1970s, 7/6/2023 – Prompt, Rainy days to me are…

…a pleasant memory.

I grew up fertilized by rain. Not rain so much, as in a downpour that strips the paint off your car, but as water wafting in the sky, and maybe falling from the sky. In Tacoma, there was always fog or mist or drizzle, and it fell everywhere at the same time from Redding to Vancouver. I’m in South Carolina where I loive now, and sometimes when I drive along a stretch of straight highway, I see a little dark puff ahead of me, like someone lit a pipe up high. It’s so tiny that I could stuff it in a sock. As I get closer, I see a line in the road where it’s dry on one side and wet on the other. Just past the line for maybe a hundred feet, the road is wet and gray. When the cool rain from this little puff of a cloud hits the baking hot black pavement, it flashes and rises in a mist, adding to the unbearable humidity. I’ve rode a bike through that mess before, and it’s no fun. If you think it’s hot out, that misty road is like a sauna. Just as quick as you see it, it’s behind you, and you’re in sunny South Carolina again, 90 degrees that feels like 105. 

Book Review: Shosha by Issac Bashevis Singer

Book Review: Shosha, Isaac Bashevis Singer

Kind of a review. Kind of a philosophy chat.

I’ve been married twice, and both times my wife got tired of me wanting to name a daughter Shosha. I still remember buying the book: it was winter in Maine, and cold. Back home in Seattle, people were shivering under REI down jackets in 40 degrees and overcast. Here? Everything was covered in frozen snow and frigid, and I worried that my car tires wouldn’t roll. I was twenty-something and working in Wiscasset for a couple of months and needed something to do. The local bookstore was – and is – always the answer. 

By the great Isaac Bashevis Singer, it’s an odd story from a Jewish section of some city in pre-WWII Poland about a boy and girl who grow up together and then apart and then come together again. I laugh, giving the same caveat about many books I review: if you love the action and sex in the genre-of-the-week, this isn’t for you. But, if you like…say, how Pasternak wonders aimlessly in and out of the philosophy stacks at the library, this will be more to your liking. I’ve reviewed it before – I’ll try to find the review – but was struck this time by two things.

First thing

First is the theme that snakes through all the book and maybe all of Singer’s work. Maybe through all of Hebrew Scripture: G makes the mouse, and G makes the cat.  

Shosha’s world of ragamuffin pre-war Polish Jews.

I see this everywhere now and have taken it as my own. Last week I was in the Post Office, behind an older lady – older than me – who was having a fit. I only know this because she announced it to the entire building, but every year some financial institution in Europe sends her and her husband their annual wad of cash. Usually, they get a check in the mail, but this year, with security and all, the dirty rotten oafs want her to pick up her check at the embassy. 

She is incensed. And so is her husband, she says, who has to wait in the car. From disability or from the fear of being seen with this woman, I can’t say. Me? I’m sitting in line wondering what kind of largess you have when your bank wants you to pick up your check at the bleedin’ embassy?

There’s no way she’s driving to DC, so she made some kind of deal with who-knows-who and is sending them paperwork to release the money to her. All this is played out for the very nice people of my town and the Post Office, all making $8.75 per hour. In a huff, and not being used to this kind of rough treatment, she pays to send the letter and storms out.

“Next.”

I carry my box to the counter, hoping that any residual anger in the clerk stays bottled up, though I consider it a Christian’s job to be a shock absorber for this kind of silly business. The clerk looks like she’s already had a lousy day, and it’s only 11:00.

I grimaced and spouted my new philosophy. “Well,” I said, “ G makes the mouse, and G makes the cat.”

She chuckled with me, and I was glad to relieve some of her built-up pressure.

It’s a forgiving philosophy, and an acknowledgment that G made you as you are. Love yourself and forgive yourself. Do the same for others. G made them, too. It’s a harder pill to swallow in Shosha, with the Jews knowing what comes with Hitler. I think of it now, reading about the Babylonian exile and how bad moderns can be on history. We think it was bliss back in the good old days when America was great, but would we – would I? – sing a song about how G makes us all when being separated from my family for maybe the last time? I don’t know. I don’t want to know.

