In the park, a leashed and bounding pup gave his master a pretty bad case of bark-burn when it suddenly shot toward a tree and climbed six feet straight up it. Then a fat worm, just pulled from the soil, provided two small birds with a dandy workout as they dribbled, and intercepted, and hip-checked each other for ownership.
It was morning, when all such strivings seem called for. By evening though, most striving has ceased.
It had surely ceased at the little pond to which I came at that day’s end as so many others had done, to quiet myself, and take a final sip of daylight and look out across the water.
- Here, two primary-school girls in bicycle helmets were skipping stones across that liquid dance-floor. There, a boy and a girl were fly-fishing. Their lines spooled out from their extended arms with a long graceful flick to land – splish! – on the pond’s burnished surface.
- A fleet of ducks set sail from shore, the high-necked mama leading her twelve small charges in such a straight line it looked like sewing, she the needle and they the stitches, all small and evenly spaced and perfectly following.
- A human mother arrived, a brightly-colored palette of tattoo painting both bare arms from shoulder to elbow. With her was a tiny child, the skirts of a pink sundress belling around her legs. She squatted in the easy way little kids can, and plucked up first duck feathers and then a discarded bobber from someone’s tackle box, all the while naming the world in loud unintelligible syllables and making the same approval-inviting, one-hand-up gesture that a magician makes at the completion of yet another astounding feat: Ta-Da!
- A beefy dude in his 30s appeared then, attended by a beefy child who marched up within six inches of this small magician. “Say hello to the little girl,” the dad advised.
“Hi, little girl.” the child said.
“How old is he?” asked the young mother.
“I’m fwee!” declared the stout child sternly, and then, turning to the baby, said, “What YOU got?”
“It’s a bobber,” said the mother. “Like in fishing.”
This registered not at all with the child, who decided to try again.
“How old are you?” he shouted, as if to a deaf person.
“She’ll be two in October.”
This he also ignored.
“Why don’t you talk?” he cried, now nose to nose with the toddler. “CAN’T YOU TALK?”
I’m not sure of course, but what I think the toddler was saying, with the deadpan look she gave to her mother, was something along the lines of, “Is this person insane?” Because of course she could talk, in a way that both she and her mother understood.
Late that night I dreamed about my new grandbaby who, settled in my lap just post-nap, yawned sleepily, then alerted and brightly remarked, “Well, hello there!”
“I didn’t think you babies could talk!” I exclaimed.
“I didn’t think you big people could think,” she replied in perfect parody.
I smile to recognize in that dream the day’s lesson repeated.
Because don’t we all think at first that we’re the sole stars of the show, and that everyone else is just…. scene design? But then, after some time here, we see the truth: this bird, dog and duck; that worm and babe and trout are as alive and feeling as any one of us, whether at busy striving dawn or restful end of day.