Spent all day at softball camp (prelude to today’s start of the big tourney) with Younger Daughter and about 150 other very talented young women. Many of them were so grimly determined to impress the college coaches who ran the thing that they seemed to have left no room for the fun you’re supposed to have when you’re young and strong and playing a game you’re great at. Working too hard at play.
But I was having fun, in a time-warped reverie of mental transport back to my own youthful sports camp days: summer 1970, Chandler Oklahoma. Two weeks of undiluted baseball, while the world of Nixon and Kent State and Vietnam fell away.
My face must’ve been registering my delight in the memory, someone commented on my persistent grin. Those girls yesterday “raking” (as they say on ESPN) line drives and long flies and zipping laser throws around the infield, and really just the total ambience of the scene, evoked for me the immersive essence of a ballplaying aesthetic that meant everything when I was thirteen years old.
Plus, that season had a radio soundtrack that played involuntarily but pleasurably in my head yesterday and must have shown, here in the present. Way better than a French cookie, Marcel. “Mama Told Me (not to come),” “Ball of Confusion,” “Ride Captain Ride,” “Signed Sealed Delivered,” “Hitchin’ a Ride,” “Teach Your Children,” “In the Summertime,” “The Long and Winding Road”…
I began to understand intellectually what my reverie was partly about, years later, when I picked up John Dewey’s Art as Experience and read of “the tense grace of the ballplayer” and other “ordinary” sources of art in everyday life. Understanding is only partial, given (for instance) the co-constitutively evocative role of ancient pop music in creating the emotional content of my trip in time. But what’s so special about such experiences is, you needn’t think about them, to have and enjoy them. And when you do think about them, post facto, it’s the feeling (not the fact) that gets you.
Time has inflated and improved the experience, no doubt. But accurate or not – did I really no-hit my young peers one charmed afternoon back in the day or do I just like to think so? – it’s still a wonderful gift to have such an idyllic place in mind to go to, etched and stored remotely for random recollection. There may be much to say for mindful presence, as the Buddhists and others point out, but there’s as much to be said for traveling up and down the corridors of one’s own time.
Oh to be young and strong and competent, oh to wack the daylights out of a speeding spheroid, oh to stroll the green fields of the mind. If the kids aren’t having as much fun as I think they should now, later they will. But why wait? Be here now and again.
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