Second thing

Also in the book – spoiler alert – Shosha dies. The boy and girl are married now, and WWII looms, so they meander on rough dirt roads, carrying everything they own in suit cases, out of the city. Shosha walks with her husband until finally, she sits down, and dies. Just gives up the ghost. She’s tired of trying so hard to carry her load. She’s had enough.

Settling in for some great reading.

This time though, the sentiment resonates in me. I am no fan of any death and swear to my wife that G will have to strike me down and that I will fight for every breath. Only once, during my hospital stay because of my accident, did I not care if I woke. It wasn’t for me, but for my wife and family that I cared about dying, knowing that death would cause more grief. 

So, my takeaway here? G made the mouse and the cat. Learn it, and meditate on it, and the next time someone treats you wrongly, repeat it under your breath. Don’t try to figure out who’s who: it’s just a dance, and we’re all players.

Selah

***

See the book here on Amazon.
Here at Barnes and Noble, my hometown bookstore.
Go here to Powell’s, Portland’s famous bookstore.
Or you can see if your hometown indie bookstore has it or if they can order it for you.


Thanks so much for reading. Can you think of someone who would like the post? Please mail it to them or share it with your favorite social media using one of the icons below. And won’t you follow me? You can do so in the sidebar. Thanks again and feel free to comment! 

FWIW, I am not an Amazon Associate or an associate of any other ilk, and make nary a red cent if you purchase the book through a link. I do accept donations, though…

Cookie crumbs

Crumb – I’ve become Southernized. Kind of.

Crumbs are shortish observations and thoughts that come to me amidst other pursuits. I post them without photos and without editing.


I can’t believe it and am loathe the admit it: I have become Southernized. It’s not that I’ve bought a machine gun or purchased a truck with eight-foot-tall tires, but it’s something much more important: the heat.

Regular readers know that I hail from just south of Seattle, where a nice winter day is forty degrees with no rain and a pleasant summer day is seventy degrees with no rain. Here in sunny South Carolina – “it’s like a vacation every day!” my wife says – a nice winter day is seventy with no rain and a pleasant summer day is 105 degrees with no rain but dripping humidity.

Nice is relative. But I caught myself today opening the back door to the screened-in porch, and propping it open.

“I really like the sounds of the outside and the breeze blowing through, I told my wife. “And just to make sure we’re not spending money trying to cool the outside, I’ll turn the AC up to 78.

SEVENTY-EIGHT.

For you math types, that’s almost 80, at which point I die in Seattle. Now – weirdly – it’s livable.

Ouch.

Maybe I should rethink my plans to move back to upstate New York and bask in six months of snow and sub-thirty. I might be too Southern for that now.

 

Sunday Lesson – The man with the withered hand

Most Sundays, I post a brief vignette of the life of Jesus and consider how it relates to our lives. I don’t preach. My goal is both to understand what the writer writes, and what the hearer hears. I leave the what it really means to others, smarter than me, and more bold. It’s impossible for me to write and think about this without bias, and I will address it when I see it. I’m comfortable with Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant theologies, and with some atheist ideals. It was Augustine who said that ‘all truth is G’s truth’ and I gladly sup coffee around that campfire. My Christian belief is an expression of faith, not logic, and whatever I glom onto, I hold loose in an open hand.


Spring arrived and it was hot, just after the harvest. We tramped from town to town, breathing dust, always looking for the most destitute and broken people.

It was the Sabbath, and we were in the Synagogue, by ourselves, keeping away from the leaders who searched for ways to taunt us. A man spoke with Jesus about donkeys and sheep. He walked away, and Jesus fingered the dirt for a moment, silent. Then, He spoke.

“You there?” He said, nodding toward the man. “Yes. You,” He laughed.

“Come and stand here.”

The man was sitting, and rolled onto his good side to rise. He clamored to his feet and came near. Their eyes met, and Jesus nodded a greeting.

“My son,” Jesus said, “You are well?”

