the theories of plate tectonics now provide us with a modus operandi, they still seem to me to be a periodic phenomenon. Nothing is world-wide, but everything is episodic. In other words, the history of any one part of the earth, like the life of a soldier, consists of long periods of boredom and short periods of terror.

Derek Ager

There is one word to describe the madness of the world we find ourselves living in at this moment in history: Collision.

This is what living in the chaotic world of post-COVID feels like. Collisions, of various kinds and at various levels, seem to be occuring at an accelerated pace. It looks an awful lot like a collision of kingdoms continually colliding with one another. The kingdom of darkness competes against the Kingdom of Light in a fight for good or evil in the hearts of men and women, both individually and as nation-states. It sure feels at times that the darkness seems to be winning.

Yet, there is nothing new here. Just take the films and movies since the dawn of Hollywood and you’ll see these persistent themes evident in each film you watch. Take Netflix for example. The various tiles of shows and movies vying for your attention all have one thing in common: a hero and villain archetype. It seems so obvious that we almost overlook this profoundly simple fact as we scroll through in selecting and adding to ‘My List.’

By way of analogy, these constant collisions in the unseen world I spoke of earlier (i.e. the heavenly’s) are like the tectonic plates that have shifted over “millions of years”, as I learned in my elective University Geology course. Huge, enormous rock structures collide into one another, as they battle for power and for ultimate control, amongst the earth and her seas. After all, that is the goal. And its effects are felt mightily and intensely.

I get it: I’m an (older) millennial, and unlike the Boomers or The Greatest Generation before them, I haven’t lived through other very real threats and extremely difficult, trying times such as: Two World Wars, The Vietnam War, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Prior to this pandemic, I have only really lived through the recession of 2008 of the U.S. Housing Crisis and the subsequent foreclosures by banks. But that was America, not Canada, right? And I suppose a few recession cycles from our single greatest industry of Oil and Gas out here in the West. Oh, and 9/11, as brutal as that was, not to underscore this event or any of the others I have listed here (and perhaps forgotten to include as well.)

But this one feels different. It hits closer to home. Yet, its effects are much more elusive, as if I’m trying to collect sand with my hands from the bottom of a lake. In other words, the world and all its current changes are cataclysmic and it feels otherworldly as a result of the unseen shifting of tectonic plates in our world today.

Autumn at The Masters

“Going into [the Masters], I really had amazing control of not only my tee shots but my iron shots. And the amount of time that I spent putting, getting a feel for it, and then coming in there on that Sunday afternoon and getting a nice quiet round set the tone for what I did the rest of the week.”

Tiger

“When I go back to Augusta National, just the beauty and the history and the aura around it, it’s just unlike anything that we have in our sport.”

Tiger

“if I’m within six of the lead – I’ve always felt this – if I’m within six of the lead starting the second nine on Sunday, I’ve got a shot at it.

Tiger

The Masters has a new date this year.

Playing seven months later than usual, it’ll still be the same electric Major tournament, especially come the back nine on Sunday afternoon.

I think it’s the first time the renowned Masters event has been postponed, of course, due to the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. After a little fact-checking, there were no Masters tournament’s played during 1943-1945, because of WWII.

I could build this event up (as if I or anyone needs to), so, I’ll just cut to the chase.

I predict, like last year, Tiger Woods will be crowned the Green Jacket champion. That is, he will successfully defend his 2019 Masters win. Only this time, Tiger will correctly read that line from the Sunday-usual, front-left-pin position and will sink his winning birdie putt on the 72nd hole. 

His final score will be -14. 

With the 2020 Masters around the corner, Tiger will be on the hunt for win number 16 – Major, that is – thereby, eclipsing the all-time PGA Tour wins to 83. Step aside Mr. Snead. 

Interestingly, 84 is the number of times The Masters has been played in its tournament history. Perhaps, win #84 isn’t all that near-impossible for Tiger. I mean, the 2021 Masters tournament is only 5 months away.

Woods (while embracing LaCava on 18 green): “We did it! We did it!”

Tiger

“I had never, ever in all my years of going there and all my years of watching the Masters … heard chanting at Augusta National. I still get goose bumps talking about it. The chanting. The amount of support I had. So many people who wanted to see me do it.”

