Index Page 1
More Stories - The Way
As we remember 9/11 of last year, read Walter Mill's
piece, as printed in
Recipe du Jour's
great newsletter last October. Grasp the good moments, folks.... you never
know when you'll need them.
On the Soccer Field in Late September
by Walter Mills
There are some moments that slow and then freeze like a strip
of film in a camera set for long exposure. Moments that, even as they pass,
you want to keep forever in your memory hoard, as the Beowulf poet phrased it some
1200 years ago.
Such a moment was the scene on the Centre Hall soccer field on a Tuesday night in
late September as I stood with two soccer moms and watched the four and five-year-olds
racing up and down the field in a cold wind under an autumnal sky. Swift black
clouds poured in on the wind; we shivered in thin jackets, and bare-legged boys
and girls chased the white ball across the clipped green grass.
While I talked with one of the mothers about recent events, my eyes kept straying
to the field where my daughter's bright mop of fair hair was sometimes all I could
recognize in the melee. Then the play would stop, and I could see her, hopping
back and forth from one foot to the other, a small jiggling silhouette against an
ominous black sky. The movement of her face and hair seemed to come in streaks,
like light on a dark photographic plate. I wanted to fix her small round
face and sturdy little body forever in my memory.
A few nights later I listened to the country's new Poet Laureate, Billy Collins,
on public radio as he talked about poetry's ability to affirm life even in the face
of tragedy, to celebrate existence in the particular moment. The Japanese
verse form called the haiku is almost all
about these moments of awareness of natural beauty, and the joy that the poet felt
being there to see the cherry blossoms dropping into a stream, or light falling
on the snowy summit of Mt. Fuji.
I think of this time in my five-year-old daughter's life as nearly perfect.
Her sadness is over quickly, while her joy bubbles up from some deep well of happiness.
Everything is new to her, experienced almost for the first time. I watch
her as she carefully ties her shoelaces into big bows, and I try to remember when
I last gave such care and attention to anything I did. Yet as perfect as I
believe this year of her life to be, I wouldn't keep her at this age even if I had
Instead I tried to freeze the moment in the only way I could, in memory. I
deliberately squeezed the flash bulb of consciousness and hoped the picture would
stay etched in the cells and synapses of my brain. I knew it was an almost useless
exercise; there are far too many memories to retain. Which few moments of
my daughter's perfect year will I ever recall?
As we stood on the soccer field in the gathering darkness, the grownups talked about
the changes that had come over us in this bleak September. Meanwhile,
the white soccer ball leapt across the green field and the children raced and tumbled
after it, just like on every other Tuesday and Thursday night of the season.
Such moments tend to be lost in the endless shuffle of our lives as we come and
go to work and supper and then to bed. The still moment of reflection and
awareness awaits an event to reveal its significance. Sometimes the event
is tragic. Set against the poet's joy in witnessing the exquisite fall of
the cherry blossom, is his knowledge that next year the tree will blossom, and he
may not be there to see it.
Even as I try to gather these moments into my memory hoard, I know that all consciousness
is intentional, and that we must reach out to grasp the light on Mt. Fuji and bring
it into ourselves. The moments fly by, and we must catch them in their flight,
hold them, and let them go.
(The above column originally appeared in the Centre Daily Times and
is copyright © 2001 by Walter Mills. All rights reserved worldwide.
To contact Walt,