the Highest Expression of Self

On May 7, 2023 by creativewavemovement

I often ponder the elemental – and at times, relatively incremental – shifts in the sporting landscape: where a country was 100 years ago, for example; how often a people, a race, a generation accounts for a particular spectating demographic. In the midst of that thought – somewhat tumbling, kindly tip-toeing through my mind – I am left, anchored by one generational truth: my great grandparents, and those that came before them, were – by trade and affinity – outdoorsmen and women; living off of the land, caring for it; in its varied terrains, temperatures and climates.

There is a tribal distance and difference between the men and women that came before me, culminating - even still - into a collective, familial narrative: wherever they traveled, dwelt, or claimed as home – Ireland, the mid-west, Cuba, the heated plot amidst the Southern belt or the Great Plains – they knew the land, its inhabitants, its predictive patterns. This relationship with the land, of course, being out of necessity and sustenance; a daily, weekly provisions of sorts, for a growing family. Black cowboys and cowgirls; Native ranchers and great Cuban fishers of the sea. This – who they were and continue to be in my life – predicates itself upon the journey to thrive and survive. A depiction of my great lineage speaks to them as lovers of the land, carers of the land, tillers of its soil and the careful consideration of what the Earth needed to bear, for generations to come.


(Pictured here, Black cowboy and legendary rodeo performer, Bill Pickett, circa 1880).

(Picture this: Black cowboy and legendary rodeo performer, Bill Pickett, c 1880s. Pickett reflected a way of life many Black families would adorn).


It was never a theoretically or empirically foreign concept to consider my roots and self-identifying culture to be that of a nature-lover: a member of the outdoors; those that love the trees; find solace in the chorus of birds, a preamble to their melody-ensemble; after all, when delving deeper into the history of those individuals and people that make me, we find various continents, dialects, colors and cultures – all of which, simultaneously, align with this very constant: unknown paths of freedom being forged, within the great expanse of the sea, the wilderness, the country and the land.

No longer was it a plantation; it was no longer the plight of a potato plague, or the struggling identity of an island-country – this very thing, was a very new thing. And the task, for those that came before, was to simply - and beautifully - make something out of nothing. In order to fulfill this preordained manifesto – walking, running swiftly by faith, and not by sight – a mastery of ‘la tierra’ was necessary.


'Fishing Boat,' by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1880)

‘Fishing Boat,’ by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (c. 1880)


My grandfather, (Papi, as I affectionately call him), who was raised by his grandfather – Papa Papino, carrying our Cuban heritage; who he affectionately called, Papa – recently shared with me stories of Papa Papino taking him along the sea to capture the seafood of the day. Setting out within Papa’s trusted fishing boat, my Papi would later reveal that Papa Papino not only caught what the ocean had to offer for sustenance; Papa Papino would take each catch, create incredibly delicious seafood dishes at scale; then, sell each batch to the local seafood bars and restaurants for trade. (Entrepreneurial and creatively ingenious in spirit, but of course). I did not know …. and yet, knowing my Papi, and the fact that he was raised by this man, it surprised me not.

What this revelation clarified and further emboldened for me, was this consistent mastery of the land and sea; a drumbeat that I’ve efficiently held to and heard of when speaking of my lineage - huntsman, sea navigators, outdoorsmen and women - a narrative that predisposed and primed the surface of my mind and spirit to the expanse of the Great Outdoors; and, the possibilities thereof. Furthermore, it established this unconditionally sound tone within my soul – an understanding, if you will, of who I uniquely am. This being amidst the tapestry and backdrop of ‘trending’ and the expected; an assured ‘self-identity,’ set entirely apart from - running much deeper than – all outside, propagated narratives, intrinsically incapable of speaking to the fullness of me, my heritage – my now, my to come.


(Pictured here: historic cattle rancher and Black cowboy, John Ware, with wife and family).

(Pictured here: historic cattle rancher and Black cowboy, John Ware, with wife and family, c. 1897).


Is that possibly a bar – politely, peaceably, it just might be.

And not only is that perhaps a bar, it is entirely a gift; a gift, that I sit in, that I marvel at – one that I come to more deeply understand and clearly perceive, as the months move in tow with time and eternity. Who I am is set a part from what trends, and perhaps, what may not; knowing this, walking in this – moving in this – is perhaps, an indelible expression of self.





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