Tiger

“I had just an amazing amount of e-mails and texts that were flowing in, but I was more surprised the amount of videos of people watching the Masters and seeing their reaction when I hit the shot on 16 or when I made the putt, whether it was on airplanes or in airports or restaurants. I’m out there hitting the shot.”

Tiger

A Fun Summer of Fly Fishing

The author fly fishing the Bow River
Summer 2020

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.”

A River Runs Through It

Fly fishing is a new sport I had gotten into this past summer. 

For me, it was just exhilarating being out on the water. Coupled with a new pair of waders, it meant that this time would be that much more enjoyable. 

Being outside in nature’s playground meant the world to me. With a rod and line in hand I was able to just let it go (no pun intended!) My only focus was on casting the fly at the end of the line out into the spacious water I was surrounded by. Then, doing it over and over again.

“My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things—trout as well as eternal salvation—come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.”

A River Runs Through It

“The cast is so soft and slow that it can be followed like an ash settling from a fireplace chimney. One of life’s quiet excitements is to stand somewhat apart from yourself and watch yourself softly becoming the author of something beautiful, even if it is only a floating ash.”

A River Runs Through It

Feeling the wind on my face, the force of the under-current, and the release of a loaded line all made each outing worthwhile. The crowning moment would come when I got to see the sunset. Each time, the multi-coloured sky would take my breath away. Equally important, was the glistening of the sun’s reflection dancing on the water’s surface. It was all I could do to stand motionless with the river rushing past me. Other than the previous night’s spectacular display of evening colours, it was the best motion picture I had ever seen! 

“There is certainly something in angling that tends to produce a serenity of mind.”

Washington Irving

As I reflect on this past summer’s hobby I realize I had learned some important lessons. One was the mechanics of actually being able to cast the fly into the water. And before that was possible, being able to tie some basic knots of the lines and a variety of flies.

I also learned the value of detaching myself from the world and being able to release it all into the open waters, each time I stepped in off the shore. 

I further learned to just be still (hard thing for me to do!) And, to focus on the feeling of the two-to-ten O’clock casting motion and the freeing release that came from each fluid cast. 

I also learned to remove most of the expectations I brought to the stream in hopes of trying to land a fish. The fish weren’t the point. I already knew this going in to the season; yet, I would forgot it many times. So, slowly I had to re-learn this basic aspect of fishing – or of any hobby or sport. 

Most of all, I learned to have fun again by getting in touch with my younger, playful self and allowing him to go there more often. That is, to engage and immerse myself fully in the water as it has always been the primary context of having fun during my childhood. 

I know it’ll soon be time to take out my skis and skates, but already, I am looking forward to going fishin’ next summer. 

Movement

The rushing river at Elbow Falls in Kananaskis, AB

Me thinks that the minute my legs begin to move my thoughts begin to flow, as if I had given vent to the stream at the lower end and consequently new fountains flowed into it at the upper.

Henry David Thoreau

Us as human beings are created for movement.

We are made to move; to be “on the go.”

Before the pandemic, I had discovered a helpful way to keep myself in good shape, from an internal state: to be actively moving. Since this all-embracing outbreak it has proved to be quite worthwhile. What I am talking about is for me to keep moving forward with the things on my to-do list, my passions and interests, chores that need doing, and errands to run. In other words, to keep moving forward with my life. Not to be busy, per se, just for the sake of being busy; but rather, to keep myself moving and engaged with what’s in front of me in order to keep the natural biology flowing within me.

This is very helpful for me because as I am moving (doing whatever it is I am doing), the movement helps clear my head and shake off any old, rusty, and log-jammed tree-like neurons that are stuck in my brain. Like a walk outside in nature is this effect on my wholeness.

And I crave it – this feeling of de-fogging my own mind. I imagine how this process may look from a 3-D angle: a feel-good hormone is shot through my system, giving way to a clearer ability to think, make decisions with, and attend to solving problems attentively in one sweep. 

In this day and age of mental health concern, movement of any physical kind is primarily advantageous to ourselves. It is how we were created and designed to live: as moving human beings. 

The body is created for movement; and so, we must move. 

