Dan and What Story Do You Want to Write? – KGUA #98

For the September 19, 2022 KGUA Radio Writer’s Hour hosted by Peggy Berryhill and Mark Gross, we are asked to freewrite to the following prompt:   

What Story Do You Want to Write?

It’s a mind-blowing story about an old dog learning new tricks.  And that old dog would be me!

I am in the process of making two companion changes of perspective that will bring new joy to my life by making a 180 degree turn for the good. They may just blow your mind as they do mine!

The first is, out of the blue our pickleball with Fran and Steve gets cancelled.  Not a big deal, but our weekly pickleball, then beers is something that I enjoy immensely.  Rather than bemoaning that we won’t be playing, I quickly pivot to wondering what good thing will take its place. As you can imagine, it will blow my mind.

Two, our local friends, Tree and Scott, are moving back to California.  While they have been here this summer, we’ve had regular coffee at McDonald’s and a celebratory dinner before they left.  I’ll miss them, but in no time soon I won’t.  I’ll focus on the good times and our conversations as old friends.  I look forward to their return but won’t focus on missing with them.  Another 180 degree switcheroo.  By focusing on the abundance of our relationship not the lack at this particular time, I’ll blow my mind again!

I am a work-in-progress as I…blow…my…mind. Care to join me?

Words – 185

You might enjoy this legendary story from the Land of Tao.

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy for what they called his “misfortune.”

“Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

Dan and Hannah Celebrate our 50th Anniversary Pickling at the Mid-coast Rec Center and Hiking the Beech Hill Preserved in Rockport, Maine (Day 3 of 3)

Today’s blog records the events of June 24, 2022 – (our actual wedding anniversary is date July 1, 2022) as our 50th Anniversary Getaway to the Mid-coast of Maine wraps up today with more pickling and hiking.

6.5 miles, 11 minutes

After our surprisingly enjoyable pickleball at the Belfast City Park yesterday afternoon, I look forward to some play at the nearby Mid-Coast Recreation Center.  Paying $5 each, we are greeted by Chuck and I soon find myself in a spirited game. 

Hannah (in turquoise) goes low to dink at the MRC converted high rink for pickleball. Despite how shiny the surface looks, the court was not slick.

After two hours of play I’ve had a good workout.  I am relearning that I most enjoy women and men who want to improve their games. As such, I gravitate to the players who play to improve their skills and figure they’ll get better if they hit to the stronger half the time. My pickleball game is not for everyone.

But the day just gets better.  Buying Subway subs, this time in Rockland, we learn from a college student in line that the Beech Hill Preserve in nearby Rockport has some sweet hiking. 

Before scouting out the Beech Hill Preserve, we drive to the nearby Owl’s Head Light, hoping there are trails, which we very quickly discover there are not.  We check out the lighthouse, then head inland to Beech Hill.

The Light at Owl’s Head, minutes south of Rockport
Hannah is certainly a lighthouse “keeper”

We don’t know it yet, but we are about to the hiking highlight of our 50th Getaway. 

11 miles, 21 minutes away

Parking at the trailhead off Rockville Road, we have the greenest of green forests for our one-mile assent to Beech Hill.  By the way, there is another trailhead off Beech Hill Road that is a shorter, gravelly path, without any of the charm of the walk in the woods that we have had.

We choose the Rockville Street trailhead though there is parking at the Beech Hill Road trailhead, too.
Green on green

The sylvan trail begins

The blue blazes guide us to the Beech Hill

Most of the way up Beech Hill with the Atlantic Ocean backdrop

At the summit, we check out the turn-of-the-century large stone cabin with daisies growing on the roof.

Beech Hill visitor center which was closed the day we arrived
Blooming daisies

With views to the Atlantic and the Chickawaukie Pond, we have a hiking triumph on the Mid-coast of Maine.

The alternative gravel from the Beech Hill Road trailhead
Returning by way of our original trail

Our low key getaway, pickling with good folks in Belfast City Park and the Mid-coast Recreational Center, walking through Rockland early morning, finding trails offered by the Boothbay Regional and Coastal Mountain Land Trusts has been such a good time that we are coming back to celebrate our 51st here next year!

