Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

A Slice of Heaven

on April 15, 2014

Augusta National Sunrise

Last week my husband and I attended the Friday round of The Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. Those of you who don’t like golf will probably be tempted to quit reading now, but I want you to know that this little piece isn’t about golf at all. I don’t play golf myself – I have mediocre hand-eye coordination – but my husband loves it.  I started watching tournaments on television with him when we were dating (because that’s what you do in a new relationship), and I found to my surprise that it captured my attention. Specifically, it was the 1996 Masters that got me hooked; the famous meltdown by Greg Norman that gave Nick Faldo his third and final green jacket was as epic a story as any I had ever seen on stage or in the movies. I fell in love with Augusta National and with The Masters then, and I have remained in love all these years.

Which is why it’s such a big deal that for the past five years (because of a friend’s generosity) we’ve have the chance to go to The Masters for one of the four tournament days. I have come to anticipate our annual trip as much as I ever looked forward to Christmas morning as a child. It has become my second favorite day of the year.

There are many reasons why I feel this way. First, the course itself is stunningly beautiful. It is astonishing how perfect it all is – the fairways look like lush carpeting, and the greens look like pool tables. The flowering shrubs and trees all over the course fill your sight with bright colors and your nose with sweet scents. You can hear the birds singing in the tall pine trees when the crowds go silent to allow a player to putt. Some people might be put off by the engineering feat it takes to achieve this level of perfection, but to them I say, “Pppttthhh.” It’s gorgeous. It feels like a holy place, and all of us who are fortunate enough to experience it in person are truly blessed.

But even more than the impact of the sheer physical beauty of this outdoor temple, there is a sense that as soon as you walk through the gates you’re somewhere else. Somewhere slightly apart from the “normal” world. Somewhere better. It starts when you find out that you are not allowed to bring a phone of any kind onto the course. Think about what it would be like if you got 40,000* people together in the same place and didn’t allow them to check their email, or post anything to Facebook, or Tweet, or make work calls, for an entire day. Just let that soak in for a minute. What would happen?

Well, I’ll tell you. What happens is that people start noticing what’s around them. They suddenly have the time and the interest to strike up conversations with complete strangers about a variety of topics. Instant friendships explode and fade like fireworks all day, everywhere.

And then there’s what for lack of a better term I’ll call the “culture” of The Masters; the respect for the golf course and the other attendees that is so pervasive it’s shocking. An example: if you bring folding chairs into the course and you place them in a particular spot somewhere on, say, the 15th green, you can leave them there confident that no one will take them away or even move them. Most likely no one will sit in them, either, until you stop wandering around the course and settle yourself down to watch the action in the spot you have claimed. The first time this process was explained to me I was amazed – how is it possible that no one would come along and, finding your chairs unoccupied, not move them so as to make room for themselves? They don’t? Really? No, really???

Yes. Really. It’s almost unthinkable, but it’s true. The same people who, on the “outside”, would most likely cut you off in traffic, or jump the line ahead of you at the grocery store, or whatever – these same people leave your stuff alone.

Not only that, they clean up after themselves and other people (which doesn’t happen a lot, but it happens). Augusta National has an army of workers whose job it is to pick up trash on the ground, but I’m telling you I’ve seen as many patrons picking up litter and putting it into trash cans as the people who have been hired to do it. There is a sense of community and shared responsibility under those pine trees the like of which I have never experienced as an adult. The closest thing I can equate to it is how my friends and I took care of our college theatre; it nurtured us, and we loved it and looked after it. But that was a small group of friends in a small college. This is a massive crowd of complete strangers, but even so, everyone seems to instinctively know how to behave. Of course, Augusta National does things to encourage this sense of loyalty.

Like most sporting events in restricted access arenas or stadiums, you are not allowed to bring food in to Augusta National Golf Club. But instead of gouging people by charging outrageous prices for the food there, they do the opposite. The most expensive sandwich on the menu at Augusta National is $3.00. You can get a pimento cheese sandwich and beer for less than five bucks. And you get to keep the plastic cup it comes in, if you want. Also, if you need to make a phone call, Augusta National has banks of phones you can use – for free. Since they won’t let you bring your phone in, it’s like they say, hey, here you go, we got you covered. How fair is that? And don’t get me started on how nice the restrooms are kept. As a patron, you feel more like an honored guest in someone’s home than a spectator at a sporting event.

So, yes, I think heaven must be at least a little bit like Augusta National during Master’s week. A beautiful place where you are free to roam around, drinking in the awesomeness of nature. A place where everyone is kind, and patient, and generous, and friendly. A place where you feel welcome and safe, where the pace of life is slower and there’s nothing more important to do than to strike up a conversation about what a beautiful day it is with the person sitting next to you.

Yes, this must be heaven.

*this is an estimate – Augusta National doesn’t tell

*********

Thanks for reading my blog!  If you want to know more about me and my journey, check out my book “Everyday is Saturday” on Kindle.  The book is part diary, part memoir, about the first year after I was laid off from my dream job.  I think it has something to say to anyone who is struggling with change.

photo credit: lisapeck224 via photopin cc

 

 

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