I was pestering my sister to drive 20 minutes to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island. I explained that I’d always wanted to go while at St. Simons but the weather was always nice and nothing can drag me off the beach on a pretty day . . .
not even turtles.
But it was raining buckets so I was heading to Jekyll and the turtles, sister or not.
Sister agreed to step away from her ten-key, or whatever computer program accountants peck away at these days, and head with me to the turtles.
Or my people.
Yes indeed. My kind of place.
Turtles hang from the ceiling.
Q & A programs about turtles. My question, “How many turtles hatched make it to adulthood? Anyone, anyone.
One in 4,000. Even without humankind intervention the odds were 1 in 1,000.
Turtles swimming about to greet their homo sapien guests.
An interactive exhibit to show how many sea turtle years you — you as a turtle — would make it to in the wild.
Guess how many years I’d get to enjoy.
My sister made it 15 years. I figured a moral victory for the Collins clan.
I learned many types of sea turtles don’t reach reproductive maturity till 35 years. For three and a half decades, gal turtles swim down to the Caribbean or up to New England but once they feel the need to lay . . . they come back to the very beach they were hatched.
How do they know?
There’s a teensy GPS in their brains. A GPS God created way before GM.
There was a turtle O.R.
No medical emergencies today.
That’s what I should have been. A turtle doctor. Or at least I could have handed competent turtle surgeons the necessary sharp objects while wearing my most concerned face.
Then we went out to see the Betty Ford turtle rehab center. No, no.
Not that kind of rehab center.
It’s a hospital for goodness sakes.
This place takes in injured turtles of all sizes. Injuries resulting from natural predators but most likely, these patients are victims of an unfortunate encounter with marine debris that one of us left behind.
We visited on a Thursday and the next day they were releasing six rehabbed turtles back to the sea. So excited for the turtles but as I looked at them, I couldn’t help but think they have no idea.
This is Drifter the day before he was released.
I love that he broke the surface to breathe — looking in my eyes — so I could tell him you’re going home. He winked at me. Did you see it?
I signed Drifter’s card and knew all would be well the next afternoon.
No we didn’t make it back to Jekyll for the release but we had our own going away party for them.
Sister and I when to the amazing Jekyll Island Club Hotel and toasted to Drifter’s drifting away.
A healthy, hardy drifting away. Not like he was still sickly hardly moving drifting away.
Why do I love turtles?
Hard shell, but really a big softy on the inside.
Kind of what I like in peoples.
Have you ever seen a sea turtle in wild? Laying eggs? While you drifted through the water on a kayak?
This goes out to Drifter wherever in the great Atlantic you are today.
Five hundred words a day. You wouldn’t think it is that hard.
It’s a blog post for pity’s sake.
Day after day for over a year, the outline of a novel has wrestled around in my thoughts. Why can’t I designate time to spew out a first draft?
The other week, my eyes happened upon a book at our local library.
Daisy, our kitty, was determined to be in this photo.
Better Than Before, Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives.
I need to master writing each day.
Gretchen Rubin’s book is a fascinating look at personality tendencies and what it takes to form a habit. She hypothesizes that by creating habits we change behavior.
The behavior I want to cultivate is hammering out a first draft.
Rubin stresses what works for one person — to stick with a diet or exercise plan — might not work for 10 others.
It’s important to understand yourself and your unique idiosyncrasies to form a habit or give up something such as a case of wine a day routine.
She designates four personality tendencies toward sticking to habits.
Turns out I am a Rebel which means I only follow habits, external or internal, if I want to.
(After reading the book, I thought I was a Rebel. Then I took the survey at the end of book and said yes to five of six Rebel questions.)
Why is this important?
External habits are those we stick to meet others’ expectations. Internal habits are those we adopt for personal desires.
As a Rebel I follow external pressures or internal pressures only if I want to.
Which kind of stinks and explains so much of my life.
Writing a novel falls squarely in the camp of internal expectations.
