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Essays, articles

Recess

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Where did we learn our childhood games? Hide and Seek, A Tisket, a Tasket, a green and yellow basket…Red Light…Follow The Leader.

Some of them maybe we learned form teachers at school, but I don’t remember any teachers at recess-not teaching games. They were sitting in the sun with the other teachers, talking or reading, watching us to make sure no one misbehaved. But I don’t remember a lesson that explained the meaning of the words, “You’re It!”

We played dodge ball in the dirt road between our house and my best friend’s house. We lived in the country, and our little neighborhood boasted a lot of children. My brother was older, and a Boy Scout. He taught us how to build a fire and the right way to roast marshmallows. He told us skin prickling ghost stories. He sometimes told us of his adventures on Boy Scout Camporees, but not often. I don’t remember him explaining the intricacies of dodge ball. I do remember he showed up a time or two when someone threatened to break the rules, or when someone small was getting bashed too often. My brother didn’t suffer bullies.

But I still don’t remember an actual lesson in childhood games, yet I see them being played all around me. The same shouts, the same rules, the same unbridled glee at slapping someone’s arm and shouting “You’re It!” Watching children at recess in a nearby schoolyard recently brought so many bright, tender memories to mind that I hated to leave.

I have often despaired of children missing out on the benefits of playing outdoor games, real playing. So many children never go outside in their own neighborhoods except to get to the car. And I despise the practice of small children being hypnotized by computer games that keep them locked in a solitary fantasy world. But then I watched these children in a local schoolyard and I felt some of that sadness lift. Maybe there are still games passed through some kind of primal childhood osmosis so strong, so important, and so much FUN that they will always be with children lucky enough to have recess.

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The Question

An exploration of personal fear.

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You must choose the one thing you can’t live without, the Universe whispered in my sleeping mind.

One thing? I answered. How can it be one thing? Should I hold out my hands and name them? They hold the pencil, the brush, the needle, the knife that make my art. How could I bear to make no art?

You could learn to manipulate different tools, explore new mediums that require a different dexterity, the Universe mused.

Right, I answered, but what if I say my vision? How could I bear to live without color? without looking into the eyes of those that see inside me, my truest friends? How could I give up my sight?

You would still see all the colors in your mind, your memory. You could feel the warmth of your friends’ love even before they speak. You know what is behind their gaze just as they know what is behind yours.

My ears? To never hear the ocean’s songs, the soft brush of the breeze, a blue jay calling, laughter, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, my name whispered by a lover. No, I couldn’t.

Again – all those experiences are rooted in your memory, to call up and enjoy as you please.

Oh, no – not my memory- you wouldn’t take that. I would have nothing, no soul, no joy, no purpose.

You have named it, the Universe chuckled, but I don’t believe you know it true yet.

I felt the indigo blanket soft and warm and gently crushing colors blurred and ran to a brown sameness, echos of voices and laughter rose and fell until there was no meaning, until finally there was nothing, a velvet void.

I floated. A softness, like a whisper, wrapped around my throat.

“Who are you?” I asked.

The whisper faded, sliding down my throat, over my heart and I felt it move away, its echo growing fainter.

“What?”

Bits of broken shell

broken.shellsI walked the long, isolated stretch of beach early one morning before the  couples hand-in-hand, or young families eager to explore the limitless playground. Just me, sandpipers and gulls. My bare toes gripped the sand. The tide, quirky and cold washed over my feet, leaving beige sea-foam on my ankles.

By the time I returned, I’d picked up a shopping bag full of shell pieces, yellow and ochre and pink conch worn by the sand and water. I like the remnants best. Perfect shells are beautiful and make intriguing subjects to draw and paint. But I always feel guilty, wondering if the animal that lived there died to give up that perfect shell  into the hands of divers who sell to tourists.

The shells I find on the beach, the ones Nature has deposited at the edge of the Ocean, broken and worn and empty, seem more of a gift, something to remind me of the beauty and capriciousness of the natural world.

It occurred to me as I laid them on the deck railing to dry that we are like those remnants.

The color and form are unique to each shell, the result of its individual journey. Like all of us. We may start from the same place – or seemingly similar circumstances – but by the time we find a resting place on the beaches of our lives we are unique. Broken and re-shaped into something individual and, like the shells lined up on the deck, achingly beautiful.

I stood at the edge

of the ocean

Breathing the solitude

Of sunrise.

I thought,

We are part of this,

like shells brought in

And carried out

On the moving, breathing ocean.

I held a shell in my hands,

Closed my fingers over

Its smooth curving surface.

I thought of you.