Nodding again, and glancing at the Pharisees, the man was hesitant to speak.
One of the Synagogue officials called out to them. “Jesus,” he said, “is it permitted to cure on the Sabbath?”

Jesus knew the hearts of these men, that a smile is a coat, and looked again at the man he was talking to about sheep and donkeys. He chuckled to Himself, and then looked at the gathered leaders.

“I have a question for you, brothers. You are leaders in understanding the Law?” He raised his hands, looking for agreement. “If any of you have a sheep that falls into a hole on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you figure out a way to get it out? Grab hold of a leg and tug? In fact,” he shrugged his shoulders for emphasis, “if you see your brother’s sheep or ox fall over on the Sabbath, doesn’t the Law say that you can’t disregard it, but have to help lift it?” Silence.

Jesus spoke again to the gathering group. “Friends,” and He pointed to the man standing between them, “is not a man, made in the image of G, worth more than an entire pasture of sheep? Doesn’t it follow that it must be permitted to do good on the Sabbath?”

He turned to the man standing near. “Son, stretch out your arm.”

He did so, then he looked at Jesus and at the Pharisees, stretching his fingers out and curling them back in again. “It’s healed. Master. It’s healed.“

One of the Pharisees laughed and shouted. “You can wiggle your fingers now? And wave you hand? Good for you. There’s a healing! It’s as good as a duckling’s wing!”

“No,” the man said, finding his voice. “It’s healed. Here, watch me.” He walked over to some scattered stones and grabbed one.

“Good for you,” said the Pharisee. “You can pick up a rock. Maybe you can be King David’s weapon bearer!”

Jesus raised His finger. “I think there’s more…”

The man bent down again at a stack of large stones, and with both hands, lifted a stone as big as his belly.

“It’s healed! I’m telling you. All the strength is back. I don’t know how, but it’s healed.”

Jesus remained sitting, smiling at the man. “By faith, my son.”

***

It’s easy, as moderns, as people educated in politics and science, to stick our tongues out at the Pharisees. To see them as the white-washed tombs Jesus calls them. Don’t forget, though, that Jesus admonishes followers to do as the Pharisees say – they are the protectors of the Law, after all – but to eschew what they do. They focus on a part of the Law, the rules that can be measured, but they forget where the story ends, with the prophet Micah, who calls out to his listeners, just a few hundred years before Jesus, that, “On man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you? Do justice. Love kindness. Walk with humility.”

What is most fascinating here is that Jesus does nothing. The Pharisees are looking for him to do something, something they could throw up their arms over. Maybe he will spit in the dirt, they wonder, and rub a balm on the man’s arm? But, nothing. He doesn’t even speak a healing into existence like evangelists do on the Jesus channel. “Be healed!” It’s as if, in the middle of a sentence, in the middle of biting down on a piece of bread, he glances at the man. “Oh, sorry. Stretch out your arm.”

And the man does nothing either except obey Jesus and stretch out his arm. Jesus doesn’t grill him about keeping the most important commandments, or if he knows who Jesus is. The point here is that this healing is part and parcel of Jesus’ holiness, purity, and wholeness. That it was always available. That simply being around Him makes these things available. The bromide that all prayers are answered with a Yes, No, or Later, falls on us: it’s our belief that moves miracles. Answers to prayer are contingent on our faith in G’s height, breadth, depth, and width within us. It’s telling that we make up an explanation for prayers that go unanswered.

It reminds me of my wife and I wondering how different we would be if Jesus walked into the kitchen. Different, not because the King of Kings is asking for a glass of V8, or because we would hurry to wipe the counters, but different because of who He is. Of what He embodies. How can you not be different standing in Isaiah’s kingly chamber where the very walls and framing quake because of the holiness of G?

The story of the withered hand is told in three of the gospels and Luke closes his telling with the story of the Pharisees, losing this battle, sneaking off to comport with the Herodians about how to win the war. The Herodians, also Jews, were political and their purpose was to keep Herod in power and to court his favor. I won’t belabor it, but take care when mixing religion and politics. Trouble bodes.

The take-home-message? Focus on forgiveness, basics, love, and mercy. Everything else – everything – takes a backseat to these essentials.

 

Floating with Jesus. Non-fiction? Dream state? You tell me.

Here is something different…

Maybe this rightly goes under the fiction heading, but so often now, when I read the Bible, my eyes stop on “…the word of the Lord came to me in a dream…” so I don’t know. I’m not sure I want to know. I’m happy to live in that crack between what is real and what’s not and what might be. We live with question marks. Enjoy!

***

Floating with Jesus

The sun bragged on the peaks below, lifting high through the clouds like bent knees in bed. We floated on clouds, Jesus and I, hands clasped behind our heads, drowning in the sheer beauty of it. The ocean beneath was clear and blue. We didn’t talk but shared a silent satisfaction.

Jesus, looking every bit a long-haired Scandinavian god like the one pinned above my grandmother’s bed, looked at me, arching His eyebrows. Reaching into the cloud, He pulled out a leg. A human leg, apparently unused. It was new and shiny, and muscular and clean of any hint of blood or tissue. Unused, I thought, created on the spot by the Creator.

“Here,” He said, holding it like a drumstick. “Feel it.” I took it and stroked it like a cat’s back. Now, awake and writing, I’m surprised at how I gushed. “My gosh,” I said, “this thing is beautiful. I mean…it’s gorgeous.” I was in a bicycle racing accident a year earlier, spending three months in the hospital with a brain injury. For the first two weeks, machines kept me alive, and I was comatose for a month. I learned to walk again, but doctors said no more bikes. No racing and no circling around the block. But, in the clouds now, I wondered: what about with a new leg?

The offer

“You can have it,” He said, waving His arm, nonplussed. “I have arms and more legs for you, too, if you want them.” He smiled again, knowingly. “You can be better than new with these. Faster.” He was speaking my language, appeasing my base desires.

I looked straight at Him. “Are you kidding me? I can have this? I can have new arms and legs? Man,” I said, “I am all in.”

He slowed me down. “There’s something I need to tell you, something you should know.”

“Anything. Shoot.”

He lifted His hand to his chin, and dropped His voice, “You have to die first.”

The denial

Maybe it was my grimace, but he went on, a little too giddy. “Really, it’s no big deal. For you, it’s a drop of water. I mean, it’s eternity, but you’ll see your family again, and it will be like you blinked.” He paused. “Of course, they’ll have to die, too. And for ten or forty years, they’ll have to live with their dad and husband dying, but in eternity they’ll see that it was nothing.”

I didn’t think my dying would be ‘nothing’ to my family and looked at the leg and then at Jesus. “Man,” I said, and shook my head. “Did you see them when I was in the hospital? They literally gave up their lives for me. The girls were fantastic. They made everyone feel better. And Mal? I mean, she was the husband and the wife, she paid the bills, she took care of me…” I looked up at Jesus. “I’m sorry, but I can’t trade their misery for my wholeness. It doesn’t matter for how long. A nurse at the hospital told me one night that when she sees my wife, she thinks she ‘ain’t never seen love like that before,’ and I didn’t argue. Love like that should be loved back.”

No Problem

I don’t know what I expected. This was the God of Thunder, after all, who whipped the money changers and cleaned out the Temple of anyone taking advantage of others, but he just smiled, laying back in His cloud.

“It’s no problem, Dennis. Really. It’s your decision.”

Somewhere between awake and dream, I sat up that morning, in bed, with Jesus still smiling at me. I shot a look to where my wife would lay, and she was there. “I’m still alive,” I thought. And I couldn’t help but wonder, as I lay there with my hand on my wife’s back if I would have died if I said Yes to Jesus. Awake, I wondered, too, if it was a test, a dream, or the result of food gone bad. I still wonder.


Thanks so much for reading. Can you think of someone who would like the story? Please mail it to them or share it with your favorite social media using one of the icons below. And won’t you follow me? You can do so in the sidebar. Thanks again and feel free to comment!

Dock on a lake

Philosophy/Theology 1: What is real?

