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.