Monday, March 10, 2008

No Longer Our Own

Duncan and I, under the constellation Orion, have been faithful guardians of the park since October when the last of the after-school sports teams packed up and called it quits for the year. Dutifully we strolled the wide sidewalks, cut our own paths through the snow, protected the fields from the varmint geese and played as much as we could, keeping that park magic alive during the long dark months and the quiet cold mornings when we were its only occupants. Yes, there were times the park didn't feel as safe as it could've, but most days we were content with the silence and the vast emptiness, alone with the snow halos around the street lamps, the owl which stared down at us from its tree perch, the sound of our feet crunching the snow and cracking the ice echoing between the trees, across the fields and over the frozen lake.

This afternoon we ventured across the street to discover that the teams have returned. Children had flooded the fields and I was unable to count the number of different soccer practices which were taking place around us. There was the girls team in the lower field with the blue jerseys and the matching purple backpacks. There were two different boys teams, the taller ones in gold and black, the smaller ones in red and blue. Further down toward the skate park the jerseys bled together until it seemed like a mass gathering, a protest, perhaps, or even a gay pride parade exploding with all those colors. The parking lots were packed with minivans and SUVs, barking mothers, fathers talking on cell phones, toddlers playing on the edges of the sidewalks, their parents too busy catching up with other parents to notice their children were playing with the crusty remnants of green goose poop. I felt invaded and a little sad that with the return of Spring and green and sunshine we'd lost the thing that's meant the most to us these long months. We were glared at as we made out way through a particularly loud group of people. One of the kids was lazily bouncing a silver and red soccer ball and Duncan took an interest in it. The child's mother hastily pulled the kid away and the unattended ball rolled down the hill with Duncan straining his leash to follow after it.

So we left and ventured down Leawood, the neighborhood which reminds me of the place I grew up. The new Spring light falls at a nostalgic angle on the 80's-model homes, on the gently sloped curbs, the red mustang––just like the one Kenny Mecham's older brother drove––parked in the decaying driveway. There is something comforting about Leawood and her side streets, Newland and Marshall, where we walk. Something friendly about the people tending to their yards or clearing our their overly-packed garages. There are the monkey bars at the school, an exact copy of the one we played on at Edahow, the elementary school I attended (several readers of this blog just saw that picture and smiled). It's nice to walk there, even though it's not my neighborhood or 1982 when I rode my faithful black dirt bike up and down that hill to and from the homes of my friends.

Tonight, on our last walk, I noticed that Orion has slipped in the sky. For months I have watched him hover in the southern night directly over the park, his dogs Canis Major and Minor nearby hunting Taurus the bull, keeping their eyes on Lepus the hare. As the days have grown longer Orion has started to move on, beginning his nightly hunts further west, perhaps aware that all those kicking children and their loud-mouthed hovering parents and coaches, have chased away the good game.

We will watch over the park without him. And we will relish the daylight, but we will miss calling it our own.

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