A jumping off point

Before I jump to questions about G and Jesus and Christianity and is healing thing? I need a platform, a dock floating in the deep water. We’ll need a place to jump from and return to, a safe place where we can bask in the warm sun and talk about things.

We – all of humankind – talk like we know, yet we rarely do. It’s a favorite example of mine, but how can the atheist know there is no G? They can’t, of course. And while you’re there chuckling, thinking I’ve got Sam Harris on the ropes, hands tied behind his back, well, your pastor or priest can’t know that G is real, either. Heck, none of us can know for sure that the world wasn’t poofed into existence last Thursday. Try that one on for size.

Science leaves us nothing here

I’m most comfortable with scientific evidence, but it fails us here. There is evidence for G, but not surety. There is evidence for no G, too. If you think I’m talking in circles, arguing for what is both true and false, well, you’re inching nearer. I used to think that Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer was close when he argued that the real starting place for questions about G and science and nature is why there is something rather than nothing. But he assumed that there was something. I assume it, too, and so do you, and we act like it with every decision. I won’t defend it, but many do, in long books with big words and tiny type, and it’s all so…limiting.

It’s such a small view.

It’s such a small view that humankind, seemingly sentient bags of wet proteins, try to logic their way in and around to G. Or to no G. I often think we are like bacteria, borne in the gut of a fish swimming through the deepest channel of the deepest depth of the ocean, meeting with other bacteria to talk about how stars are made in distant galaxies. All from inside a fish’s colon. Maybe I speak too highly of us…

What is left?

If we can’t know – if neither the atheist nor the believer can know with any sense of hold-it-in-your-handedness, what to do? We choose. We believe. We have faith. And since we cannot know and since our minds are notoriously frail at knowing and remembering, we hold beliefs loosely, giving primacy to experience, but never quite trusting that either.

We believe by faith. It’s all we’re left with. That’s the dock. From here we can take a dive.


Thanks so much for reading. Can you think of someone who would like the post? Please mail it to them or share it with your favorite social media using one of the icons below. And won’t you follow me? You can do so in the sidebar. Thanks again and feel free to comment! 

 

 

 

 

Crumb – My new Porsche

Let me tell ya: if I ever buy a new BIG Porsche, I won’t write about it in a Crumb. But I found this on the shelf at some toy store when I was looking for another favorite, a VW Karman Ghia. But for now, this will have to do though I have my eye on a gorgeous full size 1978 911 Turbo. Just like my last one, but in a bug-colored emerald green that is actually a factory color.

Opinel Knives. Some Francophile joy!

If you know me, you know that I am  Francophile in all things except slugs.

I’ve done lots of things in my short life, each one of them needing a specific cache of tools. One thing I’ve never been without – though I admit to recently losing my latest acquisition – is my French-made Opinel knife. I don’t know enough about materials science to wax eloquent about the steel, but these things take an edge. Just a few swipes across a common whetstone, and you’re good to go. 

The kind folks who manufacture these gems added a locking mechanism around the middle of the last century and, because of that, it was the first knife I gave to my boy. I’m guessing that the sharp blade collapsed on some garcon’s fingers while he was stealing pears, and well, we can’t have that.

Opinel 08 folding knife

Just the one I like…carbon steel blade with a beech wood handle.

Opinels come in a flurry of sizes and uses. I’ve always used the carbon-steel blade, beech wood handled Number 08. It’s small, light, cheap, and I’ve never needed to hack a jungle trail with my pocket knife. If I do, though, I have my eye on the new garden pruner. I oddly go through Coronas as fast as I can buy them, and I’m interested to know if French innovation will cure this for Prunersme.

***

Go here to see the #08 on Amazon. Take care: if you buy one, you will be hooked.

For the entire shebang, go to the Opinel website here.

Enjoy!

***

Thanks so much for reading. Can you think of someone who would like the post? Please mail it to them or share it with your favorite social media using one of the icons below. And won’t you follow me? You can do so in the sidebar. Thanks again and feel free to comment! 

