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Winning at Solo Baseball

ON these last dry autumn evenings, just as the sun has fallen far enough behind the Douglas fir and hemlock to shade our yard, my daughter, Hallie, plays baseball.

The pitcher, my daughter, steps to the mound and tosses the ball aloft to the batter - my daughter. Her strong, slim eight-year-old arms straighten for the hit. The ball cracks into center field where her opponent, our golden retriever, Blitz, readies for the play.

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Hallie tosses aside off the bat and runs to first base. The commentator, my daughter, begins the play-by-play.

``And she's comin' into second, the dog is straining for the ball, straining ... no, look ... the dog has the ball and the batter runs home. Will she make it? The runner pushes up the hill.... Will she make it? Oh no, here comes the dog. He's running, he's panting, he's getting tired....''

Whoosh, she slides into home near the fading cosmos and old brown stalks of summer's shasta daisies. She leaps up to tackle the dog. ``Better luck next time,'' she tells him as they roll down the grass into left field.

Hallie has made her short life into a commentary of accomplishing the implausible. No one to play with, no problem. No catcher's mask, no problem. No bat - hey, we have plenty of sticks.

Endlessly adaptable, she controls situations with a little ingenuity and a twist of her independent vision. She takes whatever a moment presents to her, whether it comes with usable tools or not.

I know if I take a photo of Hallie's game, it will be blurred, just as most pictures of my daughter are. So I keep the view of her in my mind. I find it there during the week as I drive to the market. I see her as I work or dig a plant into the garden.

Too complex to fit a label, Hallie has an inner passion for the immediate that I find instructive.

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I've seen her burst into cartwheels in the sand the way a singer might burst into song. I've watched her build houses at the water's edge. She keeps good company with others, yet her happiness doesn't seem to depend on them. She is often delightfully agreeable in one moment and firmly oppositional the next. Concrete has less lasting ability than Hallie when she is certain of something.

She represents the authenticity of someone who has not and apparently will not give in to needless conformity.

On the nights when I'm tired and my children are not, when necessary tasks are illuminated and my patience is dim, I wish for more compliant personalities for all of us.

During these dark hours, when passion shows itself in resistance, I summon a landscape of days where no boundaries are tested. Conformity is easier and less stressful than its counterpart. But as Hallie continues to challenge the accepted, I learn more about the tenacity needed to live an authentic life.

Together, we've redefined ``necessary'' to include the most unlikely: an occasional ice cream for breakfast; a spontaneous trip upriver to see a favorite bird; the boycott of restaurants that build too close to the water's edge or of establishments that encourage women to wear dresses; a solo baseball game because the air is clear and the dog is ready.

She inspires courage.

I've shown Hallie something about living with others; she's shown me about living with myself.

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