Thread: Got Butterflies?
10-21-2007, 01:00 AM #1
There she is, strolling towards me, a familiar and charming face emerges from the short distance. It's a dusty road lakeside, the golden setting sun is streaking through the cracks of powdered earth, we're at the jet ski races, we're in yet another State for a national tour event. It's been a while since we connected.
I pass their motor home door which is open, through the screen peeks 'Freestyle', their white sidekick, a shabby little white dog with a big voice, he barks cheerily. My face lights up instantly, Bonnie is the first person I look for at these races, which is akin to a traveling side show. I am one of the freaks on display. Because the lifestyle is so taxing on the spirit, these friendships keep the soul grounded.
Bonnie Malone, the impish pixie face stares back at me, her dimples alight, a cheerful smile with a slow drawl 'halloo Shawn, so goood to see you!' greets me, that cheerful display melts friendship through years of connection. 'Oh Bonnie, you are looking groovy and pretty sexy this round!" I chortle as we hug. Bonnie is a little older than me. Her husband Gene are the genetics behind Eric Malone, who will in time become a Legend in this sport. Time echoes years, I reminisce the distance.
I met the Malones through Kawasaki and the Law Loan Program years ago. I was sent to Pennslyvania to teach a rescue boat course for the local government agencies. Gene owned Keystone Kawasaki/Yamaha and was taxed with bringing out the training boats. Eric was just a boy in those days who was racing locally with his sister Meredith. The Malone family took me into their fold. Family is important to me, in fact it's everything. Friends for Life.
Bonnie made me feel loved. Her spirit was enthusiastic, she knew how to listen, and had the gift to encourage a person to stick to the positive. She never rallied against another person as is so often the corruption of these kind of sporting events, people love to slam the next person in line. The Malone's were genuine warm Earth, they were grounded in kindness amidst the debris and selfishness that accompanies the pursuit of glory.
I knew Bonnie had a bout with cancer earlier, and I thought surely God would give her back to help out this world a little more. Us humans really need people with the ability to show empathy and concern for others, we focus so much on the negative we forget there are many great things happening every second right in front of us. The cancer returned and her emails and phone calls began to taper off. Then I received the news, which I didn't want to accept.
Bonnie died of cancer of a few years ago. I associated racing with her as part of a community fold, because she helped me when I needed it, her entire family was supportive of me in very trying situations and conditions. This kind of friendship means a lot to a person like me who is struggling, trying to help others and not much is out there to help me, no deposit no return. Those kind acts of wisdom, the random acts of kind souls can last a lifetime in the world of another. I am one of those recipients and I recognize those values. They are food for the soul.
I still feel a tremendous amount of grief over her leaving. I told her and Gene once I wish they could adopt me, I would even pay them for the service, and in my heart that was saying a lot, I really meant it but I think they thought I was just joking.
I just finished working the 2007 IJSBA World Finals in Lake Havasu, Arizona. I worked with a team that I was training to take the course marshal/water patrol experience to a higher level never seen before in the sport. I was very hard on the men, but for the sake of love, I didn't want anyone hurt, life can be taken in a second. Life is precious, and racing is all risk and little reward. When I finish this event, I give everything I have and there is nothing left for my family, it takes me a week to come back. Not something I could explain to anyone, except maybe my team who is going through it in real time, the K38 team designed for the racers.
Life is not fair, racing is less. The negative comments go so much further in destruction, they cover and shroud the kindness of others. When a compliment comes our way, I almost shudder, I feel sad, because I know how fast life is, how precious and that some racers were devastated, we see them up close and personal, we feel each sorrow intimately. We hear each insult and take it to heart just the same, they hurt, they are intended to hurt and they do. The love shown by others is laced with bravery, for it is much easier to slander than to praise.
Each day on the water is hectic, we worked each race, whereas a racer only met their races, we met every single racers event. It's a horrible job to have, and it is also a wonderful job, that paradox of right and wrong strung together in a finite moment of excellence. Fatigue is the enemy, and the human condition, the only thing that keeps me focused is the committed dedication gifted to those who have lost their life and the staff. They become my muse, my personal inspiration to deal with disapointment.
