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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Worlds We Do Not Know

I spent this morning in a world I do not know, and before I say just where I was, I want to explain that we all live in our own worlds to a certain extent. Even those of us who hold a "shared value" that it is an important part of who we are and what we believe to try our best to reach beyond our personal worlds . . . even we live in a world surrounded by other worlds that may not share that value. If that makes sense.

But in a far less philosophical sense, there are worlds in which certain things are paramount that matter very little beyond that world. Somewhere right now there is a scrap-booking party going on, and those scrappers are thinking of nothing else. (Bloggers can relate to that.) In Alaska, Governor Sarah Palin's husband is a "snow machine" champion. That race is a highlight of his year. And there are hundreds of others who enjoy it just as much. Me? It's been years since I rode on a snow mobile at 80 MPH. Yes, I've done it, but I just don't live in that world.

There are people who live to collect baseball cards or vinyl records. It's a sub-culture all its own. Somebody somewhere today put the last coat of paint on a refurbished '64 Mustang, and he can't wait for the first of a dozen parades he has paid to drive it in. Somewhere out in New Mexico, a man is refolding his hot-air balloon in which he will race all summer in venues all across the Midwest.

Someplace in this world right now someone is carving something beautiful our of whale bone and his world revolves around bone and blades to shape it with. Scrimshaw they call it. Some parent somewhere today watched their child perform in a piano recital--not a "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" ordeal. No, I mean a recital that would give you goose bumps where judges have to tell one in a hundred performers that he gets to move on to "Nationals." My daughter plays our piano nearly every night. I love it, but we don't live in that competitive piano world. I'm so glad.

All across the world right now there are athletes putting in ten-hour days in hopes of making the cut for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. Everything they do between now and that event will revolve around becoming the best in their particular sport. They will be devastated if they don't make the cut.

I on the other hand, know barely enough to write another sentence about the random "worlds" I just imagined. And likewise I know little about the world I sat in today.

The world in which I was an alien today was a place called competitive cheerleading. We went to cheer on my niece's squad. I know something about regular cheerleading--you know the kind where a bunch of girls along the sidelines root for the team. "Dribble it; pass it; we want a basket" and all that stuff. I've been sitting on the bleacher side of that kind of cheerleading all my life. In fact, my youngest is in our squad at school and she enjoys it very much. I like our world. It suits me fine.

But there is a "world" in which competitive cheerleading is not so much about cheering on the team. In this world the cheerleaders themselves become the team. It's very much like gymnastics competition where the girls get so good at every move, and they're so synchronized in every step, and the skill sets and expectations are so high, that the most competitive squads tend to win or lose more by "mistakes" than by the thousands of things they do perfectly.

My niece Katelyn K. is a "Flyer" for the newly crowned 2009 State Champion squad. In the world of her high school in Rochester, Michigan, competitive cheerleading is so valued that they have been state champions for 16 of the past 20 years.

I'll be the first to admit that cheerleading is not my thing--neither is collecting baseball cards or carving whale bone or bobsledding--but sometimes it's very interesting to step into a world where you know almost nothing and sit elbow to elbow with parents and fans cheering on a collective effort that, I must admit, keeps everyone on the edge of their seat. I was a nervous wreck until the last "mount" came safely back to earth.

To my surprise, when we got back home, the clip below was already on Youtube. I did not shoot it, but my voice (and my wife's and daughter's and sister's and brother's and my brother and sister-in-law's, too) is in the screaming mob behind this hand-held camera.

My niece is the high flyer in the center-rear of the mat ten seconds into the footage.

Last year's Round Three performance at the State Championship

Here is a routine in their home gym. Look at the banners on the back wall. That is all a part of this world that I did not know.

Both the 08 and today's 09 state championships were held at the Delta Plex in Grand Rapids where about 500 Rochester Cheer fans (three hours from home) were surrounded by thousands of fans cheering on the other squads. We all sat enthralled and entertained all morning through three rounds of competition with eight teams.

If you ever feel like "your world is caving in" remember it is only part of a much bigger world of worlds. Each of them are all full of nerves and hopes and expectations and adrenaline rushes and humbling disappointments. Each of them matters. Life matters. Your world matters far beyond the best or worst thing you've ever done.