I’ve had success with pure internal challenges from small things like reading the bible each day – done that every day since January 1, 2015. To bigger challenges such as training for marathons. To huge internal commitments like completing two successful adoptions which included massive internal regrouping and navigating two failed scenarios.
Writing this novel is something I want to do and I’ve commited to tougher challenges — so what is the problem with my attempts to form a daily habit of writing a first draft?
* * *
Update. Since drafting the above last weekend, I’ve written 500 (well, almost 500) words for four days straight.
What’s the difference? I’ve made it a priority and I’ve maybe figured out why it’s so hard for me to commit to this.
There’s no quick payoff. There’s no finish line in sight. It came to me that I’m much more into tackling goals than creating habits.
Goals seem to me as doable chunks of time with a payoff.
So I set the goal to write 500 words every day for 30 days.
A beginning, an end and a clearly defined task.
I’ll report back in 30 day to let you know how I did. Well, if I want to report back I will, since I’m a Rebel and all.
Better Than Before was an insightful read.
Well researched. Rubin was a law clerk for Justice Sandra Day O’Conner so she’s got the researching thing down.
And she’s an entertaining writer. Who obviously can finish the first draft of a book.
Any habits you’d like to adopt that you haven’t quite been able to?
Summer blew through here like an express train barrels through a small town crossing.
Our days filled with activity but not many moments of reflection. So between now and the official start of fall — Wednesday, September 23 — I’ll reflect on wisdom learned from the bullet train that was Summer 2015.
What I gleaned from my garden this summer.
Gardens need rain to produce.
Though rain pours in abundance now, our summer broiled hot and dry. A promising start to my tomatoes dried up. Same with my squash.
You need tomatoes to can tomatoes. Or
Don’t count your canned tomatoes before they grow.
Last summer the tomatoes were prolific. Remembering all my tomatoes, I ordered a canner this year. I determined to “put stuff up” in jars on shelves and not in bags hiding in my freezer like some weak imitation 1940s Home Ec major.
Pooh. My canner remained unopened up in the attic with canner written in black Sharpie on the top because I’ll never remember what is in that cardboard box.
I created a new breed of tomato. The Dr. Seuss Hybrid
Look at this.
I’m house sitting this crazy guy for a friend who couldn’t cram him in her suitcase to Sierra Leone. A wee guy when I first got him, I noticed that after an area produced tomatoes the leaves turned black. Kimmee, my BRF, said of the new plant last April, “Oh just give it some water and fertilizer and it will be okay.” And I guess it’s been okay but odd.
Maybe it just misses it’s mother. Who’s to know?
See, it’s producing.
Drier weather, hotter pepper.
I had a fellow working around the house and after sampling one straight from the garden he said, “Why didn’t you warn me those peppers were hot?”
I looked at him. “They are jalepenos. What did you think?”
He said that at the restaurant where he works, they aren’t as potent.
I put three pickled slices on my hot dog the other night and the inside of my lip burned for hours. So there must be something to this dry weather, hotter pepper notion.
It’s been on my garden to-do list since I’ve had a garden. Grow some pumpkins for our porch in fall.
I took seeds. Put them in containers (with dirt).
And now . . .
No pumpkins yet but closer than I’ve ever been.
So I got that going for me.
And that’s what I learned.
Tomatoes can be mediocre some years even after spending money on a canner.
I can lose half of my okra before realizing it’s a grasshopper and not the drought that is killing them.
Jalapeños’ heat can increase with lots of dry heat.
Bees do sting you. Two stings in five minutes. After years of thinking my garden’s bees were too busy working over the plants to work over me, they got me good one Sunday afternoon.
It’s still worth battling the rabbits to get sunflowers past the sproutling point.
Maybe with me not so much. But after competing for a decade, I figured it was a lot easier to shave a minute off my race time in T1 and T2 than a minute off my run.
That’s why this made me so mad yesterday.
Credit for capturing this amazing moment in sports history goes to Kathryn Cardwell.
I couldn’t get my blasted left bike shoe off. I’m still smiling in this pic. I must have just been discovering the fact the catch was stuck or maybe I was already borderline.
