Image by Carmi Levy of Written Inc.. Used with permission.
Chess is loaded with ritual, I said to a friend over IM the other night. I didn’t elaborate, ended up riffing on the subject of old men in Greek Navy caps, playing chess in parks, their thick overcoats keeping them warm, their gnarled fingers moving each piece. I’m not a chess player myself. Or rather, I’m a bad chess player, on the rare occasions when I play, but I used to love watching the little kids playing with the giant pieces on the board on the ground at Santana Row.
There’s a ritual in that too, in being a kid. Lots of rituals. Little rituals like making a plaster hand print, posing for school pictures without having front teeth, writing a letter to Santa Claus, and bigger ones: first dates, first cars – events, yes, but rituals as well – though the ritual is in the planning, the saving, the practicing until you know how to kiss, know how to park, get your license, get the guy of your dreams.
I stand out on the deck each morning, each evening, and just let the outside air sink into my skin. I listen to the birds and small animals, hear the neighborhood sounds. This grounds me, but it also lets me know the way the neighborhood should sound. For the dogs, my practice of strapping on my pink digital watch is the beginning of their Going Out ritual. First the watch, then the jacket, then their leashes. They know which jackets and shoes are for walkies, and which are not. They’re that attuned to me.
But back to chess.
There’s structure in chess, and order. And yet there’s passion, too. Of those three things (passion, structure, order) Ritual is born. Watch the chess players caress the pieces as they set up their boards, some time. They have such reverence as they go about their stylized war games, plotting strategies and planning defeats while the chessmen slide and click against the board.
Magic in numbers, magic in squares, magic in two small dogs knowing that the Reeboks mean walkies and the pink Converse All-Stars do not.
Written for the December Project at CafeWriting, Option Two: Can You Picture That?