Last night I walked my dog Josie, just as I’ve done almost every day since we adopted her 14 months ago. Because I am a creature of habit, Josie and I walk the same route every evening. She leads the way, straining the purple leash taut, her ears pricked, nose quivering in anticipation of rabbits and squirrels.
We turn right at the corner, past tees four and five at the junior golf course, on toward the park. Spring’s dandelions have given way to white clover. Wildflowers, something purple and lupine-like, edge the brook, and the air is tinged with the sweet-savory scents of pine and wood smoke.
At the park’s entrance a photographer is shooting pictures of a mother and son. The boy, he looks about seven or eight, wears Harry Potter glasses and clutches a bunch of white daisies, a prop. I want to stay and watch, but he looks miserable, buttoned into a polo and kakis on this muggy, mosquitoey night. The photographer and mom are working hard to lighten the mood, so I walk on.
Under the bandstand the jugglers have gathered to do their thing. I usually catch glimpses of their spinning hoops from a distance, flashes of neon, contained chaos, but tonight Josie and I depart from our usual routine and we sit on a bench. She pants in the shade at my feet as I swat mosquitoes.
Onstage a young woman practices a rhythmic dance with two neon yellow hoops, rolling one down the length of her arm, skipping bare feet through the other. She’s good, graceful and athletic, the props light in her hands.
Behind her, a lanky man tips his head back and balances a long stick on his chin, red plastic plate spinning over his head. He holds out his arms and steps left and right, forward and back, his movements accelerating until the stick tips and the plate falls.
Another man juggles six, maybe eight, balls — they are circling too fast to count – while he chats with a man lounging on a bench a few rows ahead of me.
“There’s a difference between knowing and understanding,” the juggler explains, his eyes steady on one spot, focusing. “Understanding happens when it becomes a part of you.” The balls make soft pats like the steady, quick drip of a bathroom faucet as they land in the palms of his hands.
“It’s more about looking at the pattern, at the shape of the pattern, rather than at the individual balls,” he says, eyes on the sky as the balls wheel. “And it’s about how I feel,” he adds, as two of the balls land with a quiet plunk at his feet. His companion nods, hands stuffed into his pockets.
I watch for a few minutes more – the young woman with the yellow hoops, the man balancing the spinning red plate, the jugglers with their bright pins. It’s a cacophony of individual movement and energy, yet somehow, all together, it’s also a fluid, communal dance. Like the juggler had said, there’s a pattern there, a wholeness amid all that whirling, individual motion.