The blasted thing was stuck. Bent beyond recognition. Super glued shut.
What did a seasoned triathlete like myself do?
Freaked. But then I told myself, calm down. This is happening because you are spastic at present. Breathing deeply, I transported myself to my back steps at home after a ride and slowly tried to “work the lock.”
“Work the lock.” Something my husband has always said when you need to be calm in panicked situations.
Focus on the task. Only many, many years later seeing an episode of Magnum P. I. did his inspiration for that saying make sense.
(Watch this clip if only to see the beauty that was a 30-year-old Tom Selleck.)
I wasn’t looking at any dogs. I wasn’t looking at a 30-year-old Tom Selleck.
Nothing was getting that blasted shoe off.
And if I didn’t get my bike shoe off, I couldn’t put my running shoe on and start to run.
I slammed my left ankle on the cement. Nothing. Nothing was loosening that mother.
Work the lock. Work the lock.
Hands feverishly picking at the clasp, I sensed someone standing over me. I looked up.
Two young men stared down at me. Like really young compared to me young. Probably my Jake’s age. Shirtless. Both dark hair, dark eyes, dark skinned. Think One Direction with a Latino twist.
“I can’t get this G*d damn thing off.” I said to their young black eyes.
Immediately looking to my frenetic hands I said, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I just can’t get this shoe off.”
THEY JUST STOOD THERE. NOT SAYING A WORD.
Maybe they thought they couldn’t interfere with a racer in transition?
Maybe I was the elderly lady in the commercial and I’d fallen and couldn’t get up?
Maybe they were angels sent to help me and I just flagrantly broke one of the Big Ten?
“I don’t care if it’s a penalty, please help me get this thing off?” I said looking into those black eyes.
With that the one closest to me, bent down and unclipped my bike shoe.
I watched as his fingers slipped around the clip, pressed down and released the catch.
“I guess it was tight,” was all he said.
Angels are known to be short on words.
I looked up and said,
“God bless you my child.”
* * *
Why do I do these races and why does it matter so to me in the heat of it? To take the Lord’s name in vain,
for pity’s sake
which I find horribly offensive, unless I’m held captive from a mediocre athletic performance by a bike shoe.
As to why I still do this stuff, I’d like to think for my age, it’s keeping me mentally, physically and emotionally sharp.
Like if my family was on a train and a terrorist stepped out of the bathroom brandishing an AK-47.
At that point in history, all my years of adjusting to spills on the bike, swimming through bass-infested waters wearing fogged-up goggles, leaving transition on the run with my bike helmet still on (did that twice), choking down a Clif bar while running without actually choking . . .
Yes, all those catlike, ingrained “work the lock” reflexes would take over and I’d kick that terrorist’s behind back to where all the bad people go to make sure they never do bad things again.
Yes. I. Would. Be. Ready. To.
And to ensure the Free World remains safe, I pledge to never again wear bike shoes on trains.
The next morning after packing, I woke up in mountains of North Carolina for a family gathering.
I suggested a hike because that was my strategy not to come home 30 pounds heavier. Hike every day. Burn 326 calories to offset 500 calorie piece of pie after 2000 calorie dinner.
Talking my sister and husband into a four mile hike up a mountain, I ran upstairs to dress after my 1500 calorie breakfast. I put on my shirt. I pulled on my shorts. I rooted around in my suitcase for my running shoes.
I found one.
I found the other.
Except . . .
Maybe this is a better angle.
My two right feet.
I can’t tell you how many times this clip went through my head in three days of hiking staring down at that.
“Am I nuts, or is something wrong with his feet?”
Yes, instead of two left feet, my story line held two right feet.
Determined soul or sole that I was, I hiked everywhere — tripping over roots and granite boulders — for three days.
Yes. Ninety floors in one day with two right feet.
What I learned.
By the second day, a left foot presses, sort of molds the inside of the right shoe so that it’s bearable. Though a right shoe turns to the left, the fabric and your left foot stretches the toe box to the right. Curving the way a left shoe would.
