I slip away from the house after school is over but before the pre-dinner chores start-up. A walk at the park feels like what I need to sort through the weirdness of the day, to think for a few minutes without a crush of noise and piano music in the background. There’s too big of a chance that a bunch of little kids would come screaming down the big hill racing each other to the woods, so I figure I’ll head over to the park boundary, near where the orchards and alfalfa fields meet up.
So far, not another person in sight, not even the usual random high school couple parked in the far corner of the parking lot. Makes me breathe easier to feel like I have the whole place to myself. At the big hill I’m feeling kid like, so I lay sideways and roll down as far as I can before my lopsidedness rolls me off at a right angle. I’ve never figured out how to make myself roll straight to the bottom, arms up over my head I go crooked, arms by my sides I go even more crooked. Dang.
Shaking my head I clear my hair of grass and leaves. I love this time of year, not really summer, not really autumn yet. Still warm days, the leaves mostly green. My allergies aren’t even bothering me the past few weeks. Nice not to have a runny nose and itchy eyes for a change. I kick out a couple of cartwheels. I go so fast it feels almost like when you spin a bucket of water really fast and the water stays in even when it’s upside down.
Suddenly I feel like I’ve got this extra burst of energy from somewhere and I take off running. I don’t just run straight, but zoom around like a rabbit or something. I dive forward into the grass and roll into a ball and somersault to a stop. I jump up, cart-wheel a couple more times to the edge of the grassy area. I look behind me, and scan the circumference of the park. No one here still. Good.
I step off the grass and onto a barely noticeable path sloping through what looks like tall, pale wheat stalks. Maybe it’s just wild grasses. I don’t know. I just know it doesn’t get mowed and may not even be park property. It’s probably the boundary for the farmer’s land. I’ve never seen anyone out here, although there is a tractor parked in different places out on the fields or the dirt road in the distance. This piece of land I’m on is up above all those cultivated, irrigated, neat rowed areas. This is like a forgotten little dry hillside that the farmer just ignores. There’s a small bunch of scrub oak off to the left and a lot more tall grass off to the right leading to the big wooded area of the lower park. I’m close enough to the park that if Mom sent someone down to the park to holler for me, I’d probably hear them. But I’m far enough away, that no one can see me where I am. It’s a cozy little spot of quiet. I like it. I like it a lot.
All that running and rolling and silliness has made my heart race and I feel a bit sweaty. A breeze would be nice, but it’s not too warm either. The grass thins out some on the left and I find a spot to sit down. I all but disappear in the tall grassy wheat stuff. If I lay down, for sure I’d be as good as disappeared. That actually sounds nice, so I break off a piece of grass, put it in my mouth and lay back with my arms behind my head as a pillow. I know you think I’m gonna say, “this is the life,” or something like that. But I don’t think that. I don’t think at all. I just breathe in deep. I inhale that dusty dry grass smell, the green smell of the alfalfa, the heat of my own sweaty body. I breathe all that in because I’m still a bit out of breath. As I breathe my body relaxes like I’m on a soft feather bed. My back melts into the ground below me, my legs soften and stretch and ease. I feel just a bit drowsy but not sleepy. Actually, it’s more like feeling hypnotized like you do when you’re in a rocking chair on a porch after a game of freeze tag in the evening.
Looking up, the sky has a few little brushes of clouds, nothing really fluffy. But enough to have not just blue, but white too. The blue is really something else. I look at it harder and think, there are stars out there that I can’t see, but they are there. If I look toward the mountains a couple of miles away I can see the clouds moving, or is it the earth moving. Or is it both?
Just as I’m noticing the earth moving, in a slow big way, but fast at the same time, I notice the strangest sensation. It’s like I can feel the ground beneath me breathe ever so slightly. Like a deep sigh, only warmer, and barely noticeable. I know, you think I have a pretty wild imagination. You’d be right, I have a really good imagination, but this is not imagined. This is real. As real as it gets. I’ve never had anything like this happen before. This is surprising, but so comfortable and somehow not as strange as it sounds.
I sigh, just as the ground sighed a moment ago and relax deeper still.
The odd thing is that I don’t feel tiny and insignificant. I feel melted into it all, like I’m part of the sky, part of the earth, part of those grass stalks, part of the smell of green and blue and gold. The earth is me and I have become her.