Scoreless – con’t

Tower Ranch Golf Club
Kelowna, BC

“Golf is assuredly a mystifying game. It would seem that if a person has hit a golf ball correctly a thousand times, he should be able to duplicate the performance at will. But such is certainly not the case.”

Bobby Jones

These points go to show that only in golf is our character most tested and rounded-out. Like a smooth stone found in glacial waters, having been tossed to and fro in the mighty, rushing waters during spring runoff. After all, whenever any one of us plays this game, the results, both the highs and the lows, are on us – and only us – as we are the ones that hit each shot. No one else hit those shots that we did; therefore, there is no one to blame or cause fault to, except ourselves. Now, if that is not humbling enough, I don’t know what is. This is why I play this great game, always searching for that next whack on the sweet spot and to better understand myself more. Above all, this is why I don’t keep score.

After all, at the end of the day, or a round, golf is just that: it’s just a game. It may be for the best that each of us accepts this, no matter our role in the game: whether a fan, weekend golfer, club member, golf instructor, or PGA Tour professional. This approach would do us all a world of good, not to mention our inner-self, if we would simply remind ourselves of this overall perspective. I know I have to remind myself of this, routinely. I have heard professional golfers, both PGA and LPGA stars, speak candidly about this during post-round interviews. I mean, they’re the pro’s, right?!

I am reminded of this hallowing quote:

How can a game have such an effect on a man’s soul?

The (continual) reminder that the game of golf is just a game can go a long way in loosening its effects on our soul’s.  

Scoreless – con’t

A wild evening walk.

“Every shot counts.  The three-foot putt is as important as the 300-yard drive.”

Henry Cotton

One other facet of this game is it exposes something in our own nature that each of us are most prone towards: that is, taking shortcuts. This inbred quality is inside each of us that has its eyes set on the vain hope of attempting to take the easy way out. Of pretty much anything. Cutting corners or just plain laziness are other ways of putting it. Like not having to teach a child how to lie, if there is an easy way out of something we are experiencing, then we’ll jump at the chance. Who wouldn’t? It’s fundamental – for all of us.

Golf, on the other hand, teaches us not only are shortcuts not permitted, but they simply do not and can not work. Have you ever tried taking a half backswing on the tee box? You would probably notice your drive won’t go as far had you taken a full backswing. Even Tony Finau takes it a little bit past the half-way mark. In the same way you can’t cheat yourself in golf you can’t cheat your way through life. You either discover this or it discovers you.  

Another aspect in playing this game is it straightens-out our own misaligned thinking patterns. We all have these flaws in our headspace and nothing has the power to bring these to the surface more than playing a round of golf. Preferably 18 holes but even a quick nine will suffice. 

In other words, the quickest way to get an immediate assessment of where your thoughts are at and how mentally-tough you think are at any given moment is to put a metal-shafted club in your hands and go for a long, winding walk outside one of Mother Nature’s most innocent and finest-looking playgrounds. Trust me, you’ll see, and the results will be staggering, if not alarming for you. In fact, I think all counsellors and psychologists should prescribe their initial intake patient exam of playing a round of golf. Just the two of them. For eighteen holes. That way, the mind doctor would find out everything they need to know going forward – for the patient and themselves.

The Masters: A New Decade

Untamed Wildness
Photo taken by the author

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, esteemed members of our sport’s greatest game – that’s all of you! – aspiring golfers of all ages and ability, as well as the global, golfing community, it is with great excitement I announce to each of you personally that this year’s Masters is right around the corner – despite being postponed until later this fall. 

This defining tournament comes at a time in our history, in your history, may I remind you, marked by the very first Masters tournament to be played this decade, in the 2020’s. The roaring 20’s are back! Of course they are, a century later, and with that the most prestigious golfing event on the planet as we head into our moments roaring twenties. The landmark scene this grand stage is set upon is our 21st century. 

Like the preceding 1920’s terrific, towering rise, our world and our game – this game of golf – will continue its upward climb. It simply has to and I, for one, believe it will. They say history repeats itself; and for once, this will be in our favour and worthy of a repeat. I believe a tranquil nobility of strength, dignity, and honour will come to enclose this era and tournament, as historians of the game and the world over will come to realize, in hindsight.