It’s more so the third day.
We are all bent in lots of ways.
If we don’t like the bend of our nature — I’m too loud, too quiet, not blonde enough — we can change our behavior, appearance. The world thinks we are a right foot but deep down we will still be a left foot pressing against instep of a right shoe.
Now this can be bad or good. Bad if we are trying to conform away from our true positive, unique nature.
Good if we are trying to change unhealthy ways we naturally bend.
But no matter how much we look like a right foot on the wrong side of the body, we are a left foot in the wrong shoe.
Only a miracle (or act of God) can change a foot. Or break it till it fits. Which can be considered an act of God I guess.
And that’s what goes through my mind hiking 90 floors with the wrong shoe.
I usually don’t daydream of God breaking bones but I usually don’t hike 90 floors in the wrong shoe either.
Already dismounted, I ran to transition pushing my bike along in my right hand. I always do this. But it was hot and humid yesterday — and I was a little tipsy-tired. My bike started slipping. As I tried to grab my bike, my bike shoes slipped on the pavement.
I’m falling. Love when that thought pops into my head.
For some miraculous reason, I fell forward into a somersault, grabbed my bike and ran toward the bike in entrance.
That’s when I heard Great Recovery from the crowd.
After changing shoes and running out of transition to start the 5K — this is what echoed in my thoughts.
“Dad you must have jumped this thing 50 yards!”
“Ah, that’s nothing to be proud of Rusty.”
Except in my mind it was . . .
“Oh, wiping out going into bike transition is nothing to be proud of sir.”
Nope . . .
Standing atop the transition rack, I acknowledged to myself.
The sad part about the above photo is that my right knee is the scraped and bloodied one — and you can’t see it from this pic.
I really wanted a photo with the 81-year-old racer whom I chatted with on the beach. She started doing triathlons when she was 60.
“But that was the thing that I was born for.” Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
SharkWeek is the one week my entire family gathers around the television.
Sure there are the rare snow days with possible school closings and my edicts for mandatory attendance at the family Christmas Movie Festival, but this is the only voluntary, all family member watch in.
But we like sharks around here.
My son is quite the shark fisher person. And has been for years.
Today having lunch downtown, I saw a local resident and pro-grade fisher person. I got up, interrupted his lunch and pulled out pictures of my son from a few weeks ago at the beach.
Jake at three. Jake who will turn 22 this year.
Jake had a Shark Party for his 5th birthday. We made shark stick puppets and played Pin the Fin on the Shark.
One time long, long ago, running out of shark videos to watch, we headed up to Blockbuster. The helpful employee handed me children National Geographic sealife videos with cartoon fish swimming and singing on the cover.
My then three year old disagreed. “No mama. Angry animals. I want angry animals.”
So . . .
In celebration of the Ides of July and SharkWeek, I decided to interview my favorite “angry animal” lover.
(Just to let you know all these fish said “cheese” and were promptly released.)
A bull shark heading back out to sea.
Jake at 16 with a tiger shark.
When/what was your first attraction to sharks?
I truly have been fascinated by sharks for as long as I can remember and have always had a special love for the sea, and naturally had a fascination with its apex predator, the shark. From the time I was able I have been watching and reading anything I can about sharks and why they behave the way they do.”
From his teen years on, while there was still frost on the ground, he would order fishing gear for summer. Sitting on the couch, reading and watching YouTube. I lamented if only he could get that excited about school work.
When did you decide to start catching them?
The summer of my 7th grade year.I always wanted to catch the largest fish that I possibly could. At that point in my fishing career, I was limited to shore fishing. I asked myself what was the biggest fish I could catch from the beach and that’s when I decided to target sharks.
Jake pulling in a bull shark a few summers ago.
What were your trials and errors?
The first few years of shark fishing seemed to be nothing but trial and error. It seemed that I could do nothing right. I couldn’t catch bait consistently, couldn’t set my bait correctly, couldn’t get a hookup when I got a bite, and when I did finally hook a shark, I could never successfully get it in to the beach. What I didn’t appreciate at the time though, was every time that I failed I was learning something new. Every summer I was more prepared than the last.
