If I stand anywhere on the playground, I have no trouble tracing the steps that led me to that point. Blacktop, for the most part, is solid, hard, and real. But the playground I stand on these days also radiates as if all the little feet that have run over it have imparted something more than footprints.
Even a simple walk across the four-square courts can whisper to me, “Listen. We have things to tell you.”
For example, Lion Dancers came to our playground a few days ago, tasked with chasing away evil spirits and bringing good luck. Drums roiled the thick-fog quietness and children – hundreds of them – turned from their chatter to bend an ear toward the rumble.
Three drummers generated a tremendous sound and the beat punctuated the air. Even before the dancers stepped onto the yard, spirits started to move. Or so it felt to me.
In the midst of this rumbling, I noticed a shift in one nine year-old boy, Yi, who sat across from me in the morning circle. I saw him close his eyes and tilt his head. Long straight hair slipped back revealing his entire face. He then wrapped his brown arms around his thin torso as if chilled.
My attention doubled down when I saw one more thing: This boy began to glow.
At this moment, I scooted back to scan the entire circle of children and adults. The Lion entered, but I kept an eye on Yi as he sank into rhythm and shone in warm but certain light. Really? Where could such a glow be coming from? Could others see what I saw? Asphalt is solid and sunrise is certain. But that which causes a glow from within a child isn’t as clear.
“Listen. We have things to tell you.”
I did not expect science to back me up this morning. And even those next to him seemed not to notice. But then, I observed the grown ups behind him. One was an aunt, just at his back, with her hand on the boy’s now tilted head. Then came grandfather behind aunty, leaning on a cane, small, almost ancient – a fierce man with white brows much like the lion itself. They all looked on as the dancers rounded the circle and then they, too, closed their eyes.
Of late, I am admitting possibilities even when they don’t make sense. As dancers completed their turn and children retreated from the playground, Yi stood up and joined family members. Grandfather made energetic commentary in a village dialect, nodding upon the boy, and his Aunt patted him off to rejoin his classmates.
I knew then that I had witnessed a transmission from past to present. Simple as that. The rest was none of my business.
How wonderful that playgrounds are for more than play, just as feast days are for much more than color and sparkle. Today, wisdom walked through the heart of an elder, came to a grandson, and then school began.
If these things were as I saw them, then I am amazed at how far beyond just-the-facts a morning on the playground can go. Eyes and ears offer what they can. But what could an eye see or an ear hear of whispers that extend back before the beginning and travel on past the end.
I do not begin where I thought I did. We do not end on the last day. Who better than a child to lead us to such truths?