Wiffle ball and the practice of happiness

This isn’t about politics. This is about wiffle ball.

A couple months ago, a young man drove his car into a crowd in Charlottesville, Virginia, injuring several people and killing Heather Heyer.

I’m afraid there’s nothing new about hate so entrenched it leads to violence. There’s nothing new about killing. But somehow, this injury to our collective humanity hurt me more than others had. Perhaps it’s a fallacy of perspective and a failure of memory, but lately, listening with empathy and responding with gentleness in a challenging conversation has been more difficult.

When a wound throbs, I put ice on it. Since I was getting up for ice anyway, I filled up a cooler, added some beverages, and rounded up a group of fellow humans for some fun.


I’d like to say I threw a wiffle ball picnic because I understand the science and psychology of diverting attention and energy from negativity to creativity and connection, but I was acting on instinct.

I got to the park early, set up a picnic table with chips, dips, soda, fruit and, okay, maybe a little rosé. A group of about a dozen slowly started turning up, and we moved from a blanket on the ground to an improvised baseball diamond: Each base was a can of seltzer water.

There was no start time, we went from an odd number to an even number to an odd number of people over time, and we weren’t sure what the rules were. We discussed teams, and decided against them. At one point, I forgot whether I was covering first base or if I had just run there. We didn’t keep score. When my friend Valerie banged out what looked like a base hit, I was too busy cheering for her to catch the ball and tag her out.

At one point, one man said he had lost track of what alliances were which, and another looked surprised and asked if there were in fact alliances. Jules said, “It’s every man for himself. It’s the wiffle ball way”

It was wonderful.

After about an hour of hitting a ball and jogging around, we broke for snacks and, okay, maybe a little rosé.

Charlottesville, sexism, racism, politics, and the balance between capitalism and public needs all came up in conversation. Some of us are well-compensated professionals benefiting from Washington’s lack of income tax. Some of us are struggling. We were in a public park. We noted this. Mostly the conversation was gentle, mostly because the group generally agreed.  Unlike on the field of play, there were moments when I felt the need to referee.

A couple strolling in the park saw our seltzer can bases and scooped them up. One of us groused, “Hey, they took our bases!” I said, no, honey, they cleaned up our mess.

I’ve talked to the wifflers since then, and we all want to play again when the sun comes back out in Seattle. When the afternoon was over and the food and okay, maybe a little rosé, was gone, the feeling of teamless sports lingered. Minds returned to openness, humor, relaxed boundaries and silliness. We weren’t perfect. The day wasn’t perfect. But we did our best: We stopped what we were doing, we stopped worrying and commenting online and reading upsetting news and feeling frustrated or angry or afraid and chose to focus on food, sunshine, hugs, and laughter.

There are always times when talk of politics, money and social woes spark anxiety, ego, and judgement. But what did we remember from our day in the park? Laughing. And what did everyone say they still needed? The recipe for the dip.


About pantsinspace

I'm an inch deep and a mile wide. Not literally. But literarily, sure.
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