Tanitoluwa Adewumi, better known as Tani, was a homeless seven year old refugee from Nigeria who lives in New York City. He learned to play chess and by the time he was ten became an official “chess master.”
Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist who introduced me to Tani in his Sunday (May 9, 2021) column, asked Tani how he feels when he loses.
When you lose, you have made a mistake, and that can help you learn. I never lose, I learn.
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!
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.
Taking a break from our daily workouts at our Coastal Fitness gym in mid-April, Hannah and I drive down Route 91 in York towards South Berwick to the trailhead of the 151 acre Highland Farm Preserve.
Having passed this trailhead a million times, today is the day we lace up our hiking boots for the field crossing appetizer before we get to the entre – hilly forest trails. This preserve connects thousands of undeveloped acres between Mount Agamenticus and the York River.
For all you fans of Peter and his kindred cottontails, the York Land Trust is working to restore 30 acres of thickets to support the return of the endangered New England cottontail rabbit. The Town of York holds a conservation easement on this land that protects it from future development and guarantees public access.
Crossing the hayfield, we soon head up into the forested hillside.
On trails that are very well-marked and colored coded, we find a map at each juncture of the trail that shows hikers where they are and a full map of the entire preserve’s trails.
Different from the level trails of the shoreline here in York and Kittery that we’ve hiked over the last few days, we have some elevation gain on these rooted and stony trails – a good Dan and Hannah workout.
Overlooking the fields below through the trees that as yet have not leafed out, we have a mid-April Wednesday morning getaway pretty much to ourselves.
Over 70 minutes we cover 80% of all the trails at the Highland Farm Preserve. Just ten minutes from home, we have another hiking jewel in our crown of local trails to share with you when you come to southern Maine.
For you fans of Owen and Max: I’ve added five pictures from last weekend’s hike on Cutts Island that Hannah and I did with Owen and Max. Click here to see the Cutts Island blog updated. Scroll to the bottom of the blog for the new pix.
For the May 10, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to put Home at the top of the page and freewrite away in less than 300 words.
First home in the Desert
As young newly-weds in the Valley of the Sun in the early 1970s, Hannah and I began looking for a house within walking distance of the U, by that I mean Arizona State University.
A little three bedroom, one-story place at just under $21K looked out the window and called our names. Hardly able to contain our enthusiasm, we offered a thousand less. They countered that for the original price they’ll include all the furniture for the entire house. And so we had our first home at the corner of Roosevelt and West 16th Street.
Our neighbors got a good laugh when we bought a push mower to cut the thick, wide-bladed St. Augustine grass. With Arizona’s constant sunshine and irrigation water from the town that covered our lawn like a small pond, the grass flourished and needed constant cutting. Out of the blue, the Tempe Garden Club put a sign in our yard that we were the Lawn-of-the-Month.
Raised in the Northeast, Hannah and I thought, what says Arizona more than a backyard pool? Paying $5K for the in-ground 40′ pool, the cool decking, and all the tile, we had our antidote to the dry, oven-like heat of the Phoenix metropolitan area.
Without air-conditioning for the 115 degree summer days, we did have a swamp cooler on our roof. Swamp coolers operate by water dripping down reed mats and then a fan blows cool air into the house. Though functional for low humidity days in May and June, swamp coolers provide little relief in the humidity of July, August, and September.
Even so, we were living the dream in our first home in the desert.
Given a hot tip for hiking in the nearby town of Kittery by our friend, George Derby, Hannah and I have a free Saturday afternoon to explore the trails of the Norton Preserve. You see, our grandson Max’s seventh birthday party has been postponed one day due to unusually cold early May weather. Though the trailhead to the conservation land of the Kittery Land Trust is unmarked, George’s direction are as solid as a full house over a kangaroo straight.
Driving down Route One from York to Kittery, we, after the Pig’s Fly Bakery, turn left on Lewis Road. After a mile or so, Lewis Road ends at Norton Road, which is where we turn left down the dead-end toward the trailhead.
Down this country/residential road, we park on the right side one hundred yards from the road’s end in one of the six parking places. Walking up to a wide grassy path past a country estate with its own tennis court, we, in short order, reach the sign showing the four color-coded trails at our disposal.