Dan and Hannah Celebrate 50 Years of Marriage Hiking at Fernald’s Neck Preserve in Lincolnville Center and Pickling in Belfast (Day 2 of 3)

Today’s blog records the events of June 23, 2022 – (our actual wedding anniversary date is July 1, 2022)

On our 50th anniversary getaway to the Mid-coast of Maine, Hannah and I look to the Coastal Mountain Land Trust for hikes.  An inland hike on a peninsula into Megunticook Lake catches our attention.

14 miles, 28 minutes of driving time

We take the left at Fernald’s Lake Preserve Road off the Camden Road (Route 52) in Lincolnville Center for the Fernald’s Neck Preserve.  Along the lake shoreline, we then take the gravelly road to a parking area for fifteen vehicles but with only one other is there this morning. 

We choose to take the loop trail counterclockwise around the preserve for three plus miles of lakeside hiking, we think.

The Fernald’s Neck trail begins

Once in the woods, Hannah and I see that trail winds its way through so many blowdown, spindly branches and fallen trees of grey and brown; we’ve very little soul-soothing green.

Blowdowns are everywhere

And then the mosquitos descend.  Rarely do we have mosquitos on our hikes in the East, Mountain West, and on the Left Coast.  Consequently, we never use repellant.  This morning that is not a strong choice.  Only if we keep moving through this really desolate area of pick-up-sticks trees do we keep the mosquitos at bay. 

The trail is really as desolate as this picture makes it look.

Though we are on a neck out into the lake, we rarely pass water until except here and rarely there. 

Pond along the trail
At last we hike lakeside
This Monk is ready to put this hike to bed.

Lunching on our Subway subs and ripple barbecue potato chips at Norton Pond near Lincolnville Center, we choose sparkly water as our drink of choice since late afternoon pickleball awaits.

Lunch at Norton Pond in Lincolnville Center

While waiting for late afternoon pickleball at the Belfast City Park, Hannah and I walk the waterfront, then chill at the Belfast Free Library.  Near 4 PM we arrive at the four dedicated pickleball courts at the in-town Belfast City Park. 

15 miles, 25 minutes

Coming to a new venue for us is often a roll of the dice.  Though our experience is that pickleball players in the main are very welcoming, it’s still new and uncertain what the play will be like and whether they will hit the ball to me.

You see, my love affair with pickleball is waning.  Too often, players are single-minded in wanting to win.  When we play doubles, I am much more a “let’s make it enjoyable for everyone – one way to do that is by hitting the ball to each player.” Rather than focusing on winning and the tournament strategy of targeting the weaker player, I like to play to develop my all-around game. I like long points which often include third shot drops and dinks.  I’m not a big fan of short points, those when playing smashball, not pickleball.  

The guys at the Belfast City Park dedicated pickleball courts

After two hours of play with the guys and two women (one is Hannah), my love affair with pickleball rekindles.  Men and women alike play third shot drops, dink, and powerfully put away shots when appropriate.  They hit the ball to me on a regular basis!  I am in heaven, West Virginia. 

I smile all the way back to the Trade Winds Inn in Rockland 40 minutes away.  And tomorrow we’ll wrap up our 50th anniversary getaway by hiking once more and pickling in Rockport at the Mid-coast Recreation Center.  I’ve got my fingers crossed that we’ll go two for two with inclusive, welcoming pickleball play and then find the best hike of our three days away! 

Dan and What His World Looks Like – KGUA #58

For the August 23, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite on What Does My World Look Like? (today? tomorrow? right now? in the future?)

For me, it all depends on the day.

Catch me on an August Sunday, my world looks beautiful.  Every two weeks at dawn on the course in Amesbury, Mass, I golf nine holes with our daughter Molly.  We don’t keep score and do hit extra balls when our first shots are not satisfactory.  We always follow up with eggs, homefries, multi-grain toast, and coffee at the Morning Buzz.

Catch me on a Monday, well my world is beautiful, too.  It’s a ping pong day with my buddy George.  Playing weekly for ten years, he wins some, I win some.  Supporting each other’s good shots with Wows and Whoas, we have a beer after our sweat-filled ninety minutes whacking the little white ball.

Fran and Hannah

Catch me on an early summer Wednesday, check off beautiful again.  Hannah and I ride bikes on our quiet country coastal roads at dawn to avoid the tourist traffic.  Riding side-by-side, we talk and then go single file when the occasional car passes by.  And all of a sudden, we are pulling into our driveway fourteen miles later.

