As I head out to Burke Lake, the book on tape that I’ve been listening to (Portuguese Irregular Verbs) clicks off the six-CD changer in the rental car and on pops Rich Mullins.
The music suits my mood. The trees are in bloom, the sun is shining, and I’m going to play the greatest sport in the world.
As Rich sings:
Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom power and love…
I think of Screwtape chastising Wormwood for allowing his patient two very real “pleasures,” calling God a hedonist, and complaining that they can’t make pleasures of their own, only corrupt God’s.
My relationship to Burke Lake is a sweetly nostalgic one. It was the first course I played, and my friends and I often came out two to three times a week in the mid-80s to throw our Whammo 165s and laugh at all the weird guys with the “Frisbee purses” full of oddly shaped discs.
Burke is a course that would be hard to love (heck, hard even to like) if it did not have deep reservoirs of good will. Here I made my only two aces (now over two decades ago) on hole 2 (before the left side was cleared out) and hole 7 (which is now hole 4) before the tree was taken out.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve become a bit more attentive to places (Cindy’s influence, I think), and despite its being as antiquated as a wooden tennis racket, Burke’s course has some good feng-shui.
Burke is a very busy course so no warms ups, and despite the fact that the first three holes are 144, 146, and 172 feet, I go par, par, par.
Then some very weird things start happening.
Hole 5 (formerly 8) has a dog-leg mando about 30 feet from the tee box and I miss it once (bounce the Roc off it and the wrong way) and hit it once, taking a circle five! On hole 7 I hit a tree and take a four. On hole 8 (formerly 11) I overshoot the hole. This was a par 4 in my youth. On hole 9, I have a good drive, leaving me a 35 foot approach. I try to throw the putter and something sticks and it actually goes the wrong way, leaving me a 45 foot approach. A good drive on twelve skips way past the hole (off of grass!). A chip shot to a blind pin on 14 reveals that the hole has been moved since last I played. and in the last few holes I get stuck behind the Brady Bunch learning the sport. (That junior was averaging a 17 on each hole and I was not asked to play through, I don’t mind so much. That mom and dad sat there with a scorecard [at the basket] to figure out scores with someone waiting on the tee was irritating.
Well, I shoot a 59, and I reflect for the umpteenth time that it is a good thing that I’m not a gambling man, because if anyone had given me an over-under of 58 (my low round at Burke is like 46 from my youth), I would have bet the IRA and now be broke. I reflect for the first (and hopefully only time) that it is a good thing Todd didn’t fly to Raleigh, because if he was here, I would have to kill him and bury his bones to make sure this was NEVER, EVER spoken of again. And since the number of true friends I have is even less than the number of disc golf courses I consistently shoot under par, I’m not sure whose loss would have been greater, mine or his. It’s not the worst round of disc golf I’ve played in the last ten years, but it might very well be the most embarrassing.
Back at the club house, I debate the wisdom of playing another round. On the one hand, it’s hot. As in shirt-clinging-to-biceps-hot. As in glasses-fogging-up-from-the-steam-rising-off-my-face-hot. On the other hand, I just shot a 59 at Burke-frigging-Lake (and no, I didn’t use “frigging”) and I have to go home and blog about it, so hell, yes, I’m playing another round. I shoot a 51 (missing two putts inside 10 feet) just to validate that I’m not the athletic equivalent of Inspector Clouseau. (For those who wish to reflect on the fact that I've gone from praise chorus to chorus of curse words in just under an hour and a half, I can only plead that the jury is still out on whether or not Screwtape's master actually did have a hand in creating golf [in all its forms] of just managed to get his grubby, corrupting paws on it for a little while as he has most of God's other great inventions.)
On the way home, I make the pilgrimage out to my brother’s tombstone that I try to make whenever I’m in town. On some days there are flowers there, but today there are only encrusted bird droppings on the marble and a year’s more fade on the gilded letters.
As I try to spend a respectful amount of time (it’s the going, not the staying, that’s important), I pass the time reflecting, as I often do here, on the things he might have experienced if he were now 49 rather than forever 19. Would he play disc golf? Would he have liked Fantastic Four, I wonder, as I think about the Marvel comic books I inherited from him. As I see the 1976 on the tombstone, I reflect—oddly enough for the first time—that he never saw Star Wars (I only saw it myself for the first time in Bogota in ’76, the summer after his death), he never had the joy of watching the first three films nor the perhaps greater joy of trashing the last three. Later, I’m scheduled to go to dinner at the house of a new friend I met on the Internet…would my brother have liked e-mail, or would he think it a nuisance? Would he, in his love for electronic gadgets, gone straight to web cams and streaming video?
As, I get back in the car, Rich is singing, “Let Mercy Lead,” and I think this is so odd, because it is the song that most makes me think about my brother, and its timing on the CD (and that I was playing that CD) was strictly accidental. (Freud would scoff at that claim, I know.)
Let mercy lead
Let love be the strength in your legs
And in every footprint that you leave
There'll be a drop of grace
If we can reach
Beyond the wisdom of this age
Into the foolishness of God
That foolishness will save
Those who believe
Although their foolish hearts may break
They will find peace
And I'll meet you in that place
Where mercy leads,
And that place where every drive pops out of your hand with true spin, where the shiny coating of the new candy-plastic disc reflects an always brighter sun, and each moment has the invigorating hope of the first drive off the first tee—where anything imaginable can still happen, and everything you can imagine is only good.
Burke Lake Park
3-3-3 3-5-3 4-3-4 OUT (30)
3-3-4 3-4-3 3-3-3 IN (29) 59
Day 4 Tally: Courses 5
New Courses 1
Friends Killed 0