A lemon shark. Kristin, Jake’s girlfriend and fishing mate is on the left.
I’m sure some readers are concerned about the well-being of the fish. What precautions do you take to ensure a safe release?
The first time that I caught a large shark (one that was over 5 feet) it died. I was completely unprepared. During the fight, I traveled several hundred yards down the beach. By the time I landed the shark, I was several minutes away from crucial gear such as pliers. Despite my best efforts to get the blacktip back on its way, it died. From that point on I made it my goal to not keep any shark out of water for more than two minutes. Since that first large shark I have held to my goal, and have not lost another shark.
With all the recent attacks in NC what would be your advice to people who are afraid to get in water?
I would tell beachgoers in NC that you can’t let sharks dictate your actions. Even with the recent attacks, you are still much more likely to be in a severe car accident heading to the beach than to be attacked by a shark.
However, there are warning signs. Never go swimming when there are bait fish in the water. Baitfish are what sharks are eating, and if there are baitfish around there are sharks not far behind and they are in feeding mode.
Evidence of baitfish are splashes on the surface and birds diving close to shore. It is also not advisable to swim during the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. During these time sharks are the most active.
With the increased regulation of shark fishing, what do you see in the future?
Unfortunately, I see continued regulation. The most likely being time limits on when shark fishing can be done on crowded beaches. Many beaches in South Florida have already introduced such ordinances.
Ordinances such as these are all done by county regulators trying to keep their beachgoers from being scared away by the ocean’s apex predator being pulled up on the beach. They are acting from a purely economic standpoint.
Spoken like a true Accounting Major.
What was your greatest thrill shark fishing?
There is nothing like the thrill of being hooked to an animal that is much larger that you are. There is also the thrill of getting to pull these creatures up on the beach. There is nothing like being up close and personal with these large predators.
Are you interested in another fishing challenge?
I really want to get into big game offshore fishing. The costs and time that are required to participate in big game offshore fishing are immense, however, the angling experience it provides is like no other. It is on my bucket list to catch a large blue marlin.
A nurse shark.
And how about a plug for your new business venture.
I would really like to get into the business of selling fishing leaders, including shark leaders. When I first started shark fishing, I found very few leaders for sale on the internet. Not knowing how to make my own, I made a lot of mistakes in my early years of shark fishing that could have been avoided had it been for premade shark leaders for sale.
By making shark leaders, I could make a profit while helping others get into the sport.
Any other thing you want to mention?
I would just encourage anyone that is looking to get into the sport bring lots of patience and always practice catch and release so that we will all have sharks to catch.
* * *
When I get old and gray, I’ll always remember those nights heading down to the beach after getting a text a shark’s on the line.
As a mom, it is more than fun to watch your son come alive doing something he loves.
Jake uses offshore tackle and heavy line so that he can get the fish in quickly and prevent exhaustion. For him and most importantly, the fish.
* * *
I get the thrill of fishing. I loved to fish growing up.
And centuries ago, my ancestors from my father’s side settled St. Augustine in the 1600s.
Before that, they were fisherman off the coast of Minorca, Spain.
I like to think some fishing magic trickled down to me. And then to my son. Who knows?
Rain drops trickled from the sky last Friday midday.
Sitting outside on the porch with a tomato sandwich and book, a voice called to my right. Or it might have been a voice, I wasn’t sure. In the middle of two of my favorite pastimes, I figured if someone wanted my attention, they’d make it clear.
Hearing the voice again, I looked up to see a woman on a bike.
The rider stood stride a mountain-type bike outfitted with two large red all-weather storage satchels off her seat on either side of her rear tire.
Standing face-to-face in the light rain, I thought she wanted to know where Dixie Highway was. That was an easy fix.
But the more we talked, she had just come from Dixie Highway and needed help getting to . . .
Suddenly, this became quite interesting.