Catch me on a Thursday, my world remains bee-you-tee-full.  Pickleballing with our friends, Fran and Steve, we have partners rather than opponents who don’t take themselves too seriously.  It’s just fun, then we all retire to our front deck for mid-day brewskis and buttery, store-bought popcorn.

My life is not always beautiful, but beautiful is what I remember about this past week. 

Dan and Hannah and Their Friend Milt

It was just three years ago that a neighbor called and said Milt needs a fourth for pickleball at his private court.  Soon, Milt, who didn’t know me from Adam, welcomed me to his place with open arms. 

The next day they needed another player so Hannah came along.  Taken with Hannah’s spunk and power, Milt had us back again and again.  To his credit, Milt in his 80s wanted to learn the game not just whack the ball as hard as he could.  Still quite the athlete (Milt was once a scratch golfer), he worked on his soft game and his serve. 

You see, Milt and his wife Carolyn live in northern Virginia.  Each summer around Memorial Day they come to their place in Maine, which happens to be just five miles from our home in York.

To welcome them back this first Friday in June, 2021, I dial Milt’s number.  No answer.  No surprise as Milt has been working remotely ever since the pandemic grabbed the country and world by the throat.  I try Carolyn’s number and she also does not pick up.  Still not out of the ordinary.  Carolyn has a full life here in Maine, too.

I then text their son Rick, to see if they are even in Maine.  In minutes, Rick replies, Hi Dan, Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Milt passed away last week.  Family in mourning.  Thanks and give my best to Hannah.

Stunned does not do justice to this news.  Disbelieving!  Incredulous!  I could empty the thesaurus describing how much I was blown away.  When Hannah and I last saw Milt this past September on the pickleball court, he looked great, full of pep, and talkative as ever. 

Many was the time that Carolyn came to watch us all play.  From her courtside vantage point, she kept score, complemented good shots, and sassily commented on what Milt should have done better.  In time, Carolyn learned that Hannah cut hair in people’s homes.  Soon Hannah became their barber and hair stylist.

Milt always said, Come and play anytime you want, and we did.  And despite his many business interests, Milt was often able to get away for an hour to play with us.  Upbeat, complementary to others, and sometimes tough on himself, he was always a joy to be around. 

The last time we saw him, we parked just twenty feet from his driveway so we wouldn’t block any cars coming and going.  He gently admonished me, What are you doing parking on the side road.  You’re friends of mine, park up front by the house.  And so we did.

Rest in peace, my friend. 

Click here for the obituary of this amazing, generous man. 

Images

Top – Milt Peterson

Middle – Our friend Fran with Hannah at Milt’s pickleball court

Bottom – Our friends Alan (red) and Genny (yellow) at the court with Hannah serving, Milt in the distance

Dan’s Top Ten – KGUA #49

For the May 17, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite about what we have learned about ourselves during the pandemic.  I give you my Top Ten!    

Top Ten

10. I’ve learned that when I think I’ve hit a home run in life, I remember that as white guy I was born on second base.

9. I’ve relearned how much I love my Fitbit tracker.  My Fitbit encourages me to continue to be the crazed exerciser that I’ve been ever since my days as a grad student working in the Human Performance Lab at Arizona State University. 

8. I have relearned the timeless wisdom of Don Miguel Ruiz in Four Agreements that two of the keys to happiness are to make no assumptions and to not take anything personally.

7.  I have learned that a margarita or two is just fine, but more is asking for trouble. 

6. Rather than immediately react emotionally when I’m challenged by life coming at me, I’ve learned to take a breath and think about the truth of the situation for me.  Giving myself advice in the third person helps (e.g., Dan, you know that…).

5. I’ve learned the importance of having a knife at every meal to cut my food up to avoid said food from lodging in my throat.  I am not far from a steady diet of mush, oatmeal, and apple sauce.

4.  I’ve learned that my longstanding passion for pickleball has been refocused.  I love playing the soft game with opponents who see the game as a cooperative venture to challenge all players rather than a competitive battle where winning is all that matters.  Also, I like to play pickleball not slamball.

3. I have relearned how fortunate I am to have good health and ample resources to really enjoy retirement.

2. I have learned that a beer with friends after ping pong and pickleball makes the experience a royal flush.

1. I am reminded that I have a traveler’s heart.  I look forward to California’s sunshine and blue skies in the months ahead.

Dan and His Advice to His Younger Self – KGUA radio #25

For the November 9, 2020 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to free write some advice that we would give to our younger self. 

