- Mountains And Waters
To know play, remember.
For me, the memory goes back to the house where I lived from ages three to twelve. One summer I spent hours perfecting “tricks” on the swing set, demanding my mother watch again and again until she said no. My own body was the universe, and I was finding out what it could do. Another year I found the wild iris like a miracle back in the wild spaces, and every year after spent weeks in the spring looking for them until I remembered where they were, under the two tall spruce trees, and learned when they arrived, late May. Every year I picked raspberries that my mother made into pies, cobblers, and jams. I couldn’t imagine how people lived with their back yard shoved up against somebody else’s yard – like a prison. But some of those children were playing ball on city streets, or roaming the urban wilderness with their friends.
I can’t remember my own discovery of my fingers and toes. But I remember some of my grandchildrens’ first learnings, and my childrens’ are somewhere in memory. I was there when my first grandchild first climbed down the stairs instead of up. The exploration of physical reality, the ability to grasp, learning to walk, learning to run, learning to manage our own bodies – these are play, even while they’re the most important work. Play is how we become ourselves.
Go to the wildest place you can easily find. Writing that, I think of trees and unmanaged plants, forests and rivers and oceans and rocky bluffs – but this is not the whole thing. Weeds pushing up through a sidewalk. Children running wild. Wild party dancing? Sitting zazen? The beach, with dead fish and seaweed washed up on it, or marshes and mosquitoes and damselflies, or climbing a steep hillside during January thaw and getting a little scared, learning how to stay safe. I don’t know. Go and let it soak into you, spend some time, give it your full attention. And if you feel like digging a hole, building a sand castle, walking on a log, playing pirate – please do.
Please write a comment on this post, and tell us somewhere you’ve found the wild. Short is fine. Take a chance, be the first. Do it as play, we can play together and encourage each other with words. (I’ll write one too.)
Playing by Heart: The Vision and Practice of Belonging – O. Fred Donaldson – this was utterly inspiring. I gave my copy to a friend who was planning to become an elementary school teacher; I hope it helped him play in the classroom.
Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder – Richard Louv. This is more about why than how. It’s convincing.
And please get these books from your local library (they’ll probably buy it for you) or your local bookstore, not the giants.
That’s it for now.
My plans for next week are to finally catch up with the journal postings from last summer’s trip. I’ll make a note here when I do it.