Note that I am an Amazon Affiliate member and if you venture to the Seattle Superstore to buy anything through my site, then Jeff Bezos tosses me what’s left of an old cigarette.  

 

 

Recommendation – Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

The new Jerry Seinfeld: Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

What the heck. Bend my arm and I’ll take it…

I love this show. It might be the best show on television since Britain’s Good Neighbors filmed their last episode before the Queen, but I admit to having weird tastes.

The premise is simple: Jerry Seinfeld drives around town and phones another comedian, inviting them to coffee and talk. He knows beforehand who he will call – this is television, after all – and has selected a car he thinks matches the comedian’s personality. If he were to phone me, I would expect him to show up in the driveway with nothing less than a 1973 Porsche 911 RSR or a BMW Bavaria 2002, or, more humbly, a Saab 900 turbo.

What I Like and What I Don’t

Like any show of this sort, some guests are better than others. What I don’t like is when the guest pushes hard to be funny, like it’s expected, they’re out with a comedian after all. In that case, I’ll keep watching if I want to see the car again. Otherwise, I turn it off. What I like is when Seinfeld and guest delve into the philosophy of comedy. And life. I’ve learned from watching that maybe the two aren’t that far apart.

Be Aware

I’ve become an uber fan of the older Jerry, off his sitcom, free now to devote himself to more philosophical pursuits and to Porsches.

We have the same taste in cars. I love that he is a Porsche fanatic, too, and owns – I mean, like it’s in his warehouse – the first production 911 offered to the public for sale. There’s a picture of it there at the top of the post.

Besides Seinfeld and Porsches, what I really like about the show is that every episode expands my scope. Every one of these comedians has worked their butt off to get where they are. I would have never guessed, and, before watching the show, would have bet you a paycheck that funny people are born that way and lay on the couch telling jokes until they’re discovered. But, to a one, they tell stories that should make your head spin about what they put into their work. In one episode, Seinfeld meets Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, and they talk about work over coffee. What else? They head out in a white Ferrari and Seinfeld shakes his head when Noah describes a normal workday. Now, this guy’s not framing houses for eighteen hours a day, I get that. But, he is actively working on his craft every single day for as much time as you or I are driving to and from work, doing our work, having dinner, and then watching three reruns of Dancing With The Stars before bed. And we complain about how hard we have it? Even Jerry is taken back, and in between sips of what appears to be tarry black oil, he nods, “I think you’ll be alright,” he says, not joking.

For what it’s worth, I haven’t seen all the episodes but have really enjoyed those with Kristen Wigg and Alec Baldwin. Before the show, I might have an opinion about the showcased comic before each episode, but always like them more after the show. Somehow, Seinfeld pulls humanity out of them.

My 1990 Saab Turbo 900.

If, perchance, JUST SO I SAY IT, on a dark and stormy night when Seinfeld has nothing to do but search the web for articles about him, and he comes across this recommendation, I will just about give my right arm to fondle that 1964 Porsche with him there, telling me the gory details about its purchase and restoration.

So, check it out. Like the cheap SOB that I am, I watch episodes for free on Netflix. I’m guessing they can be had about anywhere.

Cheers!


Thanks so much for reading. Can you think of someone else who would like the post? Please mail it to them or share it with your favorite social media using one of the icons below. And won’t you follow me? You can do so in the sidebar. Thanks again! And feel free to comment!

Book Review – What Makes Olga Run?

My family history

My grandfather and then my father died at 67. It’s a four-year hop and a skip from where I sit. Both died from cancer. What started as skin cancer metastasized into something threading through every open space like a pot-bound plant. When I went through my family history with my dermatologist, she said, “Ya know? If I were you,” and she wasn’t laughing, “I wouldn’t let the South Carolina sun touch my skin.”

The best guess about my grandfather was granite dust. When he was young, he worked as a stonecutter, turning granite pillars all over Washington State. He didn’t smoke and had no family history of cancer, so granite was the best guess his doctors had. Granite dust is radioactive and sharp as a knife along its broken edges and may have sliced into tissue for years with each inhale and exhale.

