Shawn, who cares nothing at all for sports or athleticism in any form, and would probably prefer that it all just disappear in a whoosh of smoke, has noticed how very much I do care.
As well as the way I am constantly descending to the red rug to breathe some yoga, or bounding off to dance. And that it’s basically impossible to talk to me if there’s a basketball game playing in the background. Or if it’s roller derby season.
He said, “I am very interested to hear your take on all things athletic.” Which is a sweet alternative to shaking his head and saying UGH I DON’T GET IT, and I appreciated that.
That was fourteen months ago, but I am invoking the superpower of All Timing Is Right Timing, and so here we are right now.
Dogs and frisbees.
You probably already know this about Havi because everyone knows this about Havi.
She loves watching dogs catch frisbees: that moment of leap-and-turn.
She can sit in the park for hours, captivated, watching dogs catch things.
Here is what she sees when a dog is hurling itself into the air in a perfect, compact, concise arc, rotating in space and grasping for the thing it wants most in that moment:
Power. Grace. Strength. Desire. Adaptation. Purpose. Certainty. Precision. Trust. Determination. Joy. Delight.
Ease-filled striving: combining the twin superpowers of effortlessness and effort together in the just-right amounts. Every part working simultaneously in a flawless harmonious dynamic coming-together.
And also: Perfection.
Perfection in the sense of whole and present. The way that a tree or a mountain is so completely itself and so completely there.
That’s not even the amazing part. The amazing part is that these dogs are mathematicians: solving complex problems in their head, making calculations at breakneck speed, while maintaining this state of PURE AGILITY and performing feats of triumphant aliveness.
The dog doesn’t know it’s being a genius. It doesn’t know about the calculations as they’re being calculated. At least, that seems unlikely.
That dog is living physics. That dog is living math. Not in its head. Body. In a full happy state of joyful being alive.
In great moments of athleticism, you can see someone go from thinking-person mode into I Am A Dog And This Is A Frisbee And Together We Are The Unified Connecting Of Dog And Frisbee And Actually I Am Not Even Thinking This Because Thinking Has Dissolved Into Being, Amen.
Scald Eagle in the last jam of this bout between Rose City’s Wheels of Justice and Windy City in April. Start at ONE HOUR AND NINETEEN MINUTES. And then watch it a few more times.
When Randy Pan (the announcer) says Rose City can still pull off a win, he does not actually think there’s a chance in hell it will happen. He is trying to Build Dramatic Tension because that is his job.
Everyone knows it’s never over until it’s over, this is true in most sports and especially in derby, but this? This was basically over. The likelihood of these two minutes happening the way they happened is… well, not very. Of all the alternate parallel universes we could have landed in to experience those two minutes, this is one of the more astonishing ones.
Havi was there, and she remembers hearing nothing but her heartbeat. Not registering the miracle, just the steadily reverberating thump thump thump and waves of wonder.
Here is the important part:
During these two minutes, Scald is not thinking. She is leaping for that frisbee and it is the only thing that exists in the entire world.
Some part of her mind is tracking where everyone is, making adjustments, remembering the rules, aware that she’s already sat six penalties and if she gets called for ANYTHING at all she will be expelled from the bout and it is all over.
But she herself is not thinking. Just like the dog who is not thinking about physics. In these two minutes, she is one hundred percent her pure animal self. It’s just her and the frisbee.
Yes, she’s also incredibly talented. She has a brilliant strategic mind, a warm heart, and unbelievable determination. She’s fearless, nimble, creative, beautiful, daring, speedy, playful, powerful, risk-taking, courageous, dynamic, trusting. All these things make it fun to watch her tear through a pack leaving a trail of wreckage in her wake.
But the magic is when these things temporarily disappear and there is just these dynamic alive-alive-alive harmonious moments of WANTING and LEAPING. This, for Havi, is everything.
What Havi is actually talking about when she is talking about sports.
There are two things that she is watching, and not just watching but actively DELIGHTING IN while she is watching sports.
This is most or maybe even all of what she is experiencing.
One is watching people coming into the state of being their full-on animal selves: activating this astonishing, powerful, lithe, agile grace. Being in their wholeness.
The other is watching flow. Kaleidoscopic-patterns-unfolding-and-reconfiguring. Liquid math, forms deconstructing and emerging, dancing through the raindrops, finding all the hidden pathways.
When Havi was about fourteen or fifteen she went on a hike with a group of friends.
This was not something she had experience with. She found it challenging and invigorating. It activated things in her that she had not known existed.
There was a moment going downhill, bounding from rock to rock, that tripping-but-instantly-rebalancing, grace and ease. All muscles, joints, bones, connective-tissue and cells joyfully collaborating, moving towards a shared purpose.
And in that moment Havi thought: this has to be exactly what it feels like to be a gazelle.
Havi strives for gazelle state.
She doesn’t care about “exercise” or any of the related words, building muscle, calories, getting a workout, blah etc.
She doesn’t do lunges or count crunches. She doesn’t jog. She doesn’t use machines. She doesn’t track how much or how many.
She wants to return to gazelle state, to spend as much time in optimal gazelle-ness as possible. To be at her most gazelle.
And it is for this and because of this that she walks and bounds, dances and stretches, moves and rests.
Tension and release.
Havi loves watching roller derby, basketball, baseball and football. Proper football. She does not care about American football, even though yes, it’s strategic and there are also kaleidoscopic patterns involved, configurings and reconfigurings.
She suspects it is in part because you can’t see enough of the muscles moving together. All that padding makes it hard to see the gazelles.
Havi wants to watch bodies moving. The miracle of coordination, trust, flow, grace. Tension and release.
And, another thing about Havi. While she can watch competition, She cannot be IN competition.
When Havi moves her body, it is in relation to herself. Internal space and external space. Presence. Revealing and radiating. It is about aliveness.
Havi is there for the playing and the playfulness: curiosity, awakening, reaching, wanting, trying, falling, bouncing back, exploring, bounding, leaping, landing, balancing, returning, tension, release.
Havi doesn’t care if she never catches a frisbee. She cares about the thrill of leaping, the smell of the grass, the whispered yes of aliveness.
The commenting blanket fort.
You are welcome to say things about dogs and frisbees, share a moment of appreciation, talk about gazelle state.
You don’t have to care about sport or athleticism. Or you can care a lot, and like things that I don’t! We can still be friends. Each of us gets to have our own story.
And I want to whisper here: I found it incredibly useful to write about A Topic That Doesn’t Seem Particularly Relevant To Stuck Things I Am Working On, letting it be a secret lens and a fractal flower or a proxy, to process other things along the way.
- People vary. We’ve all lead different lives and had different experiences, as well as different personal definitions for [potentially problematic] words. I hate “exercise” but love being a gazelle! For you this might be entirely different.
- This is that exquisitely rare thing that is safe space on the internet. We keep it that way through our shared practice of Not Giving Advice and Not Caretaking. This helps us make sure we’re taking care of ourselves.
- We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. It’s a process.
That’s it! Big love, as always, to the commenting mice, the Beloved Lurkers, and everyone who reads.