But sometimes it gives our life more perspective to step into other worlds where things unfamiliar to us matter greatly to others. It's good to see people pull together in some shared goal. It's good sometimes to be the odd man out asking questions all along the way.

Sometimes it's good to look at the scrap book or the whale bone or the '64 Mustang or whatever else you had no previous shared interest in and to say to the person to whom it matters, "well done."

It was time well spent to watch 16 girls putting their lives in each other's hands ... and to whistle and shout out loud for the niece we only get to see a few times a year but never in her world.

I almost didn't go to this event today. We had all met in GR last night for a nice dinner. Returning today meant getting up at 6:30 AM on a Saturday. I was tempted to sleep in. I wanted to write... about family. (Imagine that, missing a chance to drive 45 minutes to be with family from the far side of the state in order to have time to write about family.) That didn't make sense. Making something that matters to someone else matter to you is sometimes what "family" is all about. I wish I'd learned that sooner in life.

Not only did I learn a little bit about the interesting world of competitive cheer.... I got a big hug from the only cheerleader who knew me in that world as I made my way toward her through the crowd. Way to go, Katelyn!


By the way, it's my brother Paul (Katelyn's father) who has a more major role (though he probably wishes it weren't so) in the next "Unsettled" chapter. Coming soon...


Anonymous quilly said...

Wow! That was an incredible display of team work in action. Those girls worked hard and it shows.

I don't know that world, but this glimpse into it is mind boggling. I can only imagine the hours of practice and the dedication it takes to be part of such a team -- and obviously the trust.

The trust these girls must have in one another moved me. This was amazing.

7/3/09 5:24 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Wow, Quilly,
I'm still tweaking this. Good timing. I think the last paragraph came after you read this.

But you are right. I was nervous watching it. We don't do competitive cheer at our school (insurance and liability issue which is why not many schools have this program), but I was moved by the teamwork. This is all my neice does all school year long. She is a junior so she still has one more year to fly.

7/3/09 5:34 PM  
Blogger the walking man said...

I am glad that title nine funding mandated some parity in funding between male and female sports enrollment. This shows why it was a smart move.

8/3/09 6:03 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Good point, Mark.
Believe me, this state championship in this little known sport (little known to most of us) was every bit as big and "life shaping" to these athletic and courageous girls as football or the March Madness that is about to begin.

Imagine this and you'll see what I mean. In football, which I love to watch, you have to lines of beefy guys ready to pound it out adjust the game, etc. and typically the best team wins. But in this competitive cheerleading each team watches the others do various routines through three rounds. They have to shake off their nerves and go out there and do their best. They want to win by doing their bit the best they can (They don't want to win because the next best team messed up--but if they do mess up--it only puts more pressure on because they know any team is going to have an accident sooner or later.) It's a whole different kind of competition that calls for a whole different kind of teamwork.

One other thing. In most movies that include cheerleaders, they are a catty group of spoiled .... whatevers (you fill in the blank). I know you can't tell much from a distance, but I did not see that in any of these squads. They have had to work so hard and commit so much to TEAM that there is no room for that kind of venom. These girls did not strike me as "arm candy" for the football team.

8/3/09 7:58 AM  
Anonymous Bruna said...

Hi! I'm actually the person who taped this. A very proud alumni and state champ as well.
I started reading your post at the cheer part, obviously, but I kept on reading, and I'm really glad I did! It's funny how "worlds" change as we grow older. You spoke some truths there!

I never had a chance to cheer with Kaitlyn, but I am so happy she got to experience the thrill of being a state champion!

Go Falcons!

9/3/09 2:14 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thank you for coming by and thank you for taping this event and posting it so quickly on Youtube.

We met with Katelyn's sister, parents, and other aunt and uncle for dinner the night before, and at that time they knew I wasn't planning to come so they were surprised to see me Saturday morning. I'm glad I was there. I have new respect for the sport of competitive cheerleading. I know why we don't have it at our school, and that is not likely to change, but it is an amazing team effort. I was proud of all of your Falcons but especially of the one who gave me that big hug!

Thanks for stopping by and for saying hello. Good job!

9/3/09 6:23 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Awwwwww how sweet.... a big hug from your niece, family time with others, and the excitement of yelling for the winning team! That is a blessing indeed and I'm delighted you shared it with us!

13/3/09 9:54 PM  

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