She was the sweeper for a cycling group headed to the South Carolina coast. They started their journey on the west side of Atlanta. After spending last night at Hard Labor Creek (a park 10 miles from me), this leg of their journey took them to Hamburg Park in Mitchell, Georgia.
Taking out a sheet with her directions, the paper so damp it disintegrated in her hands. The extended downpour had separated her from the group but she had communicated with them by text.
Oh. And her phone was now dead.
I offered a portable charger from some conference SWAG bag. She laughed that it wouldn’t help, saying that she calls herself analog her phone is so old.
With no GPS, a disintegrating directional sheet, no phone, no idea where to go, I offered to get my bike and show her another way to Bethany Road through town.
* * *
I dashed back home through the raindrops filled with a since of urgency. I had a mission! A purpose!
Grabbing my bike, shoes, helmet, I trotted back up to the corner relieved to see my friend still waiting.
“Oh wow, you got a bike,” she said after seeing my road bike.
“Yes. She’s 10 years old. My midlife crisis.”
She laughed saying that she will be 40 in a few months, “Maybe that’s what this is?”
How was this woman going to get to Mitchell, Georgia in the rain by herself?
Riding along in the rain, I started a little small talk.
“What do you do?” I ventured.
“I’m in the energy conservation field. I work in San Fransisco with the . . ”
“YOU LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO?”
My new friend riding a bike in the rain through the Georgia country side, lagging far behind a group heading to Mitchell, Georgia was not from Atlanta but from California. She worked installing energy effiencent lighting. She had gone to graduate school to study carpentry. Bad timing on that, she laughed with a little sigh.?
I learned that she was born in Memphis and lived all over the south and had been in San Francisco 10 years. And her 40th birthday in a few months would be spent climbing Machu Picchu.
When we got up to the highway she was to cross to get on Bethany, we dismounted.
Remembering she had no phone and disintegrating directions I said, “You need my phone number. Please call if you need anything.”
She began sorting through her packs for a paper and pen.
And pulled out a turtle.
“A turtle, NO WAY. I love turtles!” I told about me being the turtle wrangler and pulled up my twitter background.
“This is magical!” Rashida exclaimed.
Yes. Somewhere in the searching for paper, the writing of my number, squealing over shared love of turtles, we exchanged names.
So after I googled Mitchell, Georgia and found out it was an hour by car (three or four by bike she thought), Rashida packed up her turtle and road away.
* * *
Saturday I received a text from Rashida that she had met up with her group and was headed to their next stop Magnolia Springs State Park.
I hope Rashida uses that email address I gave her.
I want to find out how the journey ended. I want to ask her thoughts about the whole adventure. I want to follow her to Machu Picchu.
No phone. No twitter. No blog. I asked because she could have a killer blog.
My new hero Rashida living life. Unplugged but so very plugged in.
If I was the jealous type, I might be. Just a little.
If this were me taking the photo, instead of soon-to-be UGA junior Annie Speyer, I’d have hopped out of my car wearing my newly minted Allatoona Tri shirt from yesterday and asked for an autograph.
(It took four tries before I got a pic that didn’t have my squirrelly neck showing. People in your thirties. Enjoy effortless selfies while you can.)
Back to asking Mr. Cruise for that autograph. Darn that I already washed the 52 off my calf. Yes. I will be 52 in a few weeks which is probably why I’d ask Mr. Cruise for an autograph rather than a selfie.
Looking at the race results, you’d think I’d move up in these things. I’ve been hanging around for 10 years fattening up the race pool. Knowing that one of these years, everyone will finally decide to sleep in on weekend mornings and let their swim membership lapse.
These women are tough — people.
And these women are tough people.
I’m athletic. Not a great athlete and as I age, these woman who are great athletes age too.
And keep showing up at these things.
So what did I do last night in bed by the light of my phone?
Checked the results.
And last year.
My 2015 self beat my 2014 self by 33 seconds.
I think that’s the correct calculation but I’m not that strong in math.