Advice for My Younger Self

Son, sit yourself down.  It’s time you and I had a little talk.  You know, I notice you seem to be afraid of even your own shadow.

I look down to the ground, I know he’s right.

My young man, it’s courage that you need. 

But old man, how do I develop that courage?

Ah, lad, it’s time you learn to speak up.

You may not believe this, but you are going to age well and love a game called pickleball; it’s like tennis but with wiffle balls.

You’re messing with me, right?

No, younger self, it’s true.  You are going to love it.  But there will be issues.

Issues? you say.

One, you’ll be playing with younger players with uncontrolled testosterone that will blast wicked shots at your head or family jewels.  That’s not right.  Speak up and address the issue directly.

Two, you’ll get pretty good, such that when you play doubles pickleball, your opponents will hit away from you and play to your less skilled partner all the time.  You’ll feel like a potted plant and wonder why the hell you are out there at all.  Do not despair.  Speak up and work with your opponents to come up with a solution.

And damn, you’ll just feel so good.  And here’s the kicker, most people will respect you because you spoke up.  Do not delay, start now, my young friend.

Words – 234

Dan and Hannah’s Bunion Surgery Numero Dos

All summer long, Hannah knows that surgery on her left foot bunion was coming on September 23, 2020. In the week prior to her surgery, Hannah makes the most of her time.

Getting in a few last serves at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth
Enjoying the Atlantic Ocean at Kettle Cove in Cape Elizabeth with our friend Genny
Hiking the Green Belt Trail in Cape Elizabeth with our friend Alan
Teaming up in mixed doubles pickleball with our friend Fran

Finally, this past Sunday, we drive north to Scarborough for Hannah’s Covid-19 test, which is necessary for her to have the bunionectomy. Afterward, Hannah and I take one last shoreline walk at nearby Pine Point Beach since it’ll be mid-November before Hannah can walk our Maine beaches again.  By the way, her Covid test was negative.

Covid Test, a swab up both nostrils, that was described as if a bug flew up your nose
Pine Point Beach in Scarborough, Maine mid-day Sunday

Come Monday morning, Portland Foot and Ankle ask Hannah if she can move up her appointment from 1045A to 730A.   Hannah is all in. Let’s get this show on the road.

Then Wednesday morning, arriving at the Scarborough Surgical Center at 610A, we are given new paper masks; fearless, Hannah awaits her surgery by Dr. Juris who successfully performed surgery on her right bunion four months ago (May 2020).  Click here for that blog.

610A in the waiting room at the Scarborough Surgical Center

Unable to accompany her to pre-op, I skip out and drive to the nearby sandy Pine Point Beach to walk the shoreline for the next 90 minutes, all the way to the pier at Old Orchard Beach and back. 

Morning at Pine Point Beach

Throughout the morning, I get text updates from the team working on Hannah’s bunion.

7:28 AM (Procedure Update) Your loved one is in the operating room and is being prepped for surgery. We will begin the procedure soon.

8:41 AM (Procedure Update) The procedure has ended, your loved one is now in recovery.

Heading back to the surgical center, I stop at Dunkin’ for coffee and a muffin.  It’s the least I can do to support Hannah.

Once back at the outside tables of the surgical center, I soon am called to come to post-op to see the ever-smiling Hannah. 

Wheeled out, Hannah smiles beneath her mask.  Can you tell?

During her seven week rehab, Hannah will be on crutches for five days, wear a surgical boot for two weeks, and then tenderly walk for the following month before she can resume physical activity in mid-November.

Outdoor pickleball season in New England will be over by then, but she can already hear the pickleball courts of Santa Barbara calling her name.

Let the healing begin.

Afternoon of Hannah’s surgery

Dan is Challenged: More Important?  Learning or Doing?  KGUA #15

For the August 17, 2020 KGUA Morning Writer’s Hour, writing master, Mark Gross, gives us all a new challenge to respond as we free write in 200 words or less:  What is more important? Learning or Doing?

 

Learning without the follow-up doing is a pointless academic exercise.  As well, doing without learning, without experience, without wisdom is just damn foolish.

Learning EE

My teaching life was based in experiential education.  That is, my students learned by having actual experiences.  They learned by doing, not by listening, regurgitating, and acing the test.

Learning, then doing go hand in hand.  Learning while doing informs future learning.

Let me take a minor example from my life as a modestly skilled, over-70 pickleball player.

