It was my fault Benjamin almost lost his squishy blue spiky ball in the Barton Creek Greenbelt. Benjamin found it a while back on a cold, misty day at Walnut Creek park. It’s got stories to tell, I’m sure. I’ve never seen another one like it. It’s kept in a box in the closet away from his chomping jaws. On special swimming days it comes with us. He never loses this ball. Never. He will always swim out to fetch it back. Every time. He has never failed to return to shore with that ball bouncing out from his jaws.
Then, instead of throwing it out for him to catch, I dropped the ball. Dropped it right into the fall. Bubbling, spitting crashing white. Rushing under, over smooth worn rock. The water trapped the ball that floated and bounced so well. Until it was released into the current, going away from us. We watched — the both of us. Maybe, Benny thought, he could get it. Maybe, this rock — he stepped securely onto a slippery slimed water run rock — could get him close enough. He stepped back next to me. Reached his neck out far over the edge of the pockmarked rock — measuring — he thought, maybe he could jump over all the deafening noise. He can swim. He can jump. He can’t jump that far.
I couldn’t let it just float away. I had walked carefully through the water to get there — my lost and found yoga pants clinging wet. Now, I slid bottom down into the water, not caring about soaking the edges of my closet discarded loose knit sweater. I sat to put on my frayed double-knotted sneakers, losing sight of the ball, but didn’t bother to spot it again before walking fast down the trail, downstream. Benny trotting beside behind me.
We found another path into the creek — a smaller fall, a larger calmer shore. A couple sat there. A couple we’d seen earlier when they walked up to and away from our play. Disturbing their young lovers seclusion I ignored them. There — now upstream — across the wider creek the ball floated.
“There it is Benny! Get your ball! See! Over there!” He stood at my side, he turned his head. I threw in a stick. It reached somewhere middle-ish. “See! Go! But really get your ball.” He thought “nah.”
I dropped my pack, heeled off my sneakers, and pulled off my sweater — underneath was a free t-shirt I’d gotten volunteering during a park trail building clean-up. Not looking for foot bruising roots or toe stubbing rocks I splashed, arms in front across. The ball was moving faster on the far other side of the creek. Benjamin followed somewhere behind me.
The water was deeper here — I’d not been swimming since last Summer, this current was stronger — but not so deep, I hoped, that I couldn’t walk. Perpendicular to the current I could move faster on foot than by kicks and strokes. The couple, I’m sure, was watching, wondering, laughing. Thinking about that made me laugh more.
I reached the ball and the opposite shore. “I got the ball,” I announced to Benjamin. “And you got the stick,” I laughed. He dropped it. Slip-stepping carelessly into the creek we crossed back to the other side — I walked, he swam.
Pulling the shoes back on, storing the ball, and stuffing the sweater into my pack I spied the couple getting into the water. We left them to their privacy. They would not — I was sure — have as much fun as I’d had in the last 45 seconds or 2 minutes.
Back at our fall — too rambunctious, too secluded, too deep for the people who nervously took off their shoes and socks, for the people who looked briefly. Dogs running down to lay in the semi-circle of pool were called away again.
I felt successful because I tried…happy because I succeeded…alive because I had jumped in without a swimsuit — who cared. Here — not just this bit of creek, but here by the water, by the trees and breezes is where I am happiest. Where I feel like life is good.
Here salads are mixed from being bounced sideways in a pack, cake is slightly smooshed, chips are broken. That sort of photography doesn’t fly in food writing. Outdoor cooking shoots are still staged. Travel foods are photographed before traveling. Somehow even the blogs, articles, and books about backyard dinners are well-lit and well-composed. No one is ever making a face. Dogs never steal from plates. None of that happens here. None of that matters here.