I. Watching my 1 ½ year-old daughter Sylvie run around and interact at Prospect Park
I (a) don’t remember being 1 ½ and (b) didn’t go to parks growing up, so Sylvie’s experience is without precedent for me. By far her favorite activity is collecting trash off of the ground—candy wrappers, pieces of balloon, ice-cream tasting spoons—followed by batting her eyelashes at adults and receiving their adulation. She alternates between total absorption in trash, oblivious to the world around her, and working the playground like Bill Clinton on the campaign trail.
Sylvie doesn’t play competitive games with other children; the closest she comes is trying to grab toys out of their hands. But she does compete, and I do spectate. For her it’s not a question of winning but of whether she’ll actually be able to do something. Will she make it to the next stair or will she fall backward? Her only competition, though I’m not sure that’s the right thing to call it, is herself, which gives her achievements an existential quality.
One of the primary ways that Sylvie interacts is by spectating. She learned the word “turtle” from Eric Carle a few days ago, and yesterday we went to the pond to see some in real life. Sylvie was very excited, pointing at the turtles and saying “turtle, turtle, turtle” over and over. Her knowledge and experience of the world were confirmed. So this morning we went back, and as soon as Sylvie realized we were headed to the pond she started saying “turtle, turtle, turtle.” But when we got there, there was a man throwing a ball to his dog and all the turtles were in hiding. I felt a sense of deep disappointment but Sylvie started cracking up, cracking up like it was the funniest thing she’d ever seen, this dog jumping into the water and swimming after the ball. Laughing and looking at me, like Do you see this shit?
II. Watching children compete in organized sports at Prospect Park
A coach tosses a ball to a four-year old boy, who swings and misses by a mile. A little girl stands and walks around the soccer field, talking with a girl on the other team.
III. Watching Mets games on SNY
The Mets are having a moment.
They were faltering and then 24 year-old infielder Wilmer Flores started crying in the middle of a game because he learned via social media he’d been traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. But then the trade didn’t happen. At the postgame press conference Manager Terry Collins cried when talking about the Flores situation. Since then the Mets have done nothing but win, you can feel them coming into themselves. It takes on an aesthetic/experiential quality.
IV. Sitting on the roof of my apartment building and watching the clouds drift amongst and above the rooftops and skyscrapers
An aesthetic, experiential quality.
I feel, hokey as it sounds, in touch with the universe in space and time. There’s a space beyond me, beyond Prospect Park, beyond even Sylvie, and it’s in all of us. When Sylvie points to a ball and says “Baawl” that’s God coming to the surface.
There’s a fire someplace close by, the engines are racing to the scene, sirens blaring in the enormous night sky, ricocheting.
Photo by Gary Scott