Found in Space

You could call it the ultimate tech-support ticket.

For those of you who don’t keep up on space news – I get it, the NBA playoffs are on – NASA just came to the rescue of Voyager. No, not the old Star Trek sci-fi series, the even older space probe that was launched in the 1970s, left the solar system entirely in the 2010s and is still sending back information today.

Well … at least it was until November, when the most distant man-made object ever stopped sending signals.

Mind you, Voyager was still functional. But it couldn’t “speak” clearly – its signals were garbage. And so, armed with paper documentation and a two-day time lag in sending or receiving information, NASA went to work.

Five months of troubleshooting ultimately found that one chip had gone bad, corrupting a tiny piece of Voyager’s code. Uploading a fix meant working with a 47-year-old computer from 15 billion miles away. (Now THAT’S an overseas call center.)

And finally, on April 23, the news came out: Voyager was back on the line.

That lifts me up in so many ways. And not just because I’m a serious space geek. That’s part of it, mind you, but not all.

It also shows how much we can value what’s gone before. And how much we’ll do to save it.

That might sound a little strange. After all, nostalgia has deep roots in us and they get deeper every day. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, we were looking back with rose-colored glasses on the ‘50s and ‘60s. Today, it’s the ‘80s and so much more. In fact, thanks to the internet, we now get to sample and romanticize almost any era – or a mixture of them – as the “good old days.”

But that’s a surface appreciation and often a nearsighted one, choosing to ignore the worst of an earlier time or the best of today. “Back to the past” movements can even do tremendous damage, bulldozing today’s people and needs in the name of restoring a half-imagined golden age. Ultimately, we can’t live in a memory.

That said, we also tend to swing too hard the other way. Nostalgia trivializes, and if something isn’t lit by the current “Ooh, that’s cool and weird” spotlight, it tends to be rejected as old junk that’s no longer relevant. Tools, ideas, even people get set aside and forgotten in favor of newer and better.

But once in a while, we get a reminder that nothing is totally forgotten, or that the lessons of the past still have value now. And whether it’s programmers blowing the dust off of forgotten code to make a repair or long-ago veterans and refugees sharing their experience with a classroom, we stop for a moment, remember and learn.

Forgotten things can still have value. Forgotten people can still have value.

And when we pull off the impossible to help the forgotten, we remind ourselves what we’re capable of. After all, if we can spend five months to help one scientific instrument 15 billion miles away, how much more can we do to acknowledge and help the person next door?

So I’m happy for Voyager. And I’m even happier for us.

That’s the kind of support and determination that can make space for us all.

Stuck on the Rox

Opening Day has always been a little special to me. A new baseball season. A fresh start. All the possibilities waiting ….

Wait a second.

How many runs?

Oh, dear.

For those of you who missed the disaster Thursday, you have my envy. An unnamed genius scheduled the Arizona Diamondbacks – holders of the National League pennant – to start the season against our Colorado Rockies, holders of national embarrassment after their first-ever 100-loss season. The results should have been predictable.

They weren’t. If only because no one could have predicted the third inning of our first game.

Fourteen runs. Fourteen runs. For the curious, that’s the highest one-inning total that has been recorded in an Opening Day game since 1900. It’s a baseball Titanic … except the Titanic at least had a chance of avoiding the iceberg.

The season has barely started and we’re already a team of legend.

Now, we’re not the first franchise to ever have an extended stay in the baseball doldrums. Back in junior high school days, I can still remember shaking my head in sympathy for a teacher who was a fan of the Chicago Cubs AND the Boston Red Sox at the same time. Both have since returned to respectability and even to glory within recent memory.

I can already hear the sighs of my fellow fans. Yes, our team still has to take step one: actually trying to get out of the basement. And even that’s not a fair statement. Everyone on the team –  as in, the folks in the gloves and ball caps – probably is doing the best they can with what they’ve got. The trouble starts higher up and we all know it, with an ownership that says it’s tired of losing but has taken few if any steps to address it.