Learning PB

Pickleball is a game I learned late in life.  I did have enough skills from my tennis playing past to play adequately, even win more than I lost, at the entry level.

But just doing, just maintaining at the entry level became so unsatisfying.  So I focused on my learning by playing pickleball’s soft game, its dinking, its strategy of covering the middle of the court when my partner slides right to cover the alley.

By doing, I was learning.  Hand in glove, arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder.

Doing and learning are blood brothers and trusted sisters.

Words – 178

Dan and Pickleballers in Santa Barbara, California

While Hannah and I hike regularly during our winter two months in Santa Barbara, we also pickle three to four times per week.  Today, I introduce four of the good guys at the pickleball courts.

Pick map

Ten miles from our home away from home to the courts

Pick Tim 2

Tim in the safari hat and blue tee shirt

Let’s start with Tim.  Hailing from Virginia and here for the winter, he and I come to the courts in Santa Barbara as the outsiders.  Many times Tim makes a point of seeking me out as a playing partner.  His power, delicate touch, good humor, and the fact that he doesn’t take himself too seriously make him an ideal partner.  Though we win more than we lose, it’s always a good time with Tim.

After our last pickleball morning before we return for home in Maine, Tim makes a point to come to wish me well.  He then seeks out Hannah on another court to bid her farewell, and says, Take care of the old man.

Pick Bill

Then there’s Bill.  After one enjoyable morning of teaming on the pickleball courts of Santa Barbara, Bill offers up, why don’t we “catch dinner” together with our wives.  Not exactly sure what that means, we invite them to our place in Carpinteria for drinks, dinner, and cards.  Our Sunday night becomes one of the peak moments of our winter stay as we laugh throughout the evening over getting-to-know-you conversation and then conclude the evening with a spirited game of Mormon Bridge.

Pick Werlins with H

Bill and Claudia with Hannah at the Frog Wall in Santa Barbara

The following week, Bill and I play as partners all morning long, building on our growing friendship.  Three days before Hannah and I leave for home in Maine, Bill and Claudia have us to their place for lunch, followed by a surprise trip to the Frog Wall in Santa Barbara.  We have a home away from home.  And Hannah has plans for a Frog Wall in York.

Jerry makes three.  Though we only partnered up on two mornings at the end of our stay, he made an indelible impression with his encouragement and confidence in my play.

Pick SB logo

You see, I can be a fish out of water. I play the soft game; by that I mean I hit softer third shots over the net and dink to slow down the play; I’m waiting for an opportunity for my partner or me to pounce on a high return.  At Santa Barbara Pickleball, power is the name of the game for so many of the top players.  Slam, bam, thank you ma’am.  They are bangers.  Without subtly, they crush the ball and often leave me in their wake.  I tire of points being over so quickly; either they pummel me or miss wildly.

Jerry is different.  As an elite player, he values and celebrates our soft games.  With some deftness, he and I beat some top opponents and narrowly lose to others.  But Jerry is constant in encouraging me to keep hitting my low soft balls over the net.  Self-deprecating himself, he pumps me up especially when we play games where I am clearly the weakest of the four players.  He sees the best in me.

Pick Sal

Sal in the blue shirt rocketing a winning return

And lastly Sal.  Everyone knows Sal with his effervescent personality.  With his welcoming way and daily presence on the courts, he is a bridge to all the advanced players.  Sal hits with power, plays the soft third shot, and good-naturedly moans about missing a shot, all in good fun.

At Santa Barbara Pickleball, if players win, they stay on the court for the next opponents.  On one morning, I have just won a game with another player.  We as a team move to another court to play, when that player calls out, Sal let’s play.   Clearly that is against protocol since I just won. Sal turns and says, You won with Dan.  It’s his turn to play.  It may have been an innocent mistake on the other player’s part, but what I appreciate is that Sal stepped up.   He could have let it slide, but he didn’t.  He was looking out for me.

I want to take something from each of them to be a better version of myself.  From Tim, let another know that they make a difference; from Bill, go for it and reach out to others; from Jerry, speaking up and be relentlessly encouraging; and from Sal, look out for the quieter ones so they don’t get lost in the shuffle of more aggressive players.

There have been others of note – Bonnie, Matt, Alistair, Paula, Ben, Andres, David, Paul, and Craig who were decent to me as well as excellent pickleballers.  I look forward to returning in 2021.

Pick H serving

My number one squeeze, Hannah serves in the far court.