Child’s Play

There is time here in Mexico.  Time to get up and slowly stretch in the morning, or time to lie quietly in bed gazing at the window, watching the dawn turn off the street light and blue the sky.  So there was time, before any chores, to stroll away from the house together, out into the open ground between cacti.  I thought H. and I could see where the rail track ran across the bottom of the road, and we hadn’t been out into the scrub before.  Almost immediately H. found a small gathering of trees whose arching branches created a domed clearing.  She stood in front of me in the middle of the small temple of branches and leaves, and took my hands.  “Close your eyes,” she said.  When I did so bird song filled my awareness, creating a world of distances, of space, and qualities of life.  I could hear birdsong from high places and low.  It came from far away and close by.  The enormity of space I exist in was given qualities and dimensions.

We stood for a while holding hands, listening.  Then walked on through the thorny trees and cacti, trying to find the railway track.  We emerged onto a dirt road and could see the rail track across open ground.  Although it was early, the sun was hot, and it was good strolling and taking in what was around us.

H. caught my arm and turned me to look at the track.  “Do you see that woman?” she asked.

I didn’t at first.  Then I saw her, standing quite still, with her back to us, maybe a hundred meters away.  She seemed to have a flowing red shawl over her shoulders, and a dark dress reaching to her ankles.  Her stillness communicated a feeling of calm quietness.  I wondered if she were absorbing the beauty of the morning.  Or perhaps she was experiencing the gentle rising of an inner joy or long slow thought.

Eventually she moved, and turning towards us began to walk across the open ground in the direction of a tumbledown collection of sheds.  Perhaps it was her home.  And as we watched, she seemed not to be a part of the present, of the world of cars and televisions.  This impression was heightened by her clothes.  Apart from the red shawl and long heavy dress she also wore what appeared to be an apron in a folk design.

Walking on, perhaps to see where she went, or even to meet, we lost sight of her, and instead came upon a wooden house that from its shape and feeling, could have been lifted from an Austrian or Swiss mountain slope.  As we got nearer to this house, we could hear quiet singing.  The house had a wide covered balcony along its ground floor front, and a wooden balustrade separated this from the garden.  Through the balustrade we could see a young girl of about five or six, with long brown hair, and a face oddly older than her size indicated.  She was completely oblivious to us as we stood and watched her, and listened to her singing.  At first I thought she was dressing a doll, and her song was for that.  But as we watched we saw she was holding and dressing a small dog about the size of a miniature poodle.  It was standing quite still, without any struggle, and I had the impression it was wet from having been washed.  At times the child laughed with happiness and pleasure, totally in her world of play.  And again we had the sense of being in a past age, a secret world of imagination and quieter times.  So intimate was the scene, so private and precious, that I felt restless to move away, lest the girl see us, and the wonderful laughter and singing, along with the exquisite moments of her play, be shattered.  But she remained completely unaware of us, and we walked on, enriched with the vision of the child at play.

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