A thick mist echos from the mouths of each individual player as they stand at attention at the back of the field. The mist rises in a combined steam as if an oven stood at the end of the field, mouth wide open so as to accept any offering given. As if the bone-chilling cold wasn’t enough the lack of light left us in dry darkness until you step under the drowning lights, blazing above the field with an intensity so as to blind only the people who are unworthy, those who accept the blinding light look up into it and embrace it. They look past it into the desolate void of the press box where there often stand judges with low brow lines thick with thought and often contemplating who chances to win or lose. And for those who lose, to pick their poison, their place in the contest. Often those who have the artistry to look past the deafening lights, are also those who deserve the title, without the necessity of their poison being chosen.
As performers line the back of the field awaiting their turn simply to begin the charade, only practice, the placebo of their time’s production, a strong yet nervous stature floats through each individual. With chests puffed out and arms held steady their head aims towards the barren press box as if every crucial judge was up there not only criticising but admiring their every move, every flinch of the elbow and twitch of the mouth. Those of us in thin shoes, the color guard, spend our time still at attention, but with both serenity and urgency flowing through us as we dig our heels into the cold artificial ground. The plastic field replaces one of dirt, the dirt having contained disease ridden bugs and flies, of the dermaptera order, the hymenoptera, the orthoptera, twitching and itching at our skin. This plastic field isn’t fake, however. It’s not glamorous and popular and giddy about all the boys it meets. This field is like a home. It’s provided shelter and comfort and the gathering of friends who take the heartache out of a child who isn’t safe at home and who isn’t safe inside the school with that solid ground full of people with judgements, people who don’t understand that this isn’t only an activity it’s a family and a breeding ground for friendship and compassion among the giggles and protections of bullies and rough lives at home. The artificial grass underneath our toes is cold. No mist leaves it only lays on top and hardens into a crystal leaving it to seem numb until a true member steps on it, and with love and gratefulness towards the field frees it from it’s frost.
Each yardline of this field, 5 yards between each, guides the members with such intricacy and care so as to make successful any true member that uses it correctly. Not everyone is a true member. The field doesn’t work for everyone, not only does it laugh at those who laugh at it, it refuses the care and attention it has for those true enough to be grateful towards it.
This field is appreciative of those who come to watch it. Through it’s rubber balls that sink through the artificial grass, made of old tires and used gloves, is only dirt, soil, a life-giving, bug-giving cesspool. But people aren’t here for under this field. This field is the life giving aspect to the marching band, if not the disrespectful football players. Those who watch it for the true members, the true artisans and players and performers, sit in tall, metal, plain stands. Stands full of collected dirt, dirt from butts that fill them in an amazing performance, dirt from bugs and grass and soil and food from those who appreciate this family. Those who sit in the plastic, still dirty, but colorful seats of the stands are not special, only additions to the others prepared to see a beautiful artform portrayed for the ears, eyes and soul. And thus, while merely simple, a marching band practice performance begins.