Walking down a sidewalk as the sun descends but never fades and there’s a song playing on my iPod called “Sleep the Clock Around” by Belle and Sebastian. There’s nothing surreal about today except the fluttering gold sunbeams flickering like butterflies, desperately grasping onto anything they can to preserve the last half-hour of daylight. There’s a tame little park to the left and houses and asphalt to the right. As I approach the grassy, shaded plot of land that makes this little park, black cast-iron fencing reveals itself as the guardian of innocence. There is an almost tangible difference between the sidewalk and the grass inside the short black gate. There might as well be a bright yellow warning sign: “Only kids under eleven and their parents allowed!” because when you become a parent, you’re temporarily allowed back into that clumsy world of playgrounds and parks.
My glance falls on two boys playing soccer. There’s a swing set that I should have seen first, but it’s the motion that catches my attention. They’re kicking the ball back and forth to each other adeptly; more so than would have been expected from boys their age. There’s no one on the swing set and for now it’s nothing but a deserted has-been: no one seems to care except me. It’s elevated by a platform filled in with mulch, and it seems to be almost a separate entity. It’s in a different world than the grass and trees that surround it. The leaves aren’t quite on the trees yet, but some of them have flowers blooming. These flowers frame this miniature world – it’s a safe haven, protected from malice by the white blossoming flowers that drape elegantly along the edges of this picture. The notes from Sleep The Clock Around form the soundtrack for this moving picture, and nothing could fit this sweet, dripping, honey-like sundown any better.
Walking this whole time, slowly, feeling the crunch of gravel under feet, but all sounds are diminished by the music playing through my headphones. That’s surreal, maybe – is it? Nothing is audible but the music. Nothing changes walking forward, towards the baseball diamond where a little league team is practicing, with someone’s father pitching on the mound and that little kid at bat swings hard and crack! The ball goes soaring. Even the music, whispering tantalizingly in my ears, can’t stop that connection from reaching my ears. No one catches it and the batter circles the bases happily. The gravel has stopped crunching under my feet, halted by the cast-iron fence as I stare into this perfect little world. There’s a lady sitting on a bench inside the park – she is so privileged – with her white, fuzzy dog. She looks at me, she’s judgmental – for her, my presence is an intrusion onto her photographic world. I am the intruder, the teenage spirit who has outgrown such things as little league baseball practice, blaspheming her ritualistic vision of these magnificent procedings. This scene is her world. She’s sitting on the bench and watching the grandest event in the grand history of American sports take place. And then there’s me, and all of the sudden – all of the sudden what? Did something change? No, nothing changed, the present is still here, like always.
But something did change, and that was perception. But change doesn’t matter; it’s not change, it’s perception, and of course, that was there the whole time. Nothing was ever unreal but the lack of sound and the gold-tinted lens through which all of nature must be seen today. The rest is simply present.
And those honey-golden semi-leaves of nascent April smirk as Dad pitches and an outfielder does a cartwheeler and the infielders stand around romantically wondering what’s coming next. The grand American sport of youth, that classic, never-ending romance of glove to ball to bat that is reincarnated generation after generation by little league boys and men past their prime. A soccer ball misses it’s target, and the white fuzzy dog spots a squirrel and attempts to dash after it. One particular sunbeam strikes the roof of a house behind the park in a particular way and instantly everyone knows that the sun has set. I turn and walk again down the street, past the park, back into–what?