But as our Rox muddle through their Rocky Mountain Low, we can at least take an example and a lesson. Because a lot of us are in the position of the Men in Purple: having to keep going day after day in a tiring situation that seems to have no end.

We all spend some time there. Some practically have long-term leases. And it’s not always clear how to get out.

Time and again, the same answer floats to the surface: not alone.

I keep a music playlist on hand for harder days. One song that keeps leading the pack is “The Mary Ellen Carter” by Stan Rogers, about a ship sunk by a drunken captain, abandoned by an apathetic owner … and raised by a determined crew. One of the final verses is one that I’ve quoted to myself and others many times:

“And you to whom adversity has dealt the final blow,

With smiling b******s lying to you everywhere you go,

Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain,

And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again!”

The thing is, the Mary Ellen Carter couldn’t spontaneously rise by itself. It needed the help of the crew who loved it, the ones who had been saved by the ship so many times and who repaid it with their work and dedication.

That’s us.

Asking anyone to haul themselves off the rocks is a cruelty. We need to be there for each other, ready to lift and haul and repair. That’s how we rise again: through community and mutual strength.

None of us are in a position to raise up a baseball team with anything more than cheers (alas). But we can raise up those around us. We can be the love that helps them rise again and accept that love from others.

Set the example. Help it spread. Others will notice.

And if some of those others are in a position to move mountains – or at least Rockies – maybe the next Opening Day will be worth the wait at last.

Schrödinger’s October

By the time this column appears in print, we’ll either be tired of shoveling or cynical about weather forecasters.

No surprise. That’s how October in Colorado works.

My friends from warmer climes often do a double take when they hear that a Front Range “snow season” runs from October to May. But even those words don’t really capture the true experience. The symbol of those eight months isn’t a snow shovel, but a pair of dice. You listen to the forecasts, buy out the bread and milk at the grocery stores (and somehow it’s always the bread and milk) and then roll ‘em.

Sometimes we laugh. Sometimes the big Snowmageddon forecasts produce nothing but a dusting of flakes and an ironic “I survived” post on social media.

Other times, it’s no laughing matter.

I grew up here. I remember a lot of Halloweens spent with a winter coat pulled over a truly awesome costume. (Hercules just doesn’t look the same when he’s bundled up against the cold.) But the year that really drove it home for me was 1997, when we got slammed by a late-October blizzard right before the Broncos were due to leave town for a game in Buffalo.

In those John Elway days, every bit of Bronco news was Serious Business. And so, in the midst of relentlessly raging snow and cars stacking up on Peña Boulevard, broadcasters would break in with the latest escapades. Kicker Jason Elam caught a ride to team headquarters with a group of fans. Safety Steve Atwater joined the rest of the team by snowmobile. Somehow, incredibly, everyone got out of town, stumbled into their hotel at 1 a.m. in the morning, and then  staggered their way through an overtime win that afternoon.

So yeah. We know. Feast or famine. Snow or “Snow big deal.”

And the thing is, we have to be ready for both. Like Schrödinger’s cat, the fabled “Chance of Snow” isn’t really alive or dead until we open the box and find out.

But then, isn’t that how we live our lives anyway?

We like to think we’ve minimized uncertainty. We make plans, we check forecasts, we schedule out our day. Everything’s in control.

Until it’s not.

The reminders, inevitably, come in. Sometimes as small as the storm that cancels a birthday picnic in the park. Sometimes as big as the injury or illness that transforms a lifetime.

We may have planned a route. But we’re not the ones driving the car.

So what do we do?

First, be aware. Always. Both in the moment-by-moment “situational awareness” sense and the bigger-picture sense of seeing what’s out there, not just what you want to see. Not only will that keep you ready – well, readier – for the unexpected, but it also reminds you of how much great stuff there is to see around you and how many situations your gifts and talents might be able to improve.

