Thursday, April 5, 2012

Opening Day

Opening Day of the baseball season is like no other American holiday save perhaps the 4th of July, when one also has cause to look to the past, anticipate the future and gather together to have a blast all at the same time.

Though many might disagree, baseball remains the quintessential American pastime. Its roots are rural and agrarian, being played on a planted field. The game is intensely collaborative yet absolutely dependent upon individual contribution for success. And nearly anyone can play. These days it might seem that exclusion and winning at any cost are the only American virtues, but that’s not reflective of our traditional character and we needn’t believe it is, no matter evidence to the contrary angrily offered up by hectoring malcontents.

Baseball is who we were and, I maintain, reflects the best of who we are.

Most small mining or lumber towns in the Superior region had their own baseball field and many of those had teams to play on it, often sponsored by a local merchant or company. It was welcome relief, to leave your cares and troubles behind and attend a game with your neighbors beneath the summer sun.

I’m blessed because having been born a Cubs fan, any expectation of winning was shorn from me at an early age so I need never get unduly excised over short result gained from good effort put forth, whatever the endeavor.

Opening Day is also a sure harbinger of spring. With it, the world has once again turned. Even when they have to shovel snow from the field to play, we’re assured. The cold back of winter is broken.

I’m back from Zion and parts west, where the stark richness of the landscape is beguiling and oh so deadly ‘cause what a body needs first and foremost is water and that’s what they ain’t got much of, out there. Along the way I met with a diverse group of vaguely like-minded creatives and found both a sense of community and mutual respect. That’s quite the thing.

And for once, the promise of a season’s turning with Opening Day is no mere symbol of hope. This year spring in the Northwoods is a good month early and regardless of cold nights and brisk days from here on in, even around Superior winter’s sturdy grip is already well loosened. A friend’s neighbor has apple trees coming into bloom and that’s that. It’s time to get at it.

Back on the road is where I’ll be by this time next week, when I’ll post of trains & deserts and mighty Zion, home to the stone thrones of gods. That’ll be our last diversion.


In the interim, ‘cause I’m not yet caught up from travels to Utah or near to ready to take off for Superior next week, I’m beggin’ your pardon for this off topic indulgence but I’m conscious that a blog ought not remain fallow for too long…

Steve Goodman was one of the finest singer/songwriters of my or any generation. He wrote many great songs, both evocative and humorous, including what some say is the greatest train song ever -- “The City of New Orleans”.

Steve died too young but not before he left his fellow Cubs fans this. It’s said they spread his ashes at Wrigley Field. Sorry there’s not a better version on video, but this is the only one I found. He was already ill with the disease that claimed him and not in the best of voice, but boy, he could sure still pick it.

So here’s to you Steve, on this Opening Day -- a day made for reflection, hope, a dogged, positive persistence and especially a healthy dose of wry humor -- the exact stuff that's long defined America for the rest of the world:

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