Saturday, June 17, 2006

Put your hips into it

"If you get the perfect swing and hit the ball exactly right and you watch it soar and take off like an airplane, it is so satisfying, so pleasing."

Asked my 19-year-old son for a topic and that's what he gave me. He and his younger brother went to the driving range today, with their garage sale golf clubs--girls' clubs, I'm told, but how would I have known that when I bought them? Things did not go well at first at the driving range. It's been a year since they've done this. But then, they said they remembered Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler in a movie, not someone on the PGA tour) and how he said to put your hips into it. The balls took off.

Golf. How did they learn anything about that? There are no golfing parents in this house. Yet any mother of sons, any Cub Scout den leader, can tell you that boys have a natural affinity for swinging sticks around and hitting things. There's a broken window in our basement that can attest to this. So forget the idea that golf is a product of civilization, course designers, and lawn mowers. No, that whacking instinct is utterly natural. That same urge to use the explosive power of the body to force an object to fly through space also explains baseball. And spiking in volleyball. And all that dribbling, spinning, leaping, and turning that finally propels the ball through the net in basketball.

I don't have these urges. Never did. The closest thing I've ever had to an athletic obsession involved a balance beam routine in high school. No believe me, there was no careless leaping there. At the moment I have a pretty good case of tennis elbow, but I did not get it from hitting balls around the court. It's from snapping my fingers while conducting. It won't go away because I aggravate it every time I sit down to knit. Here, however I do have something in common with professional athletes: I can knit through pain.

Still, I love to watch my sons play Frisbee or shoot hoops in the backyard. An email survey sent by a friend once asked for my favorite sport. "Whatever Kurt is playing at the moment," I said. When Kris was his age we watched him play soccer and speed from one end of the field to the other, challenging guys much bigger than he was. When they play Frisbee, they run, dive, and jump after a disk that often spins by off in unexpected directions. Oh to be young--and have that much faith in your body.

These guys need space. If all this energy erupts late at night in the kitchen, while a certain thirteen-year-old is waiting for the pizza rolls to come out of the toaster oven, dishes may break. Heads may crack--not that he notices. This kid has bruises and scrapes up and down his legs, arms, shoulders, and he doesn't know where they come from--which headlong dive into the dirt caused which area of damage.

Spirits live in bodies. We don't actually know of any other places they live. In yoga, you put the physical body on, around the breath body, and then they move together, motion activated by breathing. That's about the extend of my athleticism, these days. But when you get it all working right, you soar, just like the ball when you put your hips into the golf swing. It's so satisfying, so pleasing.

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