Second, stick together. I stress this a lot, maybe more than anything else I’ve ever written in this column. But it’s that important. Whether it’s shoveling our neighbor’s walks or standing up for our neighbors’ needs, we depend on each other. It’s how we weather a crisis or enhance a celebration.

We’re not going to see everything. But with eyes open and hands clasped, just maybe we can see enough.

Even in a stormy October.

All Together Now

The dreams of October have come true. 

Back then, I found myself startled by an unexpected prophecy. If you’re a regular reader, you may remember it, too: 

“No illusion. The sports analysis still said the same thing: the Nuggets were the favorite to win the West. With about one chance in eight of winning it all – better than anyone but the Boston Celtics.

“This had to be a joke. Or at least a Jokić.” 

Well, we’ve hit the punchline. And it’s a lot better than we dared dream. In a few weeks of near unstoppable play, the Denver Nuggets have tamed the Timberwolves, dimmed the Suns and dried up the Lakers. And based on what we all saw in Game 1, they should be ready to make like an air conditioner and beat the Heat. 

I know, I know. Prediction’s a dangerous game in the sports world – ask any number of NFL teams who held a fourth-quarter lead on John Elway. It’s not over ‘til the last buzzer sounds, you’ve gotta play all the games, etc., etc., etc. 

Fine. True. But it’s not just THAT the Nuggets have been winning that impresses me. It’s HOW. 

In theatre terms, this team is a true ensemble production. 

Most plays, movies and TV shows have a simple structure: they focus on the leads. Sure, supporting roles can be memorable and beloved, but most of the action is dominated by a small number of key characters.

Ensemble shows are different. Even if there’s someone whose name is officially on top of the marquee, it’s often in name only. Everyone’s got a heavy lift and the show rises or falls on the strength of all the performers and the connections between them. Think of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” or Marvel’s “The Avengers,” or for the stage buffs, the wild lunacy of “Noises Off.”

That’s Denver. It’s not just Nikola Jokić and his Backup Band. It’s a full cast of characters, all of them dangerous in the moment. Shut down one, and you still have all the others bearing down on you. 

That’s hard to beat on the court.  Or off it, for that matter. 

Sure, we’d all like to be the lone gunslinger. And heaven knows a lot of us have experience with “group projects” that were mostly an excuse for one person to do the work and five people to get an “A.” Sometimes the crowd even feels stifling; I’m an introvert at heart, so I understand just how healing and powerful some time alone can be.

But a real team, one that plays to everybody’s strengths … that’s a force of nature.

Even the best of us aren’t strong enough to do everything alone all the time. We need each other. That came through with razor-sharp clarity in the early days of the pandemic, when isolation exposed just how many connections we relied on in the world – connections that had to be rebuilt in new ways – and how daunting “alone” could be at times.

When other people are just extra bodies on the stage, that’s frustrating to navigate around. But when each of them is a source of strength, it opens up the world. New solutions become possible. The story changes.

So once again, best wishes to Joker, Murray, Porter, KCP, Gordon, Brown and all the rest of the Team-with-a-Capital-T.  Together, you’ve reached the brink of a dream.

And if that isn’t a Nugget of truth, I don’t know what is.

Binding Chords

When it came time for the nation’s obituaries and tributes to sing out with David Crosby’s story, one note kept getting played again and again.

I don’t mean his role in co-founding two legendary bands. I’m not referring to his often stormy personal life and recovery, his engaging presence on social media, or even his Yosemite Sam mustache. All those got talked about, to be sure, and more besides … but one element kept rising to the top in story after story and quote after quote.  

 “Master of Harmony.”   

“… a harmony singer virtually without equal …”

“… his harmonic sensibilities were nothing short of genius.”

That’s a legacy I can appreciate.

If you’ve checked into this column before, you may have noticed that I tend to carry a torch for life’s supporting players. Like the stage manager who keeps a play moving behind the scenes. Or movie characters like Chewbacca who have to play their intentions with zero dialogue. Or the helpful neighbors who quietly make an entire community work without fanfare.