I apologize to my neighbor Rob. I misspoke this morning and said I bested myself by a minute or so — as we made polite conversation while taking out the recyclables while I was wearing my shirt.
What is the point of this post?
Really there is no point. Other than . . .
a. It would have been awesome to bump into Tom Cruise while wearing my triathlon shirt with my race numbers still tattooed on my bulging biceps and thighs along with the 52 on the back of left calf.
b.It really was a great morning and race. And I saw Mary again. Mary who just finished IRONMAN 70.3 Raleigh with her husband a few weeks ago.
I’m her senior by seven days. Certainly, that’s why she is so much better in these things than me.
You’d think she’d have more respect for her elders.
This has to be my favorite triathlon photo of me ever.
Okay. If you were born anytime after 1990, you might as well stop reading now.
* * *
Yesterday, I heard American Girl on the radio.
Backstory if you were born after 1990 and decided to read anyway. American Girl is a song by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released in 1977.
Upon hearing the best song ever in my car, I decided to dig my CD out of the attic.
Admittedly, I forget American Girl is the best song ever until I hear it. But when I hear it, I must hear it again, and again and again.
I mentioned this to my husband. Who thought I needed therapy because I said American Girl was the best song ever.
“Everyone knows the best song ever is Sweet Child O’ Mine.”
I took exception to his statement because I consider myself included in this subset of everyone and I know American Girl is the best song ever.
I played American Girl for my husband. He looked at me like he’d married a stranger. Of course that might have something to do with the dancing moment I tried have in the kitchen. Which became needlessly ruined and awkward because someone didn’t appreciate my zen movement.
* * *
After a night’s rest, I thought on this conundrum for 20 miles on my bike this morning.
Who is this American Girl?
Who is the Sweet Child O’ Mine?
This is not a deep dissection of the lyrics. It’s more why does one girl, one woman-to-be, captivate me and the other not so much.
“She’s got a smile it seems to me
Reminds me of childhood memories
Was as fresh as the bright blue sky.”
A killer melody, lead vocal and best guitar riff ever – there is a definite sweet sadness to his sentiments.
A longing for this young, beautiful girl and the place her memory takes him.
Then there’s . . .
“Well, she was an American girl
Raised on promises
She couldn’t help thinkin’
That there was a little more to life somewhere else
After all it was a great big world
With lots of places to run to.”
Tom Petty has said that he was not writing about a UF student who tragically took her life by jumping off of Beaty Towers in the 1960s.
I had never heard that sad story, but I always saw the American Girl.
Driving in a car with the windows down. Sitting in her house or apartment staring out the window. Some guy drifted into her life. An involvement lying on the couch or the bed. Lying around in her past, taking up space in her today and a weight pulling down her future.
I see the American Girl later in life, bent over a sink full of dirty dishes. Starting (or finishing) her day communing with the 10th load of laundry.
The grown up American Girl stopped wondering about the great big world with lots of places to run to. Instead she calls in refills for Zoloft, and crams what might have been under the stack of towels she just folded.
Did she graduate high school? Go to college?
Does she still wonder about finding meaning in life somewhere else?
That’s when it came to me — about mile 14 on the ride — maybe Sweet Child O’ Mine and American Girl are the same?
Sweet Child lives forever unchanged in the memory of a man fixated on her perfect smile, blue eyes and nary a bad hair day.
The American Girl was once the Sweet Child. Not bound in someone’s memory, the American Girl developed wrinkles and weariness around her eyes. She had children too early or maybe she waited too late and children never came. Maybe she didn’t want children but ended up raising her sister’s child.
The American Girl liked to draw. She designed spaces in her mind as a Sweet Child.
There was one guy, one man who loved all of her, both the Sweet Child and American Girl.
But one night, after a bad day and too much cheap tequila, American Girl met the lump on the couch and made the wrong choice.
After that, there never seemed to be any money left over at the end of the month to start taking some college courses. Though American Girl still mapped out living spaces in her head while folding laundry. She couldn’t help it.
Who’s to know, but supposing about it all helped pass time on the ride.