It came up again the other day during a morning gathering of one of the tribes in my life. One of our number read a passage aloud, something for us to think about, a meditation, for our betterment, for each of us to consider and measure ourselves against.
It included the word “play”.
And again, this word fell upon my ears as though in a foreign language, heard before when spoken by others, but whose meaning remains only partially understood.
Some of our little group nodded, others acknowledged it with their own anecdotal experiences. It seemed to me that the familiarity they expressed pointed to the meaning of it as having some relationship to pleasure, entertainment, recreation. I listened intently, all the while shuffling through the aisles of the library of my memory, and questioning when was the last time I did anything just for fun.
It came to me that for some while I have engaged my daily existence as though it were a matter of business, a number of tasks to be thought out, to engage with reason and logic, to be facilitated and moved along toward eventual resolution and, finally, disposed of.
It has been a season of priorities. Those most demanding of attention have been matters of health; hers, mine and, incongruously, both of our two cats. No one has been exempt. Clinics, hospitals of various purposes, periods of discomfort, prolonged periods of recovery and, most of all, periods of patience have been the order of the days.
Even this house has asserted its needs. There have been services required from those with tools, knowledge and skills beyond my own.
Yesterday, one of these ministers in the art of repair, here to resolve a vital household function which had stubbornly refused to continue its assigned duty, chatted casually as he performed his work, recalling his experience with competitive matches of shooting marbles when he was a boy. As he spoke, I heard again the message read to us about play. Again, I searched through memory, this time while simultaneously attempting to conjure up some present-day version for myself of what might be the equivalent of this man’s past enjoyment of marble playing. Nothing came up. Only the pressing matters of the tasks at hand.
In particular, possessions loom large in my attention. As I move through these rooms, halls and spaces, I am confronted with that which fell from the hand when last needed and have since persistently and perversely refused to move on. More sentient objects would by now certainly have recognized that their usefulness and occupation here had ended, would have obligingly removed themselves from our midst, seeking some other place of refuge where their presence might be appreciated.
But there they are, stubborn, unmoved, tenaciously clinging to the last place they were left, still catching my eye, commanding me to take action on their behalf.
There has been a fair amount of loose talk here about relocation, not only of those objects whose time in our life has come and gone, but relocation of ourselves, removal from this place and this house. Many examples have been admitted for discussion. Some center on lodgings within short distance, differing only in terms of type or specification. Others have been entertained for their contribution to ease, comfort or pleasure. And then there have been those, more dramatic in scope, having to do with disposition of all save that which might fit into luggage, boarding aircraft bound for tropical islands in the middle of the Pacific ocean, setting up in oceanside locations, palm trees and waves in sight from balconies, starting from scratch with possessions new and different to us, within dwellings and living circumstances quite different from the current standard.
No one is more surprised at my willingness to entertain such fantasies than am I.
This current vision of escapism puts me in mind of earlier, younger days, when life ahead was so long that escapes seemed reasonable. There were changes in marital status, career and occupation and, in particular, one location from housing built upon solid foundations to housing built upon a mobile platform, as if freedom of mind should be conjoined to freedom of spirit and spaciousness, freedom from being grounded to a single place.
From the distance afforded by passage of time, it seems as if the tectonic plates of my life suddenly shifted, several at once, resulting in long restrained seismic forces being freed, which, in a moment, been allowed to reposition in dramatic fashion.
Looking over my shoulder, I see those quakes of my younger self with satisfaction and approval.
There may yet be merit in it.