I have heard it said that this year and decade brings with it “2020 vision” and I can think of no greater clarity than having this stage set upon golf’s greatest of all stages, at none other than the hallowed grounds at Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia. 

Each year as this tournament approaches I have noticed two things. First, the golf courses that are played on prior to this event (with exception to this year’s pandemic) all seem to start looking like Augusta’s. For instance, the pristinely-cut fairways, giant white sand bunkers, and pine straw looks around the edges of the fairways and greens all give that Masters-appearance. Second, the leaderboards in the events leading up are usually filled with the same names that top the Masters leaderboard, year in and year out, such as Jason Day, Adam Scott, Paul Casey, Zach Johnson, Phil, Rory, DJ and, of course, Tiger. 

Last year before the tournament started I predicted Tiger would win. This year, I predict again that Tiger will not only win and defend his Master’s title, but with his win it will catapult and propel him into a whole new realm of the history record books. By winning here at Augusta, Tiger would break the all-time record of most tournament wins in a career, established by Sam Snead, at 82 professional victories, set in 1965 at The Greater Greensboro Open (in other words, a long time ago.) 

Currently, both Tiger and Sam are tied at 82 wins. Number 83 will happen for Tiger, and probably a few more after that, because, well, he’s Tiger. I’m just saying and hoping it’ll be at this year’s Masters. Can you imagine: what a way it would be to launch this 20’s decade off in major-style in 2020 Anno Domini! But of course, I’m just sayin’.

I also believe that this decade will prove to be a very interesting and upwardly exciting one, in a way that can only be experienced by those of us living through it and those looking back on this historical time period. Sure, it will have its challenges and setbacks, as they all do; but, the enormity in scale will out-do any declines, no matter how they come. 

Now, like most golf fans out there, I’m just waiting for this year’s Masters to resume play. 

Scoreless – con’t

IMG_1638

A Stillness Like No Other

Winter in K-Country
Photo taken by the author on an iPhone XR

 

“I regard golf as an expensive way of playing marbles.”

– G.K. Chesterton

 

From a cerebral perspective, the central point of the game is to get your golf ball in to the hole, using the least amount of shots, and to do this over eighteen holes in a given round. Then, you add up each of your holes, and voila, that’s the number of times, or strokes, it took you to play a round of golf. Robin Williams performed a hilarious improv about the game of golf, where he hones in on the whole insanity this sport often brings to those of us mortals who play it. Feel free to check it out on YouTube sometime.

So, is that it? I mean, it sounds pretty simple and straightforward, right? After all, how hard can this game be? It sure looks pretty easy when I watch it on TV. And, honestly speaking, it feels quite dull and boring when I’ve followed the Pro’s around at tournaments, too. I mean, they drive it out there, far and long, always landing on the pristine green carpet; then, hit their iron shot on to the green; and then, usually get it down in two or less putts. I find myself looking at my iPhone more often than I do actually watching them. At least with my phone, I can respond to texts or restart the darned thing when it doesn’t work.

Of course this game is not easy! It’s not even remotely close to being easy. It’s about as easy as walking from the Milky Way galaxy to the Hubble Deep Field. None of us makes it this far in life without knowing that nothing in life, or in golf, is easy or comes easily – nothing.

For me, the whole point of this wonderful, heart-wrenching game is to grow us as a person. Simply put, golf matures us, whether we intend for it or not. This game grows each and every one of us, whoever so wisely or un-wisely decidedly picks up a club as an instrument of this game and attempts to understand and accept the full range of one’s own limitations and full-on constraints.

Come to think of it, I know of nothing else in life that grows or matures us, more than the game of golf. People don’t. Situations don’t. Relationships don’t. Spouses don’t. Not even our own selves are capable of this growing effect. Golf is a game that one cannot or will not ever be able to fully and completely master, for its results of mastery are completely unattainable. However much of a perfectionist, or recovering perfectionist you may be, perfection in this game is elusive. It’s always fleeting and just when you think it’s within your grasp, for a shot or even a hole or two, it seems to go as quickly as it comes, vanishing into the thin air all around us.

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