Tuesday, December 27, 2005

At gloaming

There are things I understand and things I believe. I understand that happiness is like the tide that ebbs and flows but I still believe that it is more like a summit that can be attained.

I know that life is filled with struggle and difficulty and those are the things that ultimately build our character and make us human. But I am always searching for evidence to the contrary. And when you are looking for something you can usually find it. I had one of those moments when the tumblers of the universe fall into place -- everything clicks and time falls away and all that is left is happiness and magic captured in a perfect yet fleeting moment.

My daughter and I went to shoot hoops at the park yesterday. It was getting late and I knew that we would have only an hour before sundown. I was in a shitty mood because the day had gotten away from me and I hadn’t done any of the things that I had wanted to (isn’t this always the case?) Finding that our two favorite basketball courts were occupied soured my mood even further.

We discussed the characteristics of a good climbing tree. I explained to her the importance of low branches and knobs for getting a good start and rough bark to get a good footing. I told her about the old tree in the vacant lot next door to the house where I grew up and how I loved climbing that tree. I would scale to its top-most limbs and feel the tree sway and hear its leaves rattle in the breeze. Those moments were about as one with nature as I have ever been.

All of this talk fueled her desire to climb a tree. So off we went in search of a good climbing tree.

We found that most of the trees in Overton Park and Foster Park we not of the climbing variety. You find lots of cypress along the dry creek bed, but these really don’t make good climbing trees because the low branches have been cut away and the bark is too smooth to generate much traction. Still, we tried to climb a few only to see our attempts foiled.

After a short walk, we found a Live Oak at one end of the park near the tennis courts. I boosted my daughter into the tree and then tried to lift my rather un-nimble 36-year-old self into the tree with no luck. Thanks, tree, for making me feel so decrepit. However, I kept trying and thanks to an old branch that my daughter had been using as a walking stick, I was able to get enough a boost to grab a branch and swing into the tree.

Truth be told, we didn’t climb very high. My daughter wasn’t confident enough in her tree climbing abilities and my desire to climb high higher was tempered by my wish not to have this know as the Christmas that Dad fell out of a tree. But I would have thrown myself to my doom before I would suffer the humiliation of having the Fire Department rescue me.

We sat and talked for 10 or 15 minutes before we climbed down in the golden light of the fading day. We walked and talked some more. My daughter climbed on tree stumps and postured like King Kong on the Empire State Building. We reached our car but decided to walk a little longer. We strolled a little farther down the park. In the twilight we spoke of the trees and the colors of the sunset – the soft clear blues and the ever-changing oranges, pinks, purples and yellows. I told her that nature can teach you all you need to know about which colors work well together. I showed her silhouettes of trees against the sky and we rolled down hills into piles of leaves until we stood up dizzy and laughing.

Twilight is my favorite time of day. To be able to walk at the gloaming and share with my child the things that stir my soul was a perfect moment, an instant when time seems to stop and God whispers in your ear, “This is it. Don’t miss it.”

That’s when my daughter told me how much kids like to walk and talk in the evenings with their dads and their friends, talking about everything and nothing. It seemed unlike her to refer to the experience as if she was talking about someone else, as if she wasn’t comfortable sharing her feelings so candidly. But then she spoke about how she like walking with me after football games in Austin as we wandered the dusky streets from the stadium back to our car.

I hated for all of this to end. It never lasts and you have to savor it in the moment, appreciate at that very moment like when you are standing before a great work of art in a museum you know you may never visit again. However, these memories are like leaves that press in the pages of a book. You can go back and visit them and experience some of the lingering magic.

No comments: