May 4, 2011


A friend of mine, who turned 60 last month, recently took a vacation in California where he met with family and friends and enjoyed a wonderful concert. He came back refreshed and so invigorated, he vowed to do it again… sooner rather than later. Naturally, being older and with a greater sense of time’s passage, I encouraged him in his profligacy. “If not now, when?” I said, though I am the last to tease. For me fun can come with a measure of guilt as I think about the serious work I could be doing.

But of course, play is a serious endeavor. Children learn by it and there must be a reason why that impulse stays with us into our adult years. I see it expressed in the purple and green hair of the younger generation and in the zircon belly button that peeks from under a pair of low cut jeans. Yesterday as I approached the park I watched a man with salt and pepper hair splashing in a rain puddle. When he saw me, he turned an embarrassed petal pink. “Is there room for two?” I asked, smiling at him. We both laughed then walked away in opposite directions, leaving the puddle to catch some other adult unaware. 

(courtesy: BingImages)

Rain pools are mischief makers. We all know that. And so are paths lined with thick shrubs. The boxwoods, as I entered the park, shook with giggling. I could hear them clearly and see them rustling too. Then suddenly, they spit out children, stragglers in a game of hide and seek. I watched the girls fly past me, their ribboned hair rippling in the wind while the boys nipped at their heels. In the blinking of an eye, the children were gone, flown to the far side of the park; but I could swear the boxwoods were still giggling with the spirit of them. 

To play is to express a form of wonder. I must do it more often as one is never too old to be a child again. Robert Frost knew this truth well. While thinking of his eventual passing he wrote:

       “I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,

       And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk,

       Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,

       But dipped and set me down again.

       That would be good both going and coming back.

       One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.”

 (Robert Frost, “Birches”)