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“If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”
—Barry Lopez
(as Badger, in Crow and Weasel)


To be nobody but yourself -- in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else -- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.
- e. e. cummings


"I Saw That!"

------ As I took my place in left-center field at the start of the softball game I couldn’t help but notice the mystical effect the weather seemed to create. It was one of those damp autumn evenings when sounds seem to carry for miles. The air was cool and damp and visibility was low. Some people might find that type of atmosphere dreary or dank, but something about it seemed to lift my spirits. I was ready to play.
------ In the top of the first inning, the first ball of the night came my way. It was a line drive that was hit directly at me. Seeing its low trajectory off of the bat, my first impulse was to charge, but after the first step I realized I was in trouble. I turned around and broke for the fence and raced as fast as I could while the ball sailed just over my head and rolled to the fence. After I picked it up and threw it to the infield, the left fielder called out to me, “That ball just wouldn’t come down.” My disappointment at not making the play quickly went away as a strange feeling came over me. Somehow the mysticism I had imagined when taking the field came alive in the flight of that ball. I felt strangely inspired and alive.
------ As the third out was registered and I began to make my way toward the dugout something came over me and I decided to “meditate” my way there. I’d never even remotely tried anything like this. As I jogged toward the infield I recall breathing in rhythm with each step in an effort to quiet my mind and focus on absolutely nothing. I knew I’d be able to avoid others, as I would be leading off. I quickly threw down my glove, grabbed the bat, and moved to the on-deck circle before anyone had a chance to say anything to me.
------ As I took my warm up swings I tried to breath in time with each swing. The umpire called me to the plate and I recall being very relaxed. I did not try to see or think anything as I moved toward the batter’s box, but suddenly a vision came into my head. The image did not come to me in real time; instead it was a sudden burst. The image was of the ball coming off of my bat and streaking over the right-center fielder’s head in the same manner the ball had gone over mine.
------ As a stood at the plate awaiting the pitch I recall feeling very strange. As the pitcher let go of the ball I saw it floating in the air as if in slow motion. It was as if some Hollywood FX man had changed the speed and lighting to create a surrealistic scene. The ball seemed to have a halo-like glow and the pitcher, the field, and the other players seemed to exist outside of the ball’s realm. I don’t recall telling myself when, where, or how to swing, but when I did, the ball shot off of my bat and streaked directly over the right-center fielder’s head. It was exactly as I had envisioned it. I rounded the bases and headed for home, sliding in just ahead of the relay throw. Suddenly time seemed to return to normal and the sounds once again seemed real. I looked at the ground and saw the ball spinning beside home plate. I recall thinking how it reminded me of the license plate that spun on the ground in the movie “Back to the Future,” after the hero made his ascent into time travel. I truly felt like I was in a movie. Had what I just experienced been real?
------ I ran to the dugout in amazement, accepting congratulations from my teammates. I sat down on the bench beside two friends and exclaimed, “I saw that!” I didn’t know what else to say. I was in total shock. They asked me what I was talking about and I tried to explain, briefly, leaving out most of the detail. They just laughed and I wished I’d not said a word.
------ Before my next at bat, I was on deck watching one of the teammates who had laughed at me as he attempted to keep the inning alive. When he was unsuccessful, I realized I’d once again be leading off the inning. I grabbed my glove and “meditated” my way to the outfield. When the third out was registered, I wondered if it could happen again. I tried to guard myself against disappointment, talking myself out of trying to make it happen again. But something told me to let go of judgment, "meditate" my way to the dugout, and let go of any and all expectations.
------ As I moved toward home plate I was just as relaxed as the time before. As I stepped into the batter’s box I saw the exact same vision again. For some reason I didn’t question its validity. Instead I awaited the ball, saw the same strange Hollywood scene, and saw the ball once again streak off my bat and sail over the same right-center fielder’s head. This time there was no throw to the plate, I simply crossed it and ran to the dugout, greeted by smiles, laughter, and high-fives. But I guess I hadn’t learned my lesson. The two teammates joked, “Did you see that?” What could I say? When I told them I did, the laughter became even greater. For the rest of the game they would taunt me, yelling a list of things that I should “see.”
------ My third and final at bat would not be a leadoff endeavor. I would not have the opportunity to jog in from the outfield. As I sat in the dugout awaiting the opportunity I tried to tell myself that I shouldn’t try to force anything. The night had already been magical beyond belief, why press my luck? But as I made my way to the on deck circle I couldn’t help but give it one more try. I tried desperately to quiet my mind. As I came to the plate, I received no vision and the scene lacked the surrealistic luster of before. So I took the first pitch and stepped out of the batter’s box to quiet myself. The second pitch offered nothing out of the ordinary, so I took it as well, scolded myself for willfully trying to make something happen. I knew I had to let go. As I stepped in the box for the third pitch, I saw a sudden vision of the ball flying off the bat and landing in left field just inside the foul line. The pitch came in, the surreal glow returned, but this pitch was more inside than the others. The next thing I knew the ball was sailing threw the air, landing in left field from exactly the same flight path I had envisioned. As I came into third base and stopped, I was once again in disbelief. When the two mocked from the dugout, “Did you see that, too?” I just flashed them a “leave me alone” smirk. I wasn’t about to admit that I had.
------ I don’t know what happened that night. I’ve heard of and even practiced all sorts of visualization techniques that sports psychologists and trainers utilize. But somehow, the experience I had that night didn’t completely correspond with such methods or endeavors. I decided I’d try not to figure it out beyond the realization that anything is possible when we push aside limiting and doubting beliefs. Now the trick is to learn how to surrender those judgments as a matter of constant routine. An error, two home runs, and a triple are nothing compared to a lifetime of bliss.

© 2004 The Trill House