Monday, April 11, 2011
Today is opening day at our small Saturday market here in Eugene. Our market is small and folksy. There are food booths, right next to a stage where three or four acts play each week. And there are craft booths, a produce market, and a large drumming circle, all situated in four city blocks. It’s a dense, colorful affair, a very friendly place where people of all ages and creeds mix and mingle.
Opening day entails no special ceremonies, and I kind of like that. One Saturday you go downtown, and the market is there, as if it had not been gone for the four dark winter months. The same people are here, selling crafts, organic produce, and my personal favorite, hoola hoops. There is a willowy young woman with flowing red hair and a permanent smile who sells them and also gives lessons to all comers. She is one of the happiest people I’ve ever seen.
But this opening day at the Market, I’m in for a special treat, and a milestone. As I enter the square, my phone registers a text message. It’s Brittney, my juggling companion and dear friend, messaging me to tell me she’s on the way to market with Corbin, her four-year old boy.
And she says she has her juggling balls with her. Within minutes, I’m standing with her and Corbin, as they wait in line to get their faces painted. The woman who does the painting is a genius, easily putting a colorful spider, complete with web, just above Corbin’s nose. Brittney opts for a simple flower arrangement on her left cheek.
As we walk away I find myself thinking “maybe I’ll do that someday.” And then, we are in the midst of the drumming circle, staking out a small plot of cement on which to juggle. The drums are a presence, the square crowded with people, some flowing by, others seated in front of crafts for sale, still others dancing or playing hacky sack. It’s a jumble of color and sound, all drenched in cool April sunshine.
Into this, we toss our multi-colored balls.
And heads instantly begin to turn. Mothers stop by with children, who just want to watch. Kids are unashamed, I find, in their curiosity about juggling. They tend to fixate on the pattern, just the beauty of color and motion. I’m pretty sure grown-ups feel the same way, but they usually hide their fascination. There are others who want to learn, and we stop to give lessons.
Like all visual arts, juggling is an unspoken partnership between the doer and the observer. The juggler does what he does because it’s fun, and it creates something beautiful. The observer enjoys seeing something beautiful. Both parties can become transfixed, and this becomes my moment of mindfulness for the day. Not only am I completely in the present, I have brought a few others with me.
I can tell Brittney feels it too, she is such a delight. Her smile is expansive as she throws the balls in ever-changing patters and speeds. She’s a talented juggler, and she’s progressed very quickly, partly because she dedicates a lot of time to the art, consistently.
We are both having plain, pure fun, and Corbin is in his element, just enjoying the color and exuberance of the market. In juggling, if your pattern is small, the balls go fast, and if the pattern is large, they go slower. So it’s possible, by adjusting the pattern size, to synchronize your juggling to a beat. Brittney and I are both doing this, and we both break out giggling when the pattern matches the beat of the drums, it is such a Sweet Spot in Time.
One little boy stays and stays, trying over and over to get his first successful throws. And when he does, finally, he is so elated. He is walking on air when he leaves, asking his father for a set of balls. As we pack up, I feel so expanded and relaxed at the same time. Sometimes mindfulness comes to us un-bidden, and that’s the sweetest kind. It’s happened today, leaving me with a reminder that just letting go and having fun is one of the purest and most healing kinds of mindfulness.
As we’re heading for the parking lot, Corbin stops in front of me and reaches both of his arms up toward me, in a gesture from child to adult that must be absolutely universal: please pick me up. He is in my arms, situated on my right hip before I have time to even think about what I’ve done.
And instantly I’ve traveled back in time eleven years. So sweet, his tiny hand on my shoulder, the bill of his cap gently bumping my head.
And then I’m walking alone to my car, feeling so, so happy.