Sun 10 March 2013
When I was a child we lived two blocks from the neighborhood swimming pool. Each year the pool opened on Memorial Day, and stayed open until it was drained Labor Day weekend. The land that the swimming pool sat on encompassed a full neighborhood block. While the pool, pavilion, and changing rooms remained locked behind gates for eight months out of the year, the remainder of the block remained open.
The pool was flanked by a parking lot and a thin strip of green space on one side, and a larger field on the other, where during the summer volleyball was often played. The entire lot was lined on the edges trees separating it from the sleepy suburban streets. In the autumn and winter months the lot was often empty in the afternoons, a place that was likely left as a gathering spot for neighborhood children now an anachronism in an age where nintendo and cable television increasingly filled schoolchildren's afternoons.
I would often go on bike rides on weekday afternoons, after surviving a day at school and a terrorizing forty-five minute bus ride home, and this space was often one of my favorite destinations. Lying in the middle of the field I would stretch myself out on my back, lying as flat as I could, looking upwards at the clouds that passed over the blue tranquil sky while the wind rustled the leaves in the trees. I would dream and imagine of other places, other lands, other planets. I would read books, and I would watch the clouds make their pass across the sky, trying to feel the Earth spin as it hurtled us all through space.
My mother would often take us on walks up and down the neighborhood streets. In the earlier evenings of fall and winter, when darkness comes so much quicker we would often stopping by the neighborhood pool to look up at the stars, looking for Orion's Belt, or the Big Dipper, or Jupiter, or Venus. The chill of winter would make our breaths visible like smoke from a dragon's mouth, and autumn's acorns would crunch under our feet as we walked across the deserted parking lot.
It's been nearly twenty years since I last stretched out across that green field and looked to the sky. This afternoon I packed a couple of books, a bottle of water, grabbed a cup of coffee and Sophie as I often do on Sundays and headed out to the pecan trees that dot the edge of the campus near the university president's house. In a way it's not unlike the field of my childhood, a clearing surrounded by trees adjacent to civilization yet often ignored or forgotten. I laid back against the earth in a bed of green and crimson clover dotted with the occasional buttercup, the types of flowers a child might use to make a bouquet for a parent, I rested my head against a book with a puppy curled at my side as I lay looking at the sky above. The low grey clouds of the storm to come raced across the sky like waves across the ocean, occasionally giving way to a thin river of blue sky laced with towering white clouds. The wind caused the barren bud-tipped branches to dance across this tableau, rustling the few remaining leaves that fall forgot and winter did not want.
I laid in the field. I felt the weight of the world across my back and I tried to escape to those worlds which were now nothing more than an echo from my childhood.
There's an adage taught to children when they are very young that March comes in like a lamb, and goes out like a lion. If this March has come in like a lamb, then I am woefully unprepared to tame the lion yet to come.