Doctors weren’t sure about Dad. He smoked but never had lung problems. His mom died at 92 and lived the life of Annie Oakley until the Saturday morning when she dropped her mortal coil. She lived until she died, driving her gold ‘67 Ford Galaxy across town twice a week to organ lessons. Wise drivers pulled over as she cruised by, taking two of the four lanes. The trouble was, no one was sure which two she would take. And she didn’t much care. There were organs to be played.

Olga and living well. And long.

Medicine has far from a comprehensive understanding of aging, but we’ve learned much. Movement appears essential for healthy aging, as does a healthy diet without gimmicks. Good friends, family, and healthy relationships put us in the right frame. Genetics are important, but not nearly as much as we once thought. But living long is only half the calculation: it’s living well that counts. Researchers consider engagement and continuous learning as required components of this long, good life.

One person who lived long and well was Olga Kotelko. She began competing in track and field when she was 77. By the time she died at 95, she’d won hundreds of gold medals and held almost every master’s record for her events and age groups. How? What was unique about Olga? In many ways, the author of What Makes Olga Run? finds nothing unique. Most of her medical metrics were normal or close to it. She ate a healthy diet, but nothing exotic or rigorous. She exercised daily and maintained a positive outlook. But she was unique, and somehow these normal parts add up to an extraordinary whole. The book offers no magic. No crazy diets. Only observed advice that is easy to follow for healthy and happy living. Following is my review of the book: it’s an interesting and provoking read.

Book Review – What Makes Olga Run?

Olga Kotelko was an elite masters track star who, upon her death in 2014, at age 95, held hundreds of gold medals in track and field, none of which she earned before her 77th birthday.

In What Makes Olga Run? author Bruce Grierson jumps headfirst into the life of Olga to understand what makes her special. What he finds is that Olga wasn’t very extraordinary. There is no magic. Readers looking for superfoods, esoteric yoga mantras, or exotic training regimens won’t find them here. Olga’s story is remarkable in how unremarkable it is.

Grierson follows Olga through just about every test one can think of: stress tests, DNA analyses, diets, psychological examinations: in every case, she tests normal or close to it. But somehow, in Olga, the whole is greater than the sum of her parts. At 77, when most people are dead or dying, she hires a Hungarian track coach and begins a daily training regimen. She eats a nutritious, but not remarkable, diet. She loves competition and loves to win. She is upbeat and refuses to dwell on dark things. All of this adds up to an uncommon life of steady and satisfying accomplishment.

The book is not a textbook. There are passages, especially concerning biology, that could be more precise. But precision in a book like this often translates into boring. And the book is not boring. It is well written, reads easily, and is adequately documented.

Take aways

There are three main take-aways:

1. What you already know about good health is true. Eat well. Exercise. Sweat a little every day. Enjoy friends and family.

2. Work at being positive and optimistic. Eschew pessimism. Keep a good perspective.

3. Your bad habits can be reversed. You can improve your heart health. You can enjoy time with your family again. Every decision, every step, every bite represents a fork in the road that leads to a result you chose.

The author ends with Nine Rules for Living that summarize simplicity and health. None will surprise you. But for Grierson, Olga’s best gift is a strong rebuke that changes his perspective. He records her advice:

“Look around. These are your kids. This is your wife. This is your life. Its awesomeness is eluding you. Pay attention. Yes, there will come a time when you have genuine, life-threatening ailments. But, for now, stop your kvetching. And stop dreading birthdays that end in zeros. Those zeros can pull you under, like stones in your pocket. At your age, your story is not ending: you know that.”

An uplifting read.


Thanks for reading. You can send the post to your favorite social media by clicking on the the buttons below. And won’t you sign up to follow the site? You’ll recieve notifications of posts and get a monthly newsletter with member only features. Thanks!

FWIW, I am not an Amazon Associate and make nary a red cent if you access and buy anything on Amazon. 

 

Olga on Amazon.

Or go here to Barnes and Noble

Or, it’s a weird thing I know…take the title to your local indie bookseller. If they don’t have it, they can order it. The library is a nice place for books, too.