In each case, they’ve mastered the art of harmony. And these days, it can be a rare gift indeed.

In music, harmony’s a balancing act. You need to support the melody without overwhelming it, to hear and provide the notes that will lift someone else up … or, in some groups, that will lift everyone up together. That’s an art.

Now I don’t want to portray Crosby as some sort of selfless monk. That he decidedly was not. But he had the ability to hear how one plus one could equal so much more than two. And coming from his often chaotic life, that harmony may have been all the more remarkable.

But as I hinted above, the art of harmony doesn’t have to stop with music. You don’t need to be a rock star – or even a folk rock star – to make it work. Just someone who can listen for a need and fill it, without needing to seize the spotlight.

Yeah, “just” that.

The challenge is that we live in a world where everyone’s a lead, or wants to be. Step online and every breath of social media is about promoting your own wants and beliefs. Hit the highway, and you’ll find a dozen cars who need your piece of the lane right NOW. And while it’s certainly important to take care of yourself, it’s easy to get sucked into looking no farther than your own skin. If my life is OK and normal, then that’s what matters, right?

But taking that step back can make all the difference.  Three melodies all going their own way without heed for anyone else is a recipe for discord. But when the same three musicians tune to each other and listen, the results can be more powerful than any one of them could have been alone.

In life or music, harmony doesn’t just help the lead. It helps the entire group.

I hope we all get the opportunity to learn that. After all, if rock-star egos can manage it for however brief a period, surely the rest of us have got a chance at getting it right.

It’s worth trying.

I just hope the mustache is optional.

What a Racket

Ugo Humbert, I feel your pain.

If you’re not an avid follower of tennis news … well, neither am I, to be honest. But the news out of Wimbledon a couple of weeks ago is the sort of thing that any of us could sympathize with.

You see, Ugo’s match got delayed 90 minutes by rain. And when everyone got the word to start up again, he got excited to get back on the court. Maybe just a little too excited.

“Despite coming on court carrying a massive red bag,” Reuters reported, “the 24-year-old sheepishly admitted: ‘I don’t have any rackets – sorry for that.’”

That’s right. A professional tennis player showed up without his racket.

Really, who hasn’t been there? I mean, I we’ve all walked out of the house without something, haven’t we? Car keys, wallet, glasses, phone, the major implement of our profession … it’s all good, right?

OK, it’s easy to tease. But we have all had the nightmare, haven’t we? It’s the athletic version of the “came to school undressed” dream, complete with the inevitable crowd of people laughing nearby. And it’s almost always born of anxiety: the fear of being off guard, unprepared, out of control.

Of course, there’s an irony. What’s most likely to make us unprepared? Anxiety – or rather, the sense of hurry that anxiety can bring.

Don’t get me wrong. There certainly are situations that call for urgency, excitement, even haste. When something’s on fire – metaphorically or literally – it’s a time for action rather than dithering. But it’s easy to get caught up in what needs to be done without spending any thought on how to do it. And that’s how rackets get left behind.

In the ocean, it’s the difference between flailing and swimming.

On the battlefield, it’s the difference between a panicked mob and an army.

In any situation, it’s the difference between impulse and direction. Or the recognition that “Do something!” isn’t the same as “Do anything!”

That’s hard to remember in a crisis. But essential. It requires awareness, thought and preparation. You have to know your goals and what it will take to get there. Sure, you’ll always have to adapt and change for circumstances … but it’s a lot easier to adapt if you have some idea what you’re doing. “Plans are worthless,” Dwight Eisenhower famously said, “but planning is everything.”

We’re having to plan for a lot these days. Alarms scream on the deck from every direction: about the environment, about politics, about viruses, and about 137 other crises besides. (But hey, it’s early yet.) None of these are back-burner questions. All of them are going to require all the ingenuity and energy we can bring.

But energy without focus doesn’t accomplish much.

That’s where we need each other. Not just to support our goals, but to give the “hey, wait a minute” that keeps things on task. It’s the sort of grounding that stage managers give actors, that editors give writers and that friends give friends.

