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Them’s My Toes

Last month, we rode the M.S. Dixie paddleboat across Lake Tahoe to Emerald Bay.  It was spectacularly beautiful.  The tour involved an informative narration about the lake and its history, including the story of retired sea captain, Dick Barter. 

Captain Dick lived in a boathouse on Emerald Bay in the middle of the 19th century.  He was something of a recluse, but he liked his drink, so every once in a while he’d row 20 miles up the western shore to the saloons of Tahoe City.  One winter night, a sudden squall capsized his boat on the way home, plunging him into the frigid lake.  The legend goes that he sipped on a bottle of whiskey to keep his insides warm, while deliberately submerging himself as much as possible because the 40º water was milder than the freezing air.  He survived, the currents eventually carrying him back home the next day.  When he discovered that his toes were frostbitten, the tough old cuss amputated them himself. 

Over the next several years, as Lake Tahoe became more popular with visitors, Captain Dick delighted in telling stories of his many wild adventures on sea and land and lake. He would culminate his tales with the presentation of a jewelry box containing 10 desiccated pegs:  “Them’s my toes,” he’d proudly announce.

This month, we celebrate Pride — specifically recognizing the LGBTIQ community — and also standing for equality for everyone, honoring the beautiful diversity of Life in and as all of us together. 

We have every right to be proud, every one of us.  Each individual has achieved so much and come so far, overcoming obstacles, surviving squalls and upsets great and small, learning to love and love again, forging new paths no one has tread before.  I know we’ve all also lost a few toes along the way; we’ve experienced grief and loss, pain and disconnection.  And here we are, coming together, telling our stories.

Brene Brown has wisely pointed out, “If we don’t own our history, our history will own us.”  So let’s own it, by all means.  We don’t need to sugarcoat or whitewash our hurts away.  The toes we keep in a jewelry box are an essential part of this history, my story, your story.  They illustrate tragedy and triumph, challenge and opportunity, regret and victory…

It all depends — everything depends — on how we tell our story, how we hold our toes, who we know ourselves to be.

Wishing everyone a happy and safe Pride weekend!  I can’t wait to see you.  XO, Drew

© 2018 Drew Groves

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