If you can’t be an athlete . . . be an athletic supporter.

November 9, 2009

I married a Nordic god. He’s tall, blond, rugged, chiseled . . . all those things you read about in a romance novel that make you sigh. He’s also brilliant, which is a good thing in the Oracle database world.

Unfortunately, he suffers from what many brilliant people suffer from . . . it’s a little something I call “the butterfly effect.” (No, not the real butterfly effect . . . something else entirely as you will see.)

In his Belgariad series, David Eddings describes a situation when the protagonist, Garion, is coming to terms with his powers. He has embarked on a quest with a group of warriors. On the journey, they rescue and adopt a young colt.

Garion, unsupervised, decides he will attempt to hurl a boulder with his mind. Aparently in the world of magic, the same laws of physics apply as in the normal world. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The boulder is tossed and Garion finds himself sunk into the ground to his neck and unable to move.

Being the wizard that he is, the boy telepathically summons his horse to go for help. He links his mind with that of the colt and sees . . . flowers, butterflies, bees, birds . . . and senses the young colt scampering off in pursuit of these follies instead of bringing the trapped Garion the help he needs.

This, my friends, is the butterfly effect. And my husband has made it a sport. He, in fact, is its top athlete.

He will exit the front door. His destination: mailbox. Distance: fifty yards. Twenty minutes will go by. Twenty become thirty. Thirty become forty. I’ll peek out to check on him only to find he is standing waist high in prairie grass studying a spider web or a sapling or a flower in our daughter’s butterfly garden, a stack of mail tucked safely under his arm.

He is a considerate man, my husband. “Do you need anything, honey?” he asks. “Love a Diet Coke,” I say. “Sure thing. Right away.”

One hour later, he’ll join me in the living room, knowing only that we spoke sometime earlier . . . although he can’t quite remember what was said.

If we go to Jamestown or Yorktown to see the sites or on a guided tour, he lags behind, savoring every moment, examining every artifact. When he’s done with that, he studies the trees and the dirt and the plants and anything else he can see or touch or smell.

Now, you may think I’m poking fun at him . . . and I guess I am. But what you need to know is that these things set an example for me.

In her book, If You Want To Write, Brenda Ueland stresses the importance of recognizing the need to pay attention to “now.” “What is happening to me now.”  She recognized that writers spend a lot of time inside their own heads, hosting conversations between characters, dreaming of plot, pushing forward. We forget to stop and smell the roses.  And sometimes, the best ideas for scene description or mood in a chapter can come from the things we observe if we’ll only take the time to look.

I try to be like my husband. I try to be more observant. Often I fall short. I cannot be the athlete. I can only be the athletic supporter.

What about you? Is there someone who sets an example for you, forces you to slow down a little bit? Someone who influences you in weird ways?

I’d love to hear about it.


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