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by dan gambardello
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A lengthy inventory of lessons has been stored in my heart. Engraved in my thought box is the era of instruction that will never languish. As for me, I am most thankful that such valuable things can be taken from such inconsequential activity. Perhaps this activity was inspired by the emotional sensation of aspiration; the incomprehensible feeling of excellence. Possibly, these feelings were rallied by the natural essence of such a perfect place. It was my own ocean, my own green sea. Here is where I grew physically and mentally. Strength resided here, and its air encompassed such great potency I could smell it.
My backyard is rather large, and with the years behind me, I can remember the many games I played with friends from the neighborhood. While this was fun, it was not the highlight of this place. Its existence was reserved for a different event, and a more important occasion. It was an event that was most often anticipated on any beautiful day in the spring or summer. I can not explain why, but when I used to play baseball with my father, it was like a vitamin to my soul. Each experience contributed more and more to my personality. As me and my dad would stand out there for a half hour or even hours at a time having a catch, I felt well. My worries were none, and my thoughts were little. I concentrated watchfully on my father's glove as he had directed me to, and I listened keenly to his words as he spoke. He instructed me on every aspect of the game and taught me to apply the mental element of baseball as a mental component to life. In my heart, I took pride in such a father, who would offer a son this gift of advice, this lesson on life. At the time I was not aware that this was what he was teaching, however I knew what he had to say was important. As baseball was surely the surface occurrence, it was clear that better things were to develop from it.
I was just a little boy, most often running outside with my ball and glove, with no shoes on, throwing a baseball up in the air and catching it repeatedly. I remember lying on the grass and gazing up at the sky, thinking and dreaming of the baseball field. Like my dad had told me, I would consider and reflect upon the game that was ahead of me, and exercise my mind to be ready mentally. I would meditate. I felt so small in the middle of that yard, with the blades of grass tickling my legs and innocently poking at my arms. Closing my eyes, the sun was so bright that I could still see light glimmering through my eyelids. In the middle of that yard I rested, I thought, and I learned. I lay there until I heard the proposing voice of my dad: "Want to have a catch? Go put your shoes on buddy." At the time it was my favorite thing to hear; it meant a newborn lesson, and a new conversation that would teach me something. Sometimes, my dad would just talk nonsense as we loosened our arms. I would laugh loudly as my dad would say something funny and I can remember not even being able to throw the ball. Hed stand there patiently in the outdoor sanctuary as I recovered from my hysteria.
Putting our gloves down, I would run to the garage and eagerly pick up the bucket of tennis balls that lay under a wooden setup assembled by my dad. It was built onto the wall, and it perfectly held all my baseball equipment. Engraved above this baseball haven read the originated words of my dad: "The Dugout." To me as a boy, it was simply awesome. I picked up the bucket and retrieved my bat from where I last placed it, and sprinted back out to my father. There, he stood about twenty feet away from the shadowed gray shed that was at the end of the yard. Without any words said, I would place the bucket at his feet and walk silently to the front of my backstop. My dad would strategically place me in a tight mental situation, representing a real game situation. "Concentrate," my father would say; "Never be intimidated by the situation," he proclaimed over and over. He pitched to me until his arm hurt, or until I hit too many balls into the bushes, and the day was over.
Grass stains painted my worn dungaree jeans green, and dirt coated my dark black sweatpants that were almost gray from the years behind them. There was an ambiguous feeling in my heart; I was so dirty, but I had the cleanest feeling. Today, I can only imagine that the feeling was found in that purity and high degree of such a fine sense of satisfaction. Depth that can be identified with any place is something that I believe contains great signification. To me, when I ponder on my times in that backyard I smile, and proudly remember where I learned how to throw a ball, and grow mentally. What happened to this portrait of the past? It can only be engraved in the present state of my mind, and this portrait will now be hung on the walls of my heart.
My room sits in the back of my house, and whenever I please, I can look out my window and travel back to my days as a little boy with his father. I can open the window and stick my nose out, smelling the grass and reminiscing the hours of my youth. It is like sitting on the beach and looking out into the ocean; there is no feeling as magnificent as this. Nothing has ever separated me from this ocean, and there has never been a tide so high, that I must leave this place. Perhaps, I can place this in the category of a great blessing: this opportunity to recall the special times I have experienced. Seventeen years with that backyard, and its end approaches me very quickly.
As I am surrounded by the brown of cardboard boxes and the piles of bubbled cushion paper, I step outside. I throw a handful of sunflower seeds in my mouth, and savor the salty taste of baseball on my tongue. With a glove in one hand, and a baseball in my other, I feel well again. I pace in the yard once more, and relish for a second time, an even better tasting segment of my life: the time with my father. To locate the sentimentality of a relationship between father and son is to settle your heart in the presence of honesty and value. Honestly, I do value my father and his time that was spent in our baseball ocean. And value certainly comes from the honesty that me and my father had in that backyard. There, my character was built upon lessons in life, and produced from the strength that was given from my father.
Soon, I will be divided from this place like the two halves of the Red Sea. Possibly, it may be healthy to be separated from such a substantial part of my heart. Perchance, it carries the possibility of reminding me in the future what was learned in that place. Lessons that will be needed will one day arise in my heart, and the familiarity of that place will be even clearer than in this hour of its presence. Consequently, on behalf of my own heart, I leave this ocean with a feeling of wellness, and the same sense of perfect that I experienced in my youth. It is only right to say that it is not a tide that drives me away from this place, rather it is time that draws me to a new place, a new ocean

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