Sunday, April 26, 2015

opie & the dark side of mayberry, canyon falls, soviet hockey: a peek at my brain when it’s feeling good

I am feeling good these days. Surely the mere act of it, the audacity of it, not to mention the public stating of it, tempts fate. Next week, later today, maybe tomorrow, I will be taken down a peg or two, brought back to Earth, given my comeuppance, reminded: Don’t be so cocky.

On the trail to Canyon Falls.

Who do you think you are?

A little dog heading off into the woods?

But meanwhile.

Last week was a lot like summer, this week a lot like winter. So, next week, spring? But this is spring. Yes, this is spring. Daffodils and snow. Baseball and snow balls. Ticks in the hair. Fires in the stove. Waterfalls.


Always when I am feeling good I have these epiphanies. These revelations. Grand thoughts. Ah, yes. Now I see. From here on out, smooth sailing. Yippee!

Rough waters ahead.

This week it had something to do with realizing the great divide between what one wants and what is, and how that relates to a disconnect (and perhaps discontent?) with reality and the proverbial spinning of the wheels and how not getting what you think you want can lead to feeling bad, and that led me to mulling over an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show,” which eventually led to … well, the question now is, I think: Have you ever wondered at what point that which you imagine becomes more important than reality? Becomes, in a way, a greater and more urgent reality. Because whenever we want something, at first, usually, we can only imagine it, and then if you spend too much time imagining it, thinking about it, maybe dreaming or fantasizing about it (the terms blur, don’t they), aren’t you soon lost in a world that is not real?

Wait a minute …  what’s not real? In my head it’s real!

And what a lot of time we spend on these things that are only in our heads! At least, I do. Or did. Because then I thought, What if, instead, I simply spend time on reality?

It seemed to clear up so many things, and I feel good about it.

Because reality can be so interesting.

But I’m sure you’re wondering about that episode of “The Andy Griffith Show.” It’s the one where young Opie befriends a kid who has just moved to Mayberry. This kid may be from The Big City or The Future or Something Like That because he’s somewhat belligerent and he wants what he wants and he wants what he wants now. (In Mayberry, most folks are willing to sit on the front porch, let things be, and wait for the good stuff, like going down to the drugstore for a soda and later watching a little TV over at Thelma Lou’s … ). But, this kid, in order to get what he wants, ignores others, whines, pouts, throws wild tantrums, and, specifically, what he wants right now is his bike. He wants it back. It’s been taken away. The thing is, if he had been happy with his bike in the first place, he would still have it, because The Mayberry Sheriff’s Office would not have taken it away. Yes, Andy (or was it Barney?) took away this kid’s bike not only because he was riding it on the sidewalk causing Aunt Bee (or was it Thelma Lou?) to go “OH!” and spin and drop her groceries, but he had been warned not to do this or else … or else the bike would be taken away.

A beautiful spot.

Of course, what this kid really wants is to ride his bike on the sidewalk. If he just wanted his bike, well, he had that, didn’t he? (The whole episode could also be interpreted as this kid wanting attention, or discipline, or something, especially from his father, and of course one can also see that this kid works within a different reality from the one he has been plopped into, the so-called Mayberry reality. In one, NOBODY EVER TAKES AWAY MY BIKE. In the other, well, people do take away your bike and furthermore there are consequences, which we will get to in a bit.)

This kid—whose name I will not bother to remember—is a pain in the neck. He thinks he has it all figured out, and he shares his wisdom with Opie. Naturally, Opie soaks it up, takes it out for a test ride. Opie wants something—is it a nickel? his allowance? some other pittance? for no reason other than Hey, I am kid, your son, so HEY! let somebody else take out the garbage and empty the ash can for a nickel! I deserve a nickel just for being a kid!—and when Andy, his father, and you know, the Sheriff of Mayberry, looks at Opie like he’s losing his marbles, Opie throws a tantrum right there in the courthouse. He lies down and kicks and screams and holds his breath. Andy ignores him. Eventually Opie, perhaps tired from all the bawling and kicking and lack of oxygen, realizes Oh yeah, I’ve got it pretty good. What a sweet deal. A nickel for a bit of work. Aunt Bee cooking up all that apple pie and fried chicken. Fishing on Myers Lake with Pa and Barney. A teacher like Miss Crump (though at this point she may still be in Kansas City, getting into trouble with the law, remember that episode?). In the end, all is right with the world. The world of Mayberry, that is.

But what about that whiny kid? When his story ends, we are left with the strong feeling that his father is going to take him out behind the woodshed and finally, at last, spank him. Mayberry did, after all, have a dark side.

Near the trailhead to the falls.

You know, I’ve been that whiny kid. But I think I’m over it. Beat it out of me, ignore me, or just let time roll along with its revelations and epiphanies. Oh my. I’ve got a bike and all this space to ride it in. Right now I can’t even see where I can’t ride. I know it’s there, some verboten place, but for the moment that place is as unreal as, well, anything I can imagine. Sometimes, of course, those places are real and sometimes, of course, it is unfair and you have to push; you have to push against injustice. But me? My only prohibitions are the ones in my head.

So kind of a cold week, yes, and one snowy day I drive to Marquette for an appointment with my eye doctor. Between Negaunee and Marquette, a whiteout. Even though without my glasses the world is a blur, my eyes are healthy, or so the doctor says. He shows me an x-ray-like picture of each eye, explaining that the bright spot is where my brain comes in to connect to the optic nerve (or something like that). Wow.

“So that’s my brain?”


One hour and 13 minutes into “Of Miracles and Men,” a documentary about Soviet hockey, I see these sub-titles:
You have to understand the following: Revolutions give birth to romantics. The Soviet regime first appeared as a romantic notion. Then it transformed into fanaticism … Later, after the fanaticism, society became cynical. …
I know little about hockey, even less about Soviet hockey (though I confess more now than before), and what have I ever known about Russia and revolutions? But, I do know about romantic notions. And fanaticism. And, I believe, cynicism. Interesting how they all come together.



  1. Thank you for the pictorial visit to Canyon Falls and the trip down memory lane to Mayberry! Good start to a beautiful UP spring Sunday!

    1. It was a beautiful day! Sunny and getting up into the 50s out this a-way.

  2. Loved the visit to Canyon Falls, and the brush with reality or ????. Actually the trail does not really end.....there's a great 4 mile stretch of the North Country Trail between the Baraga Plains Road and Canyon Falls parking lot. Follows the river, crosses bridges, lots of varied terrain.

    1. I was wondering about that - next time we will walk a little farther on.