Friday, October 9, 2009

Tennis

We had a couple of days of beautiful weather last week and I took advantage of them to play tennis. Anyone who knows me also knows that tennis is my passion. Family members who have seen me embrace other pursuits passionately were suspicious that this too would fade as the others did.
But it hasn't.
I continue to work on my tennis game and have improved each year. I work on my serve. I work on hitting ground strokes. Hell, I bought a ball machine a couple of years ago. It throws tennis balls at me with topspin or backspin so I can practice ground strokes in a more or less controlled environment. I want to be able to volley better than I do now. I want to be a better player than I am. At age 66, please understand I feel a sense of urgency around this. Hell, people are dropping dead all around me every day, many younger than me. My friend Doug says, "It's a good day when you wake up and realize that you're still pumpin' air."
Yep.

The other day I couldn't find anyone to play singles so I took a basketfull of balls up to the high school courts and hit serves for an hour or so on a beautiful, sunny October afternoon. The words of coach Jim Gorman echoed in my head as I practiced: words that describe how to hold the racquet, how to prepare for the striking of the ball, how to toss the ball. Every move is carefully scripted for these practice sessions but the goal is to eventually be able to hit my serves without thinking. The serve is comprised of a complicated set of smaller movements that are strung seamlessly together by a good player. And it's the only shot over which one has total control. These points replay in my mind over and over as I hit serve after serve. Now after weeks of practice those movements are beginning to feel normal, comfortable almost, and that's starting to result in an ability to hit some fairly good serves. Possessing a good serve encourages confidence in the rest of my game. And in tennis confidence is the name of the game.

As this note winds its way to conclusion I see that it's 8 o'clock in the evening. I'm in my little rented cabin up on Diamond Ridge Road writing in this blog, listening to Internet radio, and contemplating what's ahead. I look out at the darkening sky and wonder what it will feel like to be in Paris with 2 months of travel in Europe ahead. Mornings are gradually getting colder and what a skier might label "the promise of winter" is, to me, more like a threat as the days shorten. But I'm content. I won't have to endure the inactivity winter usually forces upon me. Not this year. It won't be summer in Europe when I'm there but regardless of the weather I'll soon be walking the streets of Paris, the streets of Berlin and Amsterdam, maybe the streets of Istanbul. I opened a fortune cookie in a strip-mall Chinese restaurant in Eugene last spring. It contained a fortune with these words: You will step on the soil of many countries in your lifetime. I liked hearing that then and I like it now. I liked it so much I stuck in in my wallet and have kept it with me. I want to make those words come true.