Rains come this time of year. They wash summer smoke from the air and heal dry cracks in the hillside around the school. As the cracks heal, hill grass shoots up everywhere. Paved patches stand apart from green. Little squares of asphalt black end in a chain link edge, and the rich black of wet earth begins.
Monday afternoon, after the coach ran the kids around the yard a few times, I watched Jake, Jackson, and Matthew – a trio of never-parted third graders who peeled away from their classmates. They walked across the yard and sat, shoulder to shoulder in the center of the four-square court near the gate. Each boy chewed how own blade of grass – plucked from where I do not know – and all three sat cross-legged, pulling their boney knees up to their chests.
They had their eyes set on something out beyond the gate. I turned my eyes outward as well. I saw a roll of green grass rippling as the wind whipped uphill toward our playground. Then the wind slammed the gate and made the fence posts rattle. See that? I heard Matthew say. The other two nodded. See what? said I to myself. What are these boys seeing?
I approached them to ask that very question. Oh nothing said they, flashing big toothed grins. A hunch told me these boys wanted out. But they didn’t move. Instead they sat in a row of three, still, jaws working, but otherwise silent. Then the bell rang and they lined up for a few seconds. I opened they gate and they flew through.
That a boy subjugates himself to a barrier as trifling as a gate – this fact puzzles me. If you know the inner world of a boy, you know that they want out. Their souls run in open fields where fall air pours into the lungs like life-giving candy. No hill is too high and every tree invites the climb. Past the fence, their cells remember laughing, their legs recall dancing among sounds that bounce when their mates call from the other side. To know it, you have to run with it.
I don’t want to participate in causing a chain of events that amounts to a set of traps, what-ifs, and approximations. What would it mean to allow the full articulation of body, mind, and soul? To celebrate the gifts that a good surprise brings? Why the relentless effort to plug energy up, put things down, and fence in freedom? Tether a boy for too long and he forgets how play. Then you have to work with what happens next.
Da Vinci’s diagram of man, for example, does not depict someone curled, cowering, or ducking as if he were about to be slapped. Instead, he sketches a man who stands in full frontal nakedness, arms extended, and chin up. He looks ahead eye to eye as if to declare I can and I will. I see a sense of confidence in the quest for wholeness, and no hesitation in permitting the unfolding of that which was meant to be.
Whether by straight lines or by curves, let it be. Let us become. That must be what the boys knew but couldn’t share when they looked out through that locked gate.