'Butterflies are free to fly, so fly away', goes the song. The kind of work I provide on behalf of others is a kind of war, the zone is tenuous, we have to be on alert constantly. When I spent my free time with Bonnie, she had the ability to bring me back to a spiritual center with her calm demeanor, I would instantly relax. She became a muse for me. I want to step as far away from selfishness as I can, so I can survive the ensuing slaughter.
I am on the water, my Jet Ski is mid track, the air is a slow blow of heat. I'm wearing a full wetsuit, helmet, full boots with neoprene socks, lifejacket, rescue rigging, radio and helmet, everything is colored black. I'm a heat magnet for the Arizona sun, baking. A whistle is resting on my lips, a yellow flag held in my left hand, I'm standing and my right hand measures the helm and throttle. The radio is constantly engaged in chatter which is the hardest part of this job. The fumes settle from the last race, I wipe my eyeglasses of the fuel residue and wash my face from the slow fuel burn I'm getting from riding behind the starts on the line. Sometimes I ride off course out of site to puke from the nausea of too many race motos and exhaust, the carbon monoxide catches up. I'm in full stride.
The race is constant motion, the water moves, my jet ski moves, the racers dart, the sound of staff cackles incessantly on a bad performing radio, I watch the backside of the team and keep pressure applied so they can win, so they won't get hurt. A buoy is being taken back on track to replace a damaged one. I troll on idle and at eye level a brilliant butterfly bounces and jerks towards me across the wind ravage waters.
It is so fragile, the delicate colored wings motion it's path. I stop and watch it's pattern, the race site pulls back from my psyche and it's only me and this colored spirit dancing with one another. Sounds peel back into a jumble of pointless words, a slow motion trickle of quirps and chirps. The butterfly circles around me, two creatures locked in a interlude of contrasts.
I mock the thought how quickly this butterfly needs to get to land and off the insecurity of this wasteland of water. Bonnie Malone's smile glides through the mists of my memory and I smile. This is the same feeling I would get upon greeting one another. This was the same emotion that came up in the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans when I crossed Higgins Boulevard and the yellow winged butterfly led me across dark waters and I thought of Nancy Rigg.
The butterfly is the symbol of life, rebirth, death. It has 2 lives from one source, one of the earth and one of the air. I take the few seconds of this present and I'm engaged for work again. I saw many butterflies after that. My attitude instantly shifted. I had this presence the year after Bonnie passed, when Eric came to the World Finals to compete, I saw the butterfly, her butterfly. I saw Bonnie's spirit pass over all of us. I knew everything was going to be alright. I saw the butterfly again when Meredith and Eric took pictures at Worlds with the first grandchild, the symbol was alive, even though Bonnie's body wasn't, the angel unawares was close by.
At the awards ceremony on the last day of the event, I told a story to the racers, this is what I said:
"You may not know this but there is something that inspires me to work on your behalf when times are rough, and racing is tough business. We ride every race alongside you, our hearts break with yours, our bodies are taxed like yours, our boats are damaged, just like yours, we get hurt just like you. Inspiration is a great motivator, it can pull you up in times of adversity. The boat I was working on is named after Chadwick File. He was murdered, a staged drowning induced by hypothermia in a boating accident from a disowned father. I rode with his memory to help remind me of what is really important and to keep their stories alive. My teammates, Ray Wolfgramm, Jonathan Cahill, Reid Beveridge, BJ, Joe Barron, and Dave Hardenberger rode on Rell, Pua and Jay. Rell Sunn died from breast cancer, she was a Hawaiian lifeguard, a woman I wanted to meet and teach to use a Jet Ski but was never honored to do this, Pua also a lifeguard from Makaha died of breast cancer, and Jay Moriarity, our favorite son drowned in the Maldives, a student, a friend and an inspiration to the world. Never Forget those who came before you, never forget what truly matters in life, life is not fair, and neither is racing. Find your inspiration and hold onto it to motivate you. Take time to notice the butteflies."
I get chicken skin just thinking about it.
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