Hiking left on the white trail through a forest of oaks, pines, and trees long since dead and spread around like pick-up sticks, we have regularly spaced white blazes on the trees to guide us. I never knew the origin of the term “blaze,” the colored markers on trees to guide hikers, until Hannah pipes up that we are blazing a trail. One good thinker.
Reaching the junction of the yellow trail, with the wetlands to our right we head north towards the Kittery/York line. Stepping around a small creek where logs have been placed for us to cross without sinking into the gooey ooze, we soon notice that the yellow blazes have ended. Entering the unmarked trails (as of May 2021) of the York Land Trust, we easily hike our way to Bartlett Road in York.
Returning the way we came, we eventually take a left on the orange trail that weaves in and out on a path parallel to the yellow trail.
After an hour, we return to the trailhead pleased that a ten-minute drive from our home has us hiking in the woods of southern Maine.
The next day the sun shines for Max’s seventh birthday party with both sets of his grandparents and local cousins. We do so appreciate celebrating outside together after a pandemic year.
Later in the week, we add our Peace flag to our front yard.
If you have forgiven yourself for being imperfect and falling, you can now do it for just about everybody else. If you have not done it for yourself, I am afraid you will likely pass on your sadness, absurdity, judgment, and futility to others.
Richard Rohr, b. 1943
Richard Rohr founded the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He saw a need for the integration of both action and contemplation. Click here for more information about the CAC.
For the May 3, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to freewrite about a random connection that was a total surprise. This one blew me away. Fasten your seatbelts.
When Hannah and I return to Arizona, our home for ten years as young marrieds, we seek out Sabino Canyon near Tucson for a hiking fix.
Five years ago, after nearly four hours of hiking on the Seven Falls Trail, we return to the visitor center for Hannah to buy postcards. The volunteer ranger notices my ever-present Ithaca Bombers shirt and asks, Is that in New York? Nodding yes, I listen as she mentions that she’s from nearby Rochester.
I point to Hannah and proudly beam, I married a Rochester girl. Knowing that people often say that they are from the city of Rochester when they are, in fact, from a nearby small town that no one would know, I mention Hannah is actually from Fairport. To my surprise, Julia knows it well as someone from nearby East Rochester.
Hannah comes over and talks with Julia of childhood memories of the area. When I return to Hannah and Julia, who looks our age, I randomly ask, Did you know Dr. Kraai, Hannah’s dad?
This is not as an off-the-wall question as it may seem since Dr. Kraai was the family general practioner for the town of Fairport who worked made house calls each morning, had office hours in their home til 10P, and delivered some 5000 babies.
Julia is stunned and looks directly at Hannah, Dr. Kraai delivered me. Hannah, whose dad died 30 years ago, tears up immediately and says, I have goose bumps. Julia adds, I do too.
What do you know, randomness lives in Tucson, Arizona!
See below for the full story with cactus from our hike at Sabino Canyon five years ago.
The second of our daily double of short local hikes is just over the York line into Kittery. (Click here for the first, the Fuller Forest Preserve in York.) Travel south on Route 103 from York Harbor and on your right after two miles or so you’ll see the trailhead parking for this hiking jewel developed by the Kittery Land Trust.
This mid-April late morning finds women with their dogs and a mom with her three-month-old papoose. The trail is often wide enough for the two of us to walk side-by-side through the forested land.
Crossing the little creek on wooden puncheons with roof shingles for traction, we are minutes from home but really away into the Maine woods.
Having hiked this trail before with our grandsons Owen and Max, today we discover the new Sawyer Farm Trail spur at the far end of the loop trail; red plastic blazes on the trees guide us all the way to Bartlett Road near the York/Kittery line.
Without haste but walking steadily, Hannah and I cover the mile and a half or so of trail in forty some minutes.
Paired with the Fuller Forest Preserve trail not five minutes away, the Brave Boat Headlands trail gives those new to hiking/walking and those seeking the solitude of nature a double-barreled hiking experience.
Five days later we took our friend Karen to explore this same trail.
Asked by his daughter if he had any regrets in his life, her 80 year old dad said,
I wish I’d been more kind.
Repeated by Jeanne McSorley, Standard, California
Ms. McSorley explains, I am impatient person (as was my dad), and as I try to improve myself as I move forward in life, the idea and practice of kindness have become my personal motivating force. Everything improves with kindness…I hope I will not have a similar regret if I’m ever asked question at the end of my life.