time to be

Photo by Lisa Tate

One look at this photo by my friend Lisa, and I was catapulted back through time, years flying by like so many roadside fenceposts. I landed decades in the past at my Granny Rogers’ house at the edge of a small North Carolina town named Creedmoor. The property to the south side of the house sloped down towards a wooded area, and at the bottom of the slope was an old woodshed.

Next to the woodshed was a large tree, from which a “Tarzan rope” was suspended. I don’t know who was responsible for it being there, but my brothers and I spent hours climbing up on the roof of the shed, grabbing hold of the rope, taking a flying leap, and swinging back and forth, back and forth, until the arcs of flight grew smaller and smaller and we finally dropped to the ground—only to climb right back up and do it all over again.

I suppose it’s a cliché to say that times were simpler then, but I think they really were. I can remember spending much of my childhood playing outdoors with my brothers or my friends with nothing but our imaginations to entertain us.  My friend Betty and I would go down to the creek a few blocks from my house and play for hours. No one ever seemed to worry about where we were or what we were doing. We seemed to have plenty of time to hang out this way, to just be.

It’s not that we didn’t do organized activities like swim team or church choir or Girl Scouts, but my memories of my childhood are mostly of just playing and being a kid. We entertained ourselves without the assistance of electronic devices—playing with our dolls and making up stories up about them, or pretending we were the Beatles’ or the Monkees’ girlfriends (even though we were only in single digits age-wise). We climbed trees, played badminton, and swung on backyard swingsets, pushing higher and higher until we hit that suspension spot where the swing would float for just a second before gravity won out over momentum.

I’ll be the first to say that the information age has added great benefits to our lives: the ability to stay in touch with far-flung family and friends, to get information about pretty much anything with the touch of a few buttons, to meet people of like minds who live on the other side of the world. However, I think these things make it all too easy to constantly focus on and stay engaged with the outside world, a world of non-stop activity.  The more things that are out there vying for our attention, enticing us to read this article or watch that video or listen to this song, the more we need to make a concerted effort to unplug, to reconnect with our inner selves, to stop doing and just be. Like children, we all need “play time”—times when we have no agenda, no tasks to accomplish, time to absorb our lives and let ourselves unfold.

Julia Cameron, in The Artist’s Way, urges her readers to make an “artist’s date” with themselves each week—to set aside time to do some activity that feeds their inner artist. This could be a trip to a museum, a fabric store, a movie, or a public garden—whatever feeds the creative part of them.

I think this is a great idea for anyone. Most of us are creative in one way or another, and even if you have trouble seeing yourself as creative, you can still benefit from setting aside time for yourself to do something fun. Just think of them as “play dates” that will feed your inner child. We all have one of those.

So…find a way to connect with the kid you once were. Make time in your life to just be. Find a way to play. Go for a walk in nature. Garden. Pick up a musical instrument. Take a yoga class. Draw a picture. Dance in the kitchen.

Me? I’m eyeing the oak tree in my back yard. I think it just might be perfect for a Tarzan swing.

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13 thoughts on “time to be

  1. It is so true that we need to ..especially children let go of the electronics..and let our imagination entertain us….I wrote about something similar to this a while back also….Diane

  2. Thank you for sharing my picture and reminding us all to “play.” I grew up on a farm in Creedmoor! How interesting that we probably roamed the same hills and crossed the same creeks not even knowing. lisa

  3. Interesting that you would write about those “good ole days”. I’ve been thinking about the games I used to play when I was a child and all of the things I did to amuse myself. I look at the children of today and feel a little sad for them because the majority of them will never know what I knew. Most of my days were filled with playing, creativity, and just hanging out.

    • I know what you mean. My mother has said more than once that I was a “happy child” and that I would play by myself and entertain myself for hours. I can still get lost in activities that I love (gardening, etc.) to the point of forgetting to eat…until I suddenly realize that I’m famished!

      One Christmas, my mom and dad made me a doll house out of cardboard boxes for the “Tammy & her family” dolls that I had asked for for Christmas. She “wallpapered” the walls of the dollhouse with wallpaper remnants, made doll beds from shoeboxes, and sewed pillows and bedspreads for them out of fabric scraps. I had some “bought” doll furniture, too, but most of it was homemade. Every Christmas, I took one of the lower branches trimmed from the bottom of our family Christmas tree and use it as my dolls’ Christmas tree, and I would wrap little jewelry boxes with leftover wrapping paper so that I had “presents” to put under the “tree.” I made other things, too, and I spent many, many hours playing with those dolls and that doll house. It was a breeding ground for my imagination!

      Luckily, although computer games are an ever-present temptation, my sister limits my niece’s time on such things and encourages her to play and make believe and read. She makes sure that my niece and her friends have the opportunity do a lot of creative things.

      • I love your doll house story. How creative of your mom and dad to make the house and for you to “dress” it. The xmas tree and presents you made is amazing. Thank you for sharing this part of your life.

        • The other part of the story is that Mom and Dad used my Barbie & Ken dolls to be sure the boxes they’d chosen were big enough for the dolls to stand up in. But when the “Tammy” dolls arrived, they were larger in scale than the Barbie dolls and didn’t fit. So, at the eleventh hour, Mom and Dad went and got more boxes and made a second doll house. The Tammy doll family lived in one, and Barbie and Midge and Skipper lived in the other. (Ken couldn’t live there, according to my parents, which I didn’t understand at all, of course!) Looking back, I think those doll houses were the best Christmas present I ever got. :)

  4. I have been wanting a swing for our yard for awhile. Last weekend, my neighbor across the street strung a bright yellow swing from the large oak in their front yard in front of their yellow house. I saw their young girl swinging on it almost immediately with her little fairy wings on. I looked at my husband and was telling him how much I wanted a bright yellow swing like that. He thought it was funny. However, he will be surprised one day to come home and see my yellow swing in the back yard. :) Disconnecting from all the devices we use is vital, I think, to being truly happy with yourself. Good points and great writing.

    • Thanks, Stephanie. I think the only reason I don’t have a swing yet is that the nearest limb on my oak (that would give enough room to swing) is at least thirty feet from the ground, and I haven’t figured out a way to get a rope over it. My compromise/back-up plan is to get a hammock…not quite the same, but still conducive to uplugging and freeing the mind to wander and daydream. :) (P.S. I hope you get your yellow swing! I can picture it already!)

      • I hope so too! I’ll try to take a picture of it and put it up on the website once it comes along. :) The hammock is a great idea. Another option is getting something between the swing and the hammock…a ‘swing chair.’ They swing a little while holding you suspended sitting up; it’s very soothing.

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