If you arrived at the school this morning before classes, you would have seen the sun shining down on the empty field, the grass cut in wider and wider circles around the cricket pitch in the centre. We are hosting the Canadian High School Cricket Championships, and more than one person observed this morning that the grounds never looked better. Of course the mix of sun and rain we’ve had in the past few weeks has made for lush growing conditions, but there is more to it than that.
Cricket pitches historically have owed a great deal to groundskeepers. At SMUS, the actual pitch is artificial, with a mat laid on top. In most of the cricket-playing world, however, the game is played entirely on the grass, which is rolled, and cut, and watered and fertilized according to a combination of art and science. The science portion of groundskeeping has swelled a lot in the past fifty years; prior to that, perfecting the grass depended more on the art of it, which consisted of traditional knowledge, inspired intuition. Even today, however, with all the science we have at our disposal, most playing fields do not evoke the comparisons with perfection that our front field evokes. We repeatedly get requests for the use of our playing fields. Some people tell us they are the best in Victoria.
Before I turned up the steps to my office this morning I went out beyond our iconic tree in front of School House, onto the field where Doug Park and his colleagues on the grounds staff were raking some piles of fresh cut grass. “We had a plan,” Doug said, “but it was too wet, so we have to rake.” Fresh cut grass has a wonderful smell that transports nearly everyone to some favorite memory, but Doug and his crew were not so transported this morning. Instead, they were busily and efficiently raking the grass, no doubt wondering how they were going to complete the other tasks on their schedule, since these tasks would now be telescoped into a shorter span of time.
Our grounds staff do a wonderful job, along with their colleagues who fix things and move things to set up for events. My rumination here on the state of the playing fields is a roundabout way of giving them their due, briefly. This was a day surrounded by other events on the calendar, many of which they also contributed to: the Concerto Concert on Wednesday night, Grade Twelve Plays, Walk for Water, other sports championships. Vivat!