Full Moon Ramble

Some of us went to the beach for a full moon picnic last night, and I’ve got to say, it was an exceptionally pleasant time, away from the bright lights of the driving range, the muted noise of the dancers and drinkers at The Swing Barn, and the endless to-do list at the Slice of Heaven Pie Shop.

Looking up at that wonderful bright moon, I thought of the nights that I’ve watched it come up over the driving range, rising above the trees. One night in particular, it was fascinating because as the moon came up, the raccoons came out, and a number of the guys had a little fun in shooting their golf balls at the furry moving targets, who responded by moving just a little bit faster.

I’ve never been a big fan of raccoons, so I did enjoy watching the target practice.  The twins probably still remember when our kitchen in Maine was taken over by raccoons, who seemed quite angry that we were up in the night trying to make them move out.  Eventually, they lumbered up the stairs and out a third-floor window, but for a while, it was really touch and go.

Then, in Missouri, in our little house by the big lake, we watched a whole family of raccoons, plus their realtor, check out a big old dead tree within sight of our porch, but once they saw us, they decided the neighborhood did not meet their standards, and they moved along. Snubbed by raccoons! Oh, man, that hurt.

Of course, the full moon does provide another excuse for me to talk about golf, pie, and the universe. As you recall, NASA once did have a plan to put the first apple pie on the moon, and Alan Shepard was the first man to play golf on the moon, so by now it must all be coming together for you.  Add to this, a lovely sentiment expressed by Carl Sagan, “‘If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.”

Now, you could take that to mean that only God can create a pie, but I’ll interpret it in broader terms to remind myself that golf, pie, the moon, and Alan Shepard are all part of the same grand plan. My question of late has been what type of apples to use in my Alan Shepard Pie, so I checked out the harvest list for an orchard near Shepard’s old home town of Derry, New Hampshire.

I was delighted to see so many choices: Jerseymac, Tydeman, Paulared, Burgundy, Gingergold, Jonamac, McIntosh, Gala, Cortland, Empire, Honeycrisp, Macoun, Re Delicious, Jonagold, Golden Delicious, and Mutsu. I tell you, the sky’s the limit. Just reading the list of apples sounds like poetry to me, and more and more, I suspect that poetry will be the form that Alan Shepard Pie takes, once I finally create it as something to be consumed under the full moon on the golf course of your choosing.

One likely place may be McInnis Park, just 20 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge. Two nights ago the Golf Center there hosted night golf with special guest Michael Murphy, author of the Shivas Irons books, which are my particular favorites. I came across this news while browsing through the Shivas Irons Society website, which I recommend to you because Shivas Irons fans do so completely understand the metaphor of golf.

I was especially taken by this essay called “Detachment,” written by Dave Korba:

It was a clear November day, warmer than normal. The sun was bright, casting harsh shadows. My face was warm in the sun and my hands cool in the mild breeze. As I walked the course alone, I was drawn to the sight of a red flag shouting in the breeze.   The course was empty as I walked in a sea of green along the rolling contours and slopes of the changing landscape. The leaves were gone from the trees and the mountainside was a backdrop of dappled gray. There was something about that red flag…

I like to play golf as a way to escape from the daily grind. When played with a different perspective, golf can also teach us valuable lessons about how to live life more fully.

I was unknowingly about to receive such a lesson on this day. I met Art as I made the turn onto the inward nine. I didn’t know him but could tell he played the game with a different perspective. His demeanor was calm and relaxed and a sense of inner confidence underscored his walk and swing. His personality was warm and the conversation was easy. We talked about the inner game as we walked the back nine.

The conversation turned to philosophy and the concept of non-attachment and how it applies to golf. We spoke of Golf In The Kingdom and how Shivas Irons assures Murphy, in his Scottish brogue, “Dona’ worry about the score so much. It’s not the important thing.”   We discussed our own efforts in detaching from the score and how we viewed the results of our shots while remaining in the witness mode. We offered mutual support as we executed shots, gauging and measuring our own level of attachment to the results with each effort.

We got to the sixteenth hole, a downhill par three, 157 yards over the water. The harsh sun was now nearing the horizon. The shadows were long and the breeze was getting cooler. Art was nonchalant as he teed up his ball and said “I’ve noticed that when I let go of my attachment to the outcome, I feel more freedom in my swing.”

He spoke as he set up to the ball, “It’s not an easy thing to do, especially for most golfers.”

He talked right through his set up and started his swing upon uttering his final word. As soon as the ball took flight he leaned over and pulled his tee from the ground and continued, “Most golfers I know are so attached to the result of every shot and to their score, that their game is filled with nothing but frustration.”

The shot was a high, floating seven-iron with a mild draw, right at the pin. After he picked up his tee he turned his back to the hole and faced me, talking, as I stood watching the ball in flight.

He continued, “Once I learned to let go of, or at least minimize my attachment to the result, my game changed dramatically. Not only did I have more fun, I also improved my level of play.”

The ball hung in the air an incredibly long time. I stood and watched as it arced toward the hole; oblivious to the words he was speaking. I was totally attached to his shot and the impending result. He stood calmly looking at me as I leaned my body English to the left to get the ball over to the hole. With a muffled sound the ball struck the unfurled flag and then the pin and dropped to within two feet of the cup. He finally turned, saw the result, then looked back at me and grinned a large grin.

As we walked to the green he continued to explain how he felt that golf is a great teacher of life’s lessons.   “This game gives me opportunities to learn about myself. It’s a journey of self-reflection. It brings me face to face with frustrations, fears and the demons within. I experience some fleeting happiness, but more often it’s self-criticism, harsh self-judgment and judgment of others. Not only is it similar to life, in that regard, it actually helps facilitate the learning I’m here to accomplish. For me, golf is a game within a game. I don’t take it too seriously, but I use it as a mirror to reflect back to me the inner thoughts, emotions and feelings that come up as learning opportunities.”

Art made his birdie and celebrated with upraised hands and a huge smile. As we walked off the green, the red flag snapped in the wind as if acknowledging the shot. We continued on and finished an enjoyable round. It is one that I will reflect upon and remember for a long time.

That’s all for now, my dear.I hope we can talk again soon. Don’t forget to send me your golf tips, and I’ll keep a pie on the windowsill just for you.