The child bobs like a sunbeam across the dirty litter-strewn pavements, intent on the fascination of hopping, jumping, skipping over the lines; too young to know about A. A. Milne's verses and the exciting prospect of bears, but determined for her own special purposes not to tread on lines. Dead leaves shuffle aimlessly, bringing to mind how T. S. Eliot evoked that first world -- "for the leaves were full of childredn" -- not now in the empty pool, but here in gutters and drains. What was our destination along those wet pavements, with the hazards of puddles and lines? To school, to the station, to the shops? Unimportant now. Unimportant always, to all the children in between and to this one. Now she is carefully, every deliberately, walking backward, still avoiding the lines, singing a small song, immersed in her first world.
"And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof."m
The clean, moist smell of decaying leaves stretches through the woods -- stretches back from the children I know and have known. I watch as they kick and fling and roll: as they pile up mounds into mountains, fortresses, castles, who's to say? It's not possible now to enter into the total magic with them, the make-believe that nevertheless has touches of such reality that something will always remain. The layer of fallen leaves goes deep, and nothing can erase the tall-masted trees heaving in the wind where the lookout clung far above the billowing leaves. The musty cavern of an old hollowed trunk still stays as enormous and mysterious as Merlin's resting place. The bears are here too. From the great horn of His Master's Voice giving alarming information about a picnic, with a handle they had to keep winding, to the smooth transistorized warning, there has always been the possibility of bears.
The woods and the streets and leaves are full of children playing.m
There are bears at home too. They are different from these in the woods and around corners, I think.They lie in odd places with assorted companions. Together they play across the hours with wonderful variety. Sometimes it seems they echo my life which could be slightly unnerving if it weren't for the unexpected embellishments. The house is full of a child playing. A child playing. The prospect of it, the contemplationof it, and the promise reach from the hearth of a single home as a great sigh of hope. It's somehting to work for , that promise of Zechariah's. The hope must reach outward to see all those wastelands full of children playing; and inward to our own first world of living that was playing -- to burnish what has grown dull.