When some people think of autumn, they think of vibrant leaves, football, pumpkins, hot apple cider. I think of these things, too, but I also think of how I spent many of those September, October, and early November evenings in my small Minnesota town: shooting baskets by myself at South Park, three blocks from my house.
My evening chore of drying dishes completed, and clad in a hooded sweatshirt, I rode my ten-speed–basketball tucked under one arm–past the baseball diamond, the hockey rink, the swimming pool, and one more block, until I reached the park. The heat of summer was a distant memory, and the soft chill was in the air.
The court (at that time), was a tennis court converted to a basketball court (the posts for the tennis nets having been removed), with the white lines remaining on that tennis-court green surface. Two baskets were set up, one on the south end, one on the north. I always shot at the north hoop.
As the sun finished its decent, the beams found their way through the leaves of the massive oak trees in the park and to me as I shot jump shot after jump shot, the court to myself. Eventually, I had to switch on the park lights, the unlocked box a privilege of living in a small town.
As much as I loved basketball season itself (the practices, the games, the stay against the madness of Minnesota winters), I think I loved those fall evenings by myself even more. I was in control. If I wanted to launch twenty-footer after twenty-footer, I could.
I also am convinced that my love for basketball, and my willingness to practice hour after hour by myself, was preparing me for the work of being a writer. If you write (any thing of any length), you must be willing to spend hour after hour by yourself working on the piece. (I realize this last statement isn’t shocking or newsworthy.) But I’m perfectly fine spending hour after hour by myself working on a story or essay draft or even a poem, before returning to the world of human beings.
When I consider how I spent those evenings during my upper elementary, junior high, and high school years, I think about how much daydreaming I did. Some of it was reliving previous games I’d played in, some of it was anticipating future games I would play in, some of it was longing for the attention of a particular girl (of course), but there was also the freedom to let my mind wander while actively doing something I enjoyed.
So while deep in the heart of Texas in a (warmer autumn) and there’s obsession with (and devotion to) football, I’ll be applying the lessons I learned on those beautiful autumn nights at a rinky-dink park in Minnesota.
Note: This post is also appearing on my basketball blog: thehoopsdoc.wordpress.com