Saturday, May 31, 2014

An Alchemical Key

I lost my keys yesterday.

And then I found them.

In between, I rode on a train for an hour - to my office (I work in an office now) in downtown Chicago.

I already had spent an hour on the train, traveling home from the aforementioned office.  I rode all the way to my car before I realized that I could not find my keys.

And I exaggerate.  The train ride is only 35 minutes or so.  It's the commute - from door to door - that takes about an hour.

As I went back to my office, and sat on the subway, I realized that all I could do was wait.  I looked through my purse 20 times at least, hoping to find them while I rode, but otherwise, all I could do was wait.

And pray.  I could pray, too.  It wasn't much of a prayer.  It was a combination of begging and yelling. (God, god, god, god... please let me find my keys... and why did you let me lose them? Hasn't it been a horrible enough time? Did you have to take my keys too?)

At one point I thought, that's it.  I can't do it anymore.  I'm done.  And then I thought, I am maybe walking a little too close to an edge, if losing my keys sends me over it.

And then I thought, maybe it's just a mood - a mood for this day, the anniversary of the day that Joan of Arc burned at the stake.  I try to remember the day every year.  She is a hero of mine.  She may have been a lawyer, fighting the uphill battle, if she'd been born today.  It's not a surprise that I should admire her, and try to remember her on days like when she was burned at the stake.

I'd even gone to a Catholic church for her that afternoon, near the courthouse in downtown Chicago.  There were many Franciscans milling about the Church.  I think she would have liked that.

So there I sat, hours later, terrified I'd lost my keys, begging God to let me find them, and losing it just a little.

Then I thought of something else I could do.  I could ask God for a sign (at least give me a stupid sign while I sit on this stupid train...)

I looked up for my sign.

Just then, a young girl, about 19, smiled at me.

I was shocked.  Nobody smiles on the train.  But she did.

I hope I smiled back.  I wondered if she had heard me talking to the security officer at my building (when I called to say I had lost my keys and I would need help getting into the office to look for them).  I wondered how pathetic I must have looked in my panic, that I caused her to smile some comfort in my direction.

It was a friendly smile though.  Maybe she was just being nice.  Maybe she was from somewhere else.

And then I saw her shirt.  "New Orleans," it said, across the front. You know, like Orleans, in France - where Joan of Arc died - and like New Orleans, where they have a statute in her honor.

I decided it was my sign.  I decided it was a good sign, too.

But at the office, there were no keys.  Maybe it wasn't a good sign after all.

I dumped out my purse.  I dumped everything out.  And then I realized - there was something in my purse, still.

And there they were.  My keys.

They had gotten between the lining of my purse and its leather.  I had had them all the time - in my purse, but not within reach - not in the normal way.

This is alchemy.  Read "The Alchemist," by Paulo Coelho (1988).  Read "The Alchemist's Handbook," by Frater Albertus (1960).  You'll see what I mean.

So then I was happy, and I couldn't imagine the despair from before.  And maybe this is alchemy too. 

And then I went home.  It was another hour away.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

First Base

Yesterday was a big day for sports.

No, it wasn't due to the aftermath of yet another Blackhawks' loss.  Today will be another day for them, in the midst of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

And no, it wasn't due to the NFL draft, though I'm interested in reading articles.

It was Opening Day for the Park Ridge Little Sluggers Baseball League.

My 6-year-old nephew is one of those sluggers.

This is not just t-ball, folks.  This is pitching by the coaches (and t-ball only after three failed pitches).

The first time a player successfully threw the ball to first base to get out a runner, the place erupted.  As one parent said, you'd think we had just won the World Series.

Several times we suggested to my nephew that he put the mitt on his hand, not his head.  He obliged.  For the moment.

He was one of the kids that hit the ball when his coach pitched to him.  He's a lefty, so he ended up hitting down the first base line.  Once he was out.  He was okay with that.  He does have a good, strong swing.  I'd call it his forte, in baseball.

In the morning, he had played soccer - the third or fourth game of that season.  This is the sport where he gets an earful from his mother and me.  This is our sport.  He's got some moves, that boy.  And he plays intelligently, anticipating the pass and that sort of thing.  But we are wondering if perhaps we need to explain the concept of competition, when it comes to this game.  "That's your ball," I feel like telling him.  The guy just took YOUR ball.  Go get it back.  He seems more likely to admire the play of others than to jealously guard what should belong to him.  He does have a competitive edge, we know - he loves video games, and he loves to win.  Perhaps that is the analogy to make.

Throughout it all, my three-year-old nephew, his brother, is attending the games.  He said he wanted to watch the soccer game rather than play in the nearby playground. He picked dandelions instead, for his grandmother.  At the baseball game, the two neighbor girls brought out their princess dolls and reluctantly let him play with a slinky and Cinderella's carriage (and horse).  He did seem content.  I expect the competitive edge will exist in him by the time he starts playing in these leagues.  He certainly will have watched his brother enough for the theory behind sports to sink in.

We did play soccer in the backyard a week or two ago.  I showed the six-year-old how to fall, and showed him my one move (it looks fancy but it isn't).  My six-year-old nephew came up with his own move - stopping the ball with his knee.  Impressive.  I also encouraged the three-year-old not to use his hands when moving the ball to where he wanted it to be.  He listened, nodded, thought, and then grabbed a stick to push the ball to where he wanted it.  Clever boy.