Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Into the Rough

by Laura Mahal

I’ll admit, I am no golfer. Other than mini-golf, that favored pastime of adolescents, I have never stepped onto a green. Except when I was in Scotland and the entire country was a green.

I do know enough about the sport to recognize that it is considered best to avoid the rough. The “rough” is an area of taller grass that borders the fairway. (Isn’t “fairway” a lovely term? Let’s save that for another blog post. Ideas are flying into my head faster than salmon swim upstream.)

Back to the subject of golf.

As I understand it, the rough serves several purposes.

One, it defines what the borders of the fairway are . . . . Once a golfer hits a ball outside the designated (and therefore, I might assume) optimum area of play, then he or she will find it, umm, rougher to make their next shot. This grass resists the graceful swing, tugging back against the ball.

Two, the rough serves as a form of castigation for the golfer who carelessly sends a ball off-target. On some courses, there are apparently first and second cuts to the rough. The first isn’t so bad, really. A well-placed stroke can lift the ball out of harm’s way and back onto the green. But the second cut, well. Good luck, dear golfer. Sheep, goats and rabbits aren’t interested in nibbling this thick, gnarly grass, which eats golf balls for breakfast.

But as a writer, a mom, and a human being, I do know what it means to go “Into the Rough.” Into that rough day, when kids turn off their alarms and refuse to get out of bed, necessitating a “yell-fest” first thing in the morning. When the dog throws up on the carpet, then looks dolefully up, apologetic that he wasn’t blessed with opposable thumbs and can’t clean up after himself.

Nah. That’s practically “still on the fairway” stuff.

The real rough is when Dad develops Parkinson’s, and needs a bib during meals. Dad’s too big to fit into a highchair, but must be fed and changed. He’s lost the ability to do these things for himself. Worse yet, he looks exactly like the dog, apologetic and doleful. A grown man who took pride in a lifetime of independence doesn’t want to have to rely on his children and grandchildren.

The second cut of rough is much, much worse. When a family loses their home to fire, flood, or war. Worse yet, when a parent has to bury a child—to suicide, to cancer, to a drunk driver. Then the parent has to buck up and go on. How would one begin to strategize a way to aim for par on such a course, when the temptation is to give up the game? The tall grass is pulling hard, tangling about one’s feet.

“Into the rough” takes more than courage or skill (though I would imagine an upbeat caddy helps). It takes a fierce determination to keep one’s eye on the ball, and on that flag waving haughtily off in the distance.

Friendships, the cheering fans on the sidelines of life, those are key factors. Friends can bring pots of soup and homemade brownies. They can also bring a lawnmower or a scythe, or even a set of kitchen shears. 

Because most roughs can be reduced, with love and an unshakable resolve to pluck on in this game of life. 

On the day that you’ve received your umpteenth rejection, remember than an acceptance might be right around the corner. Remember that you are in the right place: as a writer, as a friend, as a fellow human. Don’t throw your club at a tree or your keyboard into a dumpster.

“Phone a friend” or take yourself out for a nice cup of tea, or maybe something stronger. (Coffee. Of course, I meant coffee.)

You’ve got this.

I believe in you.

For tips on how to find inspiration for your writing, check out:

And as to how to deal with sadness, here are some ideas, but also, remember to turn to a real, live friend!


David Sharp said...

What a beautiful blog post! And I've never thought about the inherent poetry of golf terms, but fairway really is a lovely word.

Laura Mahal said...

Thanks, David. The fairway is certainly more easily navigated. But thanks to the power of friendships, critique groups, and writing organizations, we can find our way back to the fairway even if we've been stuck "in the rough" for a while. Cheers and happy writing! :-)

shenke said...

Great post, my dear friend and Guru of all things writerly! This was a lovely reminder as I find myself deep in the "rough" lately and fortunately the writing is still there waiting for me with doeful eyes too and every time I I reach to pick it up, I'm reminded of how much I owe to my writing life.

Laura Mahal said...

Most of us are seeking balance, which can be elusive. It is easy to get tripped up . . . and we don't always have a friend close to hand to give us a lift. So helpful to know that the writing community is supportive, in the main. We have built something powerful--a network of advocacy for one another. We are ever ready to shout "Fore!" in the case that a ball is launched at our head.

Louise Frager said...

A good post, enjoyed reading your golf renditions and the reminder of the importance of friends.When one buries their golf ball in the sand trap or discovers it is impossible to find in the vegetation where it appears to have been eaten up, it is a friend that brings you a new golf ball. I'm glad to call you "friend."

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