Sunday, September 27, 2015

because in baseball there are pink flamingos

First: Always with the seeing of things that are not there
Lately, Josie spends a lot of time staring down into Elliott’s Creek.

Sure. Because something is there.

Elliott’s Creek is what we call the culvert that runs underneath the drive. Mostly it is a shallow, overgrown ditch separating the front six or so acres from the rest, and after it passes underneath the drive it opens up into a large gully that floods each spring, sometimes even reaching the river, if the river floods, too. But most of the time the gully and the creek—called Elliott’s Creek because all the time Elliott’s disappearing down there—are dry. And lately Josie is standing still, staring into the dry creek.

And Josie is not one to stand still, for long.

I have spent some time staring into the creek, too, but all I see is a tangle of plant stuff. Why would this interest Josie? But while I am mowing or washing windows or chopping wax or stacking wood, there Josie is, staring down into the creek. But, I know what this is like, don’t you? Staring at something that seems like nothing but that is, at least in your reality, something. And, seriously, what other reality is there?

Second: Because I’m falling in love all over again
Being right here right now in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan waiting for the onslaught of fall with its colors and fires and crisp cold air is like being in the lap of luxury, bundled up, held tight, set free.

I did not expect this.

Meanwhile, another sunny evening on the porch,
7:15 already, 75 degrees, and Josie is not standing still.
Herbert, the pumpkin, followed us home from the farmers market.

No, I did not expect this. Not this way. Not this reeling feeling of being in love all over again, in love with autumn, its every dollop of color, its every forty-degree morning, its every low grey sky folded in on itself and its every drop of cool rain. Those slightly ever earlier sunsets allowing for at long last nighttime lamplight and candles. It feels downright personal, as if, maybe, I should not even talk about it. But it is so right, so why not? Autumn and I have known each other a good many years, and I have always said autumn is my favorite, my favorite time of year, though sometimes I think winter, so hard to choose, but autumn … the change from summer into autumn is the best, I think. That change from hyped-up summer to down-to-hearth fall. I realize the change from winter to spring is nice, too, I suppose, but autumn … Well, who knows what it is. And who cares? Not me. I just feel it. That’s enough. I feel this thing between autumn and me. And autumn seems to hold no grudge that once I left—left before the first leaf could fall! And I wonder if autumn knew I’d be back, that I’d be back, after all.

Third: Because there are pink flamingos in baseball
One morning this week I was up early with the cold predawn, starting a fire and turning on a baseball game played the night before. It’s been many a long summer since I’ve had so much baseball to watch, to enjoy. When it came time to spend money on TV, this is what I paid for, and I have spent the past several months with a baseball game almost every day in the background, or maybe I sat down and outright watched, and now the season is nearing its close.

In baseball you play one game at a time, 160 or so over the season, and the outcome, the final score, and how you get there, is unknown until you get there, until the last inning, the last out, the last hit, the last walk, the last error … And you just never know. One of the many weird things about baseball is that a game could, in theory, last forever—and isn’t that how life seems sometimes?—because as long as the score is tied, you keep on playing. This has never happened, as far as I know. But it’s nice to think about. Sometimes I envision eternity as my dad and me sitting in the upper deck at Wrigley Field in Chicago, where the Cubs play, and the game keeps going, on and on, and we sit on and on, keeping score, one batter at a time, inning after inning, eating salted-in-the-shell peanuts, maybe a hot dog or two, maybe a beer, maybe a Pepsi, and that’s all. Because the game is not over. So we stay. The fat lady has not sung. So we stay. Time, weather, and whatever other things you can think of drop away. You may ask: Is the game important? Does it matter in the standings? Are you in the play-offs? Is this the World Series? Well, no, probably not. We are talking about the Cubs, after all, and the Cubs, in case you have not heard, have not been in a World Series since 1945. A few play-off games here and there, sure, but just a few, and anyway, that doesn’t matter. Not a factor. You play until the game is over. You stick with it. You stay and watch and keep score until the damn thing’s over. Then, you catch the el home.

But to say you play one game at a time is a bit misleading: It is one inning at a time, one batter at a time, one pitch at a time. There is simply no way around it. It’s like saying we live one day at a time when you really can’t live even one day without taking a few thousand breaths, so the way it is, is one breath at a time. One pitch at a time. Life does, indeed, for the most part, unfold this slowly.

Still, Josie can barely keep up with it.

So I’m watching this game one morning, the Brewers and the Cubs, and the Brewers are not doing so well this year and the Cubs are doing great, and the game is at Wrigley, and one of the announcers is laying out the numbers and whatnot that make this game a lop-sided match-up and saying how one could ask why even play, but hey, we all know crazy things happen in baseball and so that’s what you do, you play each game, one game at a time, and I’ve spent all summer with these announcers—Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies—and they are kind of like work buddies always chattering in the background while I’m making candles, packing up an order, or cleaning, or reading, or playing with Josie, or doing some chore, and the game is on, and on and on they chatter, and these two have become increasingly happy over the course of the season, because the Cubs are doing so well. And lately, although they know better, they have been doing a lot of projecting. Talking about how things are going to play out, might play out, if this or that happens, or that or this. Talking about who is likely to pitch that all important game that could send the Cubs to the play-offs for the first time since 2008. And figuring out all those “magic” numbers. And who do you think will be the MVP, JD? Well, are we talking play-offs or season? And on and on. And so much they talk about is just stuff that isn’t there. Just isn’t there yet.

(Later in the week I will go looking for some World Series tickets I or my dad once had, the ones we never got to use because, well, just one of those years when the Cubs got far enough that World Series tickets were printed, but not so far that anyone could use those tickets. But we had those tickets. Just in case.)

Then, in this game I’m watching, on comes a short video clip about a small group of animals that had been brought to Wrigley Field earlier that day at the request of the Cubs manager, Joe Maddon. At 3 p.m. the animals—an armadillo, a civet, a sloth, a penguin, a flamingo, and two snow leopard cubs—met with Cubs players and their families in the outfield in what, it would seem to me, could only be described as a fun afternoon at the old ballpark. Seriously. What else is there?

Buddha Cub
Being a fan of a sports team can make one do things that others might
find slightly odd, if not downright nutty. WARNING: The Cubs will be playing
at least through October 7, so come along for the ride, or, go get a sandwich.

Break: Conspiracy
Lately I’ve been noticing an ability to shut things out, just certain things, selectively, and this is new. By shutting some things out, perhaps I am letting other things in, but of that I am not yet sure. What I am sure of is that when I was awakened this morning by 1) Josie nuzzling my neck, 2) Elliott sharpening his claws on the front door jamb, and 3) moonlight casting shadows, I realized there are some things I will never shut out. Even if it is, jeepers, 3:30 a.m.