Ugo got that kind of help – belatedly, but it came. Within two minutes, someone arrived with a fresh set of rackets. He was rattled at first, naturally, but went on to win.

It’s a simple lesson: Together, we can keep each other in the game.

Or at least make sure that we’re ready to raise a racket.

Behind the Spotlight

Only in Hollywood can someone be set on fire, charge through a major explosion, and fall 50 feet – and be completely invisible.

It’s Oscar season again. Which means that once again, we’re starting to hear folks make the case for the great missing piece of the Academy Awards. And I don’t mean the absent Best Director award for “Little Women,” or the lack of attention to “Rocketman,” or the alarm clock to wake up the audience after five and a half hours when it’s finally time to announce Best Picture.

No, this is an area where the film industry has long been stunted. Literally.

Hollywood has a complicated relationship with its stunt men and women. In an age where action movies of all sorts rule the box office, a good stunt performer is more necessary than ever, even in these days of computer-generated effects. But at the same time, the audience also needs to forget that they’re there. A too-obvious double for the actor is like a boom mic suddenly dropping into the frame – a bit of reality that suddenly takes you out of the story.

And so, the athletes and daredevils of the film world mostly work in obscurity. The only time a studio calls attention to the stunt work is when it wants to underline that an actor or actress “did their own stunts” in order to emphasize how incredible the film is … and even then, it’s likely there was a little quiet help behind the scenes.

No worries, right? After all, the audience also isn’t supposed to think about the cinematographer, the sound editor, or a dozen other specialists and teams who helped build the magical tale before their eyes – except that each of those get called out and honored, however briefly.

Stunt actors appear everywhere. They make the story work. And if you don’t know to look for them, you’d never realize how much they mean.

We all know people like that, don’t we?

This last week, my friends and I at the Longmont Theatre Company lost one of those “vital invisibles.” Mind you, Tracy Cravens wasn’t a stunt woman. In fact, she would have laughed her head off at the mere suggestion of it, likely with a joke about catapulting out of the way of the set-building crew.

But from the background, Tracy made sure that the show would go on.

Tracy, who served on the LTC board, was frequently the producer of our shows. In Hollywood, producers are big deals with bigger headlines. In community theater, producers are usually one line in the program and the smiling person you met for 15 seconds in the lobby. They’re also the hubs that keep the wheels spinning so that there can be a show, the masters of logistics who make sure that everything turns up in the right place at the right time. And that often includes tirelessly promoting the show, so that the audience turns up as well to see the wonders that have been created.

Tracy did that. With humor. With energy. With occasional head-shakes of exasperation. And always, with success.

To its credit, LTC recognized her phenomenal efforts before she left us way too early at the age of 53. A while back, she was given the Brooks Hall Award, the annual honor given to the people who have gone above and beyond for the theatre company. She was clearly startled – and just as clearly honored.

That sort of recognition is important. For all the vital invisibles out there.

Take a moment. Remember your own. Think about the folks who get the work without the glory, and make it all happen. The ones who hold everything together. The ones who suddenly get missed when they’re gone.

Take the time to thank them. And if you ARE them, thank you. You’re the ones who make all of us better.

And that’s a pretty amazing stunt.

Someone Like Him

Nicholas Lee would be delightfully embarrassed to find himself mentioned in my column.

A long-time friend and a fellow Longmont Theatre Company actor, Nicholas was also a regular reader of these weekly words. He always had a compliment and often a thoughtful comment or two on what I’d written, while his quiet smile radiated brilliantly over his Uncle Sam beard.

And yes, unfortunately,  the past tense is appropriate. Nicholas passed away on Thursday.

The thing is, like many actors, Nicholas was something of a quiet soul. Having an entire column to himself would likely bring on a blush, a shake of the head, and a self-deprecating chuckle about being hard up for material.

One hates to embarrass a friend. So I’m going to write about someone like him, instead.

