QUAIL MUTTERINGS #21. The Basketball Hoop (April 8, 2013)
One of my meanderings up the canyon finds me halted, standing on a bare spot of brown next to the ancient oak which held my childhood’s basketball hoop. That particular tree, however, isn’t there anymore, but the one right next to it still is. But for this moment everything is how it was – leaving me standing in my past.
The worn geometric patterns on the faded orange ball allow my left hand to grasp, dribble and maintain control of its direction on this uneven ground. The regular, hollow thumping mesmerizes and pulls me deeper into my pre-teen body. The one that is constantly on the move. Aiming high I shoot up towards the dusty green leaves allowing my buoyant, rubber friend to descend directly down through the net with a “swoosh.” There’s no flat backboard to bank off of. If I want to make a bank shot my hands have learned, through practice, to use the less curved portion of the trunk above as a surrogate.
The warm, dry breeze, carrying the surrounding scents of sage brush and decomposing horse manure, sends my stray hairs dancing, tickling my forehead. I smooth them back behind my ears with the palm of my hand using the sweat as a natural hair spray. The rough bark of the oak pokes my back when I lean into it to remove a leaf from between my dirty toes. A cloud of dust reaches me and I turn to notice my cousin riding his bike over to the house, his tires slipping on the dirt as he peddles too fast for his treads to grip. He won’t interrupt me. He’s just out for a jaunt. I have plenty of time, the sun is only beginning its descent to the west.
A few short steps take me to the grey, metal bar that Dad installed for me to flip around and hang from – to use up some of my excess energy. My hands wrap around the familiar iron rod and I kick over the top. Pumping into a cast I shoot my right leg through, under my body, to straddle the bar. After four mil-circles I turn sideways and do a few windmills before putting my other leg over to hang from my knees. This feels good. A different perspective on things is interesting. The underside of the cupped oak leaves reveal exposed veins, part of the tree’s circulatory system. The mottled, hazy blue sky holds buttermilk clouds to the east while the sparkling light trickles through the foliage canopy to a spot on my tummy, since my ripped T-shirt hangs around my armpits. Even now, I’m reminded of a previous time when I was five or six, hanging on my knees eating potato chips. A red ant had crawled into the salty bag lying on the ground and was on a chip that I put into my mouth. “Ouch” did that hurt!
Every so often I get whiffs of the existence of tree ants so it’s no surprise when I see highways of them marching up and down the massive tree trunk. Another reminder of the long, luxurious days of summer, my favorite time of year. When there’s no school and time and freedom stretch out around me. The creosoted, split-rail wooden chute (a narrow, four-posted mini corral which Mom built for treating sick horses) hangs from the ground nearby. Or is it standing on the sky? From my upside down vantage point it’s kind of hard to tell. It’s similar to the view I have while lying supine on my surfboard, in the pond down the road, when I tip my head backwards into the water. Either way, it’s a trippy sensation you can get without being in a drug-induced state. Humans of all cultures seek paranormal sensations. As children, didn’t we all enjoy turning around and around in circles long enough to get dizzy and fall down?
For now, my reverie has subsided and I head back to the house. The grass is growing in the middle of the road like those horse and buggy lanes of yesteryear and wildflowers are poking up everywhere. Spring is in the air and I can feel it. And that means that those long, luxurious dog-days of summer are on their way.
Chi Varnado is the author of two books. Her memoir, A CANYON TRILOGY: Life Before, During and After the Cedar Fire, and her children’s book, The Tale of Broken Tail, are both available from www.amazon.com. Chi directs the Ramona Dance Centre: www.ramonadancecentre.com. Her collection of essays, Quail Mutterings, can be found on www.chivarnado.com.