At The Driving Range

Lately, I’ve started to swing the golf clubs again after a few years away from it. Not really ready to play on the big courses again. I’ve been spending some time playing at a little low key 9 hole course down the road and up the road, I’ve been practicing at a nice place with a good driving range.

The first time I went to the driving range about a month ago, I noticed an older lady who everyone seemed to know. I was told that she was a bit of local celebrity due to some unique life experiences. I was also told that she didn’t hear very well.

A few days ago, I found myself practicing next to her. At the end of our practice, we chatted for a brief bit about golf and what we used to do for a living. She was very hard of hearing. Also, tactfulness was not her strength, but I sometimes can appreciate that. After a couple of exchanges, we went our separate ways.

Today, I went out to the driving range again and she was at the far end working on her game. She got done before me and then she sat on a bench behind the hitting area. It was just her and I at the range. For some reason, when I got done I decided to go and sit next to her. She was in the middle of the bench and she was bit confused as I scooted her golf clubs aside and sat down.

This is how snippets of the conversation went.

Her: Boy, you have a beautiful practice swing, but when you get over the ball, you sure don’t.

I told her that I keep lifting my head and shoulder up and that changes the swing path. I don’t think she heard me very well.

Her: I took a couple of lessons from the guy out here. He thinks everyone should do it his way, but we’re all built differently. What works for him just won’t work for me.

I didn’t tell her that I had just taken three lessons from that “guy.”

Her: I am really upset about a confrontation I had at the Buddhist Center. There’s no flexibility. Everything has to be done a certain way. I told the lady in charge that I don’t believe we can just meditate and retreat from the world. We are part of the world and we need to be part of the solution. She called me up to continue the argument when I got home, but I couldn’t hear a word she was saying. I don’t hear well. It really bothers me though when people get wrapped up in their dogma.

Me: You don’t hear about arguments at a Buddhist Center very often. I guess it is another opportunity for a lesson. She soften a bit and said, “Yes, a lesson.”

Her: I am Catholic but I don’t go to church. Well, I do, but I just go when it is empty, I like to meditate, pray in there. That is what I do on this bench when I’m done hitting balls. I like to sit here and just meditate with the trees and the hills, the earth. We are all going to die someday and our body will be part of this beautiful earth. Isn’t that something?

My mind became very quiet and I just nodded as I suddenly saw the driving range in a new light.

Her: I don’t believe in Hell or sin. I think it is just a way to control people. I was asked not to return to a local monastery. They said they didn’t think I belonged there. I told them that I thought God, whatever you want to call it, is everywhere. They didn’t like that.

I told her that I knew that particular monastery very well and I too found it to have a very rigid approach in dealing with people who see things differently.

Her: Do you have a pet?

Me: Yes, we have two dogs and two cats.

Her: Oh, that is really wonderful. I have one cat.

Me: I think my pets have taught me to love better.

Her: Oh for sure. Sometimes I just want to read a book and my cat will come and sit nearly on my chest wanting attention. I have to decide whether to take care of my desires or her needs. I choose her needs. It has helped me a lot.

She then asked me if I was married and I told her yes, for 49 years so far.

Her: That is wonderful. I am 83 and alone. I get lonely sometimes, really lonely. It is hard. I guess married people get lonely too though.

With each phase of our conversation, she became more comfortable in occasionally tapping my upper arm and shoulder, as if we were longtime friends. She then asked where I lived. I told her in Orland. We moved there after the fire.

Me: We lost everything we owned, but in a very real way, we lost nothing. The finite was gone, but the infinite remained.

Her: That makes me want to cry. I have been there too.

I then asked where she lived? She lived in a small rural community about 10 miles away.

Her: I live in government housing. Everybody that lives there is poor. We have drug addicts and people with all sorts of problems, but I love everyone of them. Once you get past the book cover, the persona, when you get to the real person, they are all beautiful. You know, the people here don’t charge me for my golf? They are so kind and take care of me.

Another pause, as I was processing this incredible conversation I was having along with wondering what made me walk over to her and kind of entered her personal space? This is not my usual way of doing things.

We got up off the bench to return to the clubhouse and go our separate ways. She touched my arm again.

Her: I am so glad you shared with me.

I gave her a hug and said we’d share again.