Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sweet day at the park for the "Say Hey Kid"

So say hey Willie, tell Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio;
Don’t say "it ain’t so", you know the time is now.

Spring has sauntered in here at the Crown of Valhala. Snow some days, accumulations that melt almost as soon as it's gathered, but otherwise our shoulders are warmed with a soft blanket of afternoon sun. Prairie dogs stand timorously at their doors, elk herds stand in the road with noble indifference and there's bluebirds a-plenty. The river rises as the peaks shed their white shrouds, announcing the end of winter with a mighty roar.

And then there's the call of "Play ball!"

Z started T-ball earlier this week and his love of the game has daddy all misty with pride and nostalgia. Spring is, by far, my favorite time of the year, and if there's anything that signals the end of cold, dark days it's the smell of fresh-cut grass and a groomed infield. Although my days of aspiring to the big leagues are long past, his days of dreaming have just opened up, a field of possibilities stretching past the horizon, "farther than those hills,
farther than the seas,
close to the stars
- beyond the crimson kiss of the setting sun. There is nothing that tomorrow can't offer him, he reckons.

At his first practice, Z took a nasty spill and his little face bears the raspberry badges that bubble up from the heart, scabs on his nose and cheeks and lips that attest to his dedication and spirit. Because, he indeed plays with all his heart. He's by no means the best player out there but oh, he fields a heart larger and more insurmountable than the Green Monster. At yesterday's practice, the coach told everyone that they were welcome to go ("I know some of you are tired") or they could stay and practice more fielding. Z ran full force to me, asking me if he could stay, beaming sunstrong and soul-deep as he turned to run just as fast back to the field.

Another dad at practice today, his son chided and cajoled and criticized, how to stand, how to place his glove, the poor kid not allowed to have fun and be five years old. No time to dream, not allowed to just breathe in the sweet aroma of the grass. Somewhere it was lost that we're supposed to "play" the game not "work" the game. Time enough to work, one day, everyday, and that day will come too soon.

For me, watching Z run after the ball he missed then pick it up, throw it towards first base and then do a little dance as the ball actually made it there - that was enough. No time to chide or demand perfection, no inclination to do anything but just bask in the warmth of the moment, Z's heart-so-big that there's no escaping the enthusiasm and love, presence and intention, the embrace of my own memories.

"Well, beat the drum and hold the phone - the sun came out today!
We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field."

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