Someone like Nicholas would be a gentleman and a gentle man, quietly courteous and welcoming to just about anyone in his path. He’d talk to long-established directors and developmentally disabled audience members with the same respect, warmth, and interest.

Someone like him would cultivate a few eccentricities, such as a decades-old Van Dyke beard and an elocution so carefully measured that it sounded English – the sort of touches that make the world a more colorful and interesting place. But he’d also be able to set them aside at need, such as by shaving every last hair on his head, beard and all, just because a friend wanted him to play a real-life figure known for being spear bald.

And someone would like him, by the way, would be the first to laugh at the resulting reflection in the mirror.

Someone like him would fit comfortably into a hundred different roles in the world you shared – say, a clumsy King Pellinore of Camelot, or a veteran British actor gone to seed, or a sharp-tongued and pushy agent – but would have so many more facets that you only got to glimpse briefly. Like fluency in Russian. Or a church choir he was especially proud of. Or the years and years of teaching that helped shape a delightful personality, firm but understanding, disciplined but sly.

We all know a “someone like him,” I think. The details may differ, but the overall picture is the same. The person who never forced themselves into the spotlight, but became part of the emotional undergirding of the entire group. The one who sometimes made you laugh and sometimes made you think, but who mostly made things work.

And when they’re suddenly not there, you feel it. Something has slipped. A piece of the puzzle has been lost, a line of the drawing is out of place.

You go on. You need to. After all, they’d be horrified to think that they were holding things up. But it isn’t the same.

Though if you’re lucky, they’ve passed on enough of themselves to keep some of that strength present, even in their absence.

They’re wonderful people, all of the someones. We need them. We need to appreciate them while they’re here. To enjoy them while we can. To learn from them while we’re able.

Because all too soon, we’ll be missing them when they’re gone.

Just like my friend Nicholas Lee. Whom, you will note,  I carefully did not write about today.

And who, wherever he is,  is probably laughing out loud at this reflection as well.

A Ring of Support

Among the usual headlines for the week – foreign trips, political accusations, football uniforms that looked like bad Nintendo graphics from the 1990s – a story slipped in that caused an earthquake in the geek world.

Christopher Tolkien has retired.

Normally, a retiring 93-year-old might not draw much attention, aside from admiration for staying on the job so long. But in Christopher’s case, “the job” involved heading up the Tolkien Estate. For over four decades, the son of J.R.R. Tolkien has been the principal guardian of his father’s literary legacy, holding the rights as closely as dragon-gold and weighing on the worthiness of those who would adapt Middle-Earth to their own purposes. Inevitably, he was also his father’s foremost literary scholar, publishing reams of information about how the world of Elves and Hobbits and Rings of Power came to be, along with works by Tolkien that had never seen the light of day.

In The Hobbit, when the dragon’s treasure becomes unguarded, armies come racing to claim it as their own. Much the same has been happening in the real world, but with less chainmail and more contracts. There are already reports that the Tolkien Estate is working with Amazon on a Middle-Earth-based television series, and a lot of speculation about whether this means a new era for the classic tales or the final downfall of the West.

But for me, the real story is both smaller and greater.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s fun to play the guessing game of what a new adaptation will look like and who might be involved. (“Morgan Freeman leads an unlikely band of heroes to death and glory in … A Game of Rings.”) But lost in all of this has been Christopher Tolkien himself, and the role he has played for so long.

A role that I think many of us could empathize with.

Most of us are never going to write a bestselling novel. (Though I do hold out hope.) Nearly all of us will go through life without having won a Nobel prize, or led a nation, or opened the new smash hit of the Broadway season. That’s no judgment on anyone’s skills or talents, just a simple fact of life in a world of more than 7 billion people.

But all of us touch someone’s life. All of us have the chance to take who we are and use it for someone else. A friend. A relative. A chance-met passenger on the bus. Whether for moments or a lifetime, we join our story to theirs. And the tale is forever changed.

in The Lord of the Rings, it’s Sam Gamgee carrying Frodo on his back when his friend can’t take another step … unheralded strength that means more to the world than all the armies preparing to clash miles away.

