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Archive for August, 2008

Skip Carey passed away this weekend.   It was unexpected, shocking and saddening to me in a place deep down in my soul.   For most of my life, Skip was the voice of Atlanta Braves baseball, and in the 80’s, when cable was new, and Ted Turner owned both the Braves and TBS, no matter where my family was stationed, I could still have that connection with my hometown team, and that connection sounded like Skip Carey. 

But it was the early 90’s that solidified my love of both baseball and Skip Carey. 

In the fall of 1991 I was a newlywed of 21, and things were not going well for Tony and I.  Our budget was so tight that we had no television, and for brief periods of time, we even had no power. Things were bleak in our nascent household.

And yet I can remember that time as a golden time. It was the miraculous Worst-to-First year for the Atlanta Braves, and every evening we would turn on the radio and listen to the Braves creep ever closer to a title. Skip was there with us, every evening, in our living room as we leaned in to listen to every exciting call, glued to our radio like a rerun of the Waltons.  And it was the thing we looked forward to after long, hard days in the grooming business we tried to operate.  The excitement and joy of baseball.  The time spent together, sharing those innings.  And the security of knowing that there would be another game the next night, and the next night, and the night after that, no matter what was happening in our small private world.  Through the ups and the downs, Skip was always there with us, matter-of-factly pointing out the bad calls and the bad plays, and joyously, if not incredulously, celebrating the unlikely victories.

During that time, Braves baseball was hope.  It was the triumph of the underdog over unlikely odds.  If the Braves could go from worst in the division to the World Series, then we could pull ourselves up, as well.  Skip preached that sermon to us every night, sometimes in the dark, but always colorful.

I learned to appreciate and to -love- baseball from his enthusiasm.  I learned what it was that has attracted generations to the ballpark for inspiration and escape, even in the worst of times. But the fall of ’91 was a magical time, and Skip was the voice of the magic. 

And now, a bit of the magic has gone from the world. 

Goodbye, Skip, and thank you from bringing that bit of American hope to my life.

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The more time I spend with my grandfather, the more I realize that I am a lot like him, and perhaps becoming more like him with time.  I know I have inherited many of his eccentricities.  I hope I’ve inherited some of his many talents.  And I’m afraid I’ve inherited not a few of his faults, as well.  One of which is an inherent inability to take it easy when there is work to be done.  To say I’m following in his footsteps is both descriptive and prophetic at the same time.

Today, I went to the garden again for my first day “back at work” after the surgery.  There’s so much to be done it would almost be discouraging, if not for the fresh cucumbers, the lima beans, the watermelon, the canteloupe and the first ripening tomatos!  [Which of course, is what gardening is all about – homegrown tomatoes.]  I did as much as I felt I could do, given the heat of the day and the requirement to ease back into gardening, and in the end I was greatly pleased with what I had managed to accomplish.  David and I weeded about a third of the peppers before we gave out, and I can see where two more days of work would get the peppers back into shape.  That’s very gratifying.  It’s also very exhausting. 

And I planted the collards for the fall u-pick-it business, and was glad to alleviate my grandfather from the fretting about getting the cash crop planted. 

But as usual, the real benefit of the day wasn’t the accomplishment of weeding the peppers. it wasn’t the opportunity to drive the tractor [although….yippee!], and it wasn’t the ripened tomatoes.  It was the opportunity to reflect on life, the kind of reflection that happens to me most often when I’m gardening.  And it was the opportunity to catch a droplet of wisdom that falls from my grandfather like sweat from his brow, the tiniest unrehearsed phrases that seem to be inconsequential on the surface, and yet, upon reflection, can reveal the secrets of living well.

These little phrases are born in practicality, but easily trascend into the realm of philosophy, much like a parable in the Bible. And usually they are things that I’ve heard hundreds of times before, but for some reason, upon this hearing, they just say….more.

As I was planting the collards, going up and down the rows with the seeder, Grandpa supervised.  He walked just ahead of me, watching my progress, feeling the freshly tilled soil under his shoes.  And then he said, “the fewer footprints you make, the better off you’ll be in the long run.  The footprints are the first places the weeds will come up.  Try to step in my footprints.”

On the surface, this makes perfect sense.  The compression of the footprint firms in the weed seeds dormant in the soil and the contact with the moisture and the soil cause them to germinate earlier than seed laying in tilled soil.   So the fewer footprints created, the fewer early weeds will spring up. Very practical advice.

But as I walked in his footprints, placing my small foot inside his giant footprint, the advice trascended from garden sense to life-sense. 

As we walk our paths in life, there are unavoidable weeds.  They are there, below the surface, just waiting for the right conditions to develop.  The only way to prevent the weeds would be to not walk on the soil, but then our crops would never be planted.  But we can follow in the path of our elders, if we choose.  We will still have weeds, but they will be the weeds our elders have already experienced, and can help us to resolve.  They’ve been down this row before us, afterall.  And perhaps, by following in their examples and their experience, we will create fewer opportunities for weeds to grow in our gardens. 

What grows in my garden? Beans, tomatoes, cabbage, watermelon, peppers, and a lot of weeds.  But I hope that wisdom also grows in my garden.  I will always struggle with the weeds, but it occurs to me that if I follow in the footsteps of those who are experienced in life, I might possibly create fewer opportunities for the weeds to overtake me.

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