Play ball

Early this winter, my brother and I took a midnight cruise around the Lakes. It was snowing out. Full moon. Really pretty.

As we tooled down W. Minnehaha Parkway, a fox darted past the Lynnhurst building, across the street, in front of the car and finally down into the creek. We were still shaking with excitement when out of nowhere, a galloping deer came up alongside the car on my brother’s (driver’s) side. She was beautiful, graceful, elegant. Ran with us for half a block, almost slipped and crashed, then recovered and disappeared down the creek embankment and into the woods.

We are men with families and we have seen a lot of things growing up in South Minneapolis and beyond, but what we saw that night was clearly mystical. For the past few months as this winter of our unique discontent unfolded, I’ve thought about the fox and the deer and what significance their appearance might hold, what message they might have to give us, especially in conjunction with how the Native American spirits who haunt these hallowed grounds feel about the streets being constantly torn up, and the latest graves we have desecrated with new highways and bridges and thoroughfares cropping up at every turn.

Take it slow, but be quick to change, and don’t worry so much. You’re on the right track. Keep doing what you’re doing. Be strong. Be brave. Be fleet. Go hard. Opening day is April 6.

In Chinese culture, the fox is a shape-shifting entity that has lived many past lives. “Lore has it that a fox sighting was thought to be a signal from the spirits of the deceased,” says Ye Wise One Google, and, “In China the deer is a symbol of happiness and good fortune. Indeed, its name in Chinese is a homonym for the word abundance.”

I had to look that up, but in my gut I knew as much that night. This was not a random act of nature. Sure as you and I are joined here by this paragraph, the fox and the deer were spirits from the other side, cutting a path for us, letting us know that the afterlife is tenable and that as we all make our way, we have plenty of — as our father’s generation of fighter pilots had it — angels on our shoulders.

This night, the fox and the deer could have been anyone. I have my own ideas on who, exactly, was popping in to say hey, but to name them aloud would be uncouth. Besides, the truth is that while they may have been personal acquaintances from beyond, I like to think that, embodied in those two creatures was the entirety of the spirit world itself, speaking to whomever was tuned into their frequency.

Winter is the fallow time. Do your work. Go deep. Love the ones you’re with. In the springtime, when the lilacs and butterflies bloom, your senses will be rewarded and everything will make sense again. Even the stuffy anti-hallowed ground you call “The Metrodome.”

If the spirits are indeed upset with us for ripping up Mother Earth to suit our needs, they undoubtedly are thrilled when it comes to the plethora of baseball diamonds that dot this area, from Diamond Lake Road to Bryant Avenue to Penn Avenue to Anthony to Armatage to Powderhorn, we live amidst individual cathedrals that spring to life at this time of year with the promise of green days, lazy sunsets silhouetted by dandelion snow showers, dirt on your hands and shoes, the sounds of pick-up basketball games, bats and balls and gloves and the cry of the crowd lifting you up, up, and away.

Don’t worry about Mauer. He’ll be OK. Get down on the ball. Swing through the pitch. Hustle on and off the field. Keep your chin up. Keep your knees bent. Keep your eye on the ball. Maybe you’ll see something you’ve never seen before.

Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.