In the real world, it’s been Christopher Tolkien putting his shoulder to his famous father’s epic for decade after decade, illuminating and enhancing it for millions with maps and histories and tales not told – tales that included The Silmarillion, his father’s lifework of Middle-Earth mythology that was never completed in his lifetime.

For all of us, it’s that someone or something that truly matters. Enough to earn our help, our sweat, our outstretched hand. Not for spotlights or applause, but because it needs to be done and we care enough to do it.

We don’t have to be epic heroes. We just have to be willing to see where we’re needed and take the step. Because enough steps, from enough stories, can scale even Mount Doom.

All it takes is a willing heart. And that’s worth more than all the dragon gold ever forged.

Even with the television rights thrown in.

Walking on Dreams

“Look a’ that!”

When I hear those words and that tone, I know what I’m likely to find. I glance to where Missy’s finger is stabbing the magazine page and I’m not disappointed.

“Whoa,” I say appreciatively. “Cool shoes, Miss!”

Anyone who knows our disabled ward knows she has an eye for footwear, the brighter the better. Her sneakers are usually a shade of hot pink most often seen on Barbie dolls, cotton candy and pre-teen birthday cakes with extra frosting. Her current pair literally glow in the dark, not that they need to – even in broad daylight, every eye in the room is pulled to them like Superman to a bank robbery.

“I want a pair like those!” is the common refrain, with a smile and a laugh. My wife Heather even went beyond words to action; she and Missy now have matching Day-Glo footwear. Strategically placed, they may even save us money on nightlights, so there are all kinds of side benefits to be had.

But Missy’s dreams race far ahead of her feet.

Go through a magazine with her, even for a short while, and you will discover every wild, elaborate or fancy pair of shoes to be had. High heels with elaborate fastenings. Pumps with sequins. Shoes straight off the runway, with no practical application at all – ah, but this isn’t about practicality, is it? This is about imagination.

“Look a’ ma shoes.”

Missy’s cerebral palsy rules out nearly every single pair, of course. Her balance is carefully maintained at each step, even in sneakers with good soles and great support; put her in even a low heel and the fun would quickly become dangerous. Were she ever to spend more time in a wheelchair, Heather and I agree, one of the few consolations would be the amount of footwear that would be opened up to her.

And so, she dreams. It’s fun, even harmless, so long as she doesn’t actually step into anything that can’t hold her up.

At this point in the election calendar, Missy may have a lot of company.

Anyone who’s been giving even a glance to the political news – and I can’t really blame you if that isn’t you – has been seeing constant reports of “surges,” presidential candidates catching fire who are sure to be the Next Big Thing. The spotlight may be on Ben Carson, or Bernie Sanders, or the Trump card himself, but the message is always the same: look over here, a star is about to be born!

“Look at that!”

It can be fun to see the enthusiasm (or maybe frightening, depending on the candidate and your side of the aisle) and speculate on the possibilities. But like the shoes in Missy’s catalogs, there’s not a lot of support there.

This is the preseason. Maybe even training camp.

This is the stretch of time that once spurred talk about Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain. This is when Howard Dean was a superstar and Bill Bradley a hopeful.

This is six months before the primaries get started. A lot can happen in six months. And usually does.

In short, it’s dream season.

And it’s worth remembering.

By all means, get fired up for someone. It’s good to care, great to be involved. But this early in the game, take each report of a surge with a few shakers of salt. Meteoric rises are common at this stage. So are equally-meteoric falls.

Maybe your guy or gal really is The One. If that’s your leaning, great. Work to make it so. But don’t be seduced into thinking it’s all over but the laurel wreaths. As the SEALs like to say, the only easy day was yesterday. The long work is still ahead.

Dreams are fun, even necessary. But the support has to be there.

If it comes in glow-in-the-dark pink, that’s a bonus.