Note: The smoke lay thick in the Silver Valley all day.
1. I tuned into the U. S. Open finals match between Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem. I gave the early parts and the last parts of the match my full attention, but for most of the match, I was focused on talking with Bill, Diane, Val, and Bridgit while we were on ZOOM. I was aware, though, that Zverev got off to a blazing start, winning the first two sets and that Thiem dug in and won the next two sets, extending the match to a decisive fifth set. The fifth set was tied after twelve games and so the match had to be decided by a tiebreaker.
By this time I was no longer on ZOOM and I was blown away by what I witnessed. Dominic Thiem's legs were beginning to cramp and in between points he was jogging in place, keeping his legs moving, trying to prevent them from locking up. His gait looked like a penguin's (I thought he was moving around like Ron Cey.) Alexander Zverev was also showing the strain of a four hour match. I learned later that his left quad was beginning to seize up, costing him some speed on his powerful serve.
When athletes in any sport gut it out and play with determination and skill even as their bodies are breaking down, we often call them warriors. As the tiebreaker progressed, that's what I felt I was witnessing: two elite athletes having their overworked muscles betraying them, but both figuring out ways to continue to play, playing fiercely, trying not to surrender to the pain and immobility, and both willing to push themselves until one of them prevailed in this tiebreaker.
In the end, Dominic Thiem prevailed. He collapsed on the court. His face expressed disbelief, ecstasy, and exhaustion. He stared for a few minutes at the heavens before lifting himself back to his feet and accepting congratulations from and extending condolences to his close friend, Alexander Zverev. I thought the two playes were on the verge of collapsing into each others' arms in a moment of mutual admiration usually reserved for combatants in mythological epics. Their grace moved me.
2. We had a lot to talk about in our ZOOM discussion. Early on, we talked about Billy Collins' poetry broadcast he gave on Friday -- the one I wrote about on Saturday. We went back nineteen years and talked about what we experienced on September 11, 2001 and in the days that followed. I'd say that each of us tried to come to grips with the death and destruction of that catastrophic day in quiet ways. I know on the Sunday after the catastrophe, after Bishop John Thorton delivered a moving sermon and we arrived at the moment in the liturgy when we recite the Lord's Prayer together, that he invited us to join hands. The entire congregation accepted the invitation so that we weren't merely holding hands with our pew mates, but the entirety of the congregation were joined physically as one.
I tend to think that so much of how we respond to things has to do with temperament, even more than, say, beliefs. My temperament as a person doesn't seem to fit well with more traditional expressions of patriotism. I can't explain it. I wasn't brought up this way. It's just the way I am, I guess. I feel surges of affection for the USA when I do things like read Walt Whitman, drive across the USA and see our country's many landscapes and marvel at the miles and miles of open spaces, when I go on day hikes, and when I'm in big cities and feel the vitality and energy of so many different people from all over the world. I felt the most attuned to being a citizen of the USA when I lived in Maryland and when I visited Washington, D. C., New York City, Baltimore, and Savannah, GA.
It's my temperament, I guess. I didn't come to experience things this way by the way I was raised at home, by how I was educated as a kid, or by the community I grew up in. I can't explain it.
Our ZOOM discussion veered in other directions, too. We talked about those things on so many people's minds right now, the upcoming election and fires and other things on our minds like understanding the world through mythology, the nourishing value of Bill's Tuesday night concerts, what we've been reading, and how much we enjoy each other and relish these ZOOM meetings every two weeks.
3. I really don't enjoy drinking beer or cocktails alone. With Debbie helping Adrienne, Josh, Ellie, and Jack in New York, I hardly ever drink anything here at home, where I'm spending much of my time. And, yet, I have quite a few cans of beer from Oregon in the refrigerator that Patrick brought me last weekend. So, today, I had some drinking company during the ZOOM discussion. Bill was sipping on a single malt scotch. Val was enjoying a few fingers of Plantation Pineapple Rum. I joined in and cracked open a can of Great Notion's Juice Sr, a New England style Triple IPA, weighing in at 10.5% ABV.
This beer exploded with juicy flavors and made me grateful that I'm alive during a time of so much innovation in the brewing of beer. The beer's juiciness was balanced by just the right amount of bitter aftertaste, meaning that I didn't feel like I was drinking a Hi-C fruit drink, but that I was enjoying a sturdy, tasty, relaxing, real deal New England style IPA!
Here's a limerick by Stu: