Observations from the Playground

A little girl around the age of five walked around the playground in sea-green leggings and a pink tee-shirt. Her wild wavy hair was the same color as her tanned skin, a golden brown that saw hours of sun. She walked toward the stairs of the play structure and stopped. “Oh no.” She said.

“What?” Another little girl asked.

She was smaller, thinner and darker. Her long black hair held more curls but was neatly pulled together in a tight pony tail. She followed the golden girl around – mimicked her every move – stomped on the same piles of wood chips on the concrete balance beam that lined the playground.

“Boys.” The golden girl shook her head and advanced with care.

But the little one did not follow. Instead, she chose another direction.

Four children climbed up four tether-ball poles. Their backpacks splayed across the blacktop underneath them. One of them was my daughter’s. She laughed as she struggled to climb further up the pole. The other three poles had boys dangling from the tops of them. They all looked like circus performers: acrobats doing tricks for an audience. I love to be in their audience. They always amuse and enchant me. And I never have to pay for a ticket to the playground.

While Abe plays in a baby bath tub shaped like a whale, I read to him. I love our new ritual. I think he loves it too. I know it is good for us, for his brain and language development, and for my confidence when writing and speaking.

I’m currently reading The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan. A quote I read in Chapter 1, Desire: Sweetness, Plant: The Apple, reminded me of raising children. I wanted to remember it but I had nothing to underline, highlight or write with. And I was afraid to leave Abe because he liked to stand up in his tub, put his foot on the edge and reach for all of the bottles on the outer tubs rim. For the moment, he sat happily splashing in his little pond of water so I decided to make a run for it. I rushed out of the bathroom, grabbed the highlighter in the top drawer of my desk, and ran back in less than ten seconds. Abe sat there and smiled sweetly. I smiled in return and then highlighted the quote:

 “Yet as the modern apple’s story suggests, domestication can be overdone, the human quest to control nature’s wildness can go too far. To domesticate another species is to bring it under culture’s roof, but when people rely on too few genes for too long, a plant loses its ability to get along on its own, outdoors.”

I thought of how “domestication can be overdone.” Children are naturally wild and “the human quest to control nature’s wildness can go too far.” We try to domesticate children, to tame them, to control them. We teach them to be calm and still. But children are curious and crafty. They are explorers who naturally love to learn and play. We need to give them room to run wild and explore, in order to avoid “a plant los[ing] its ability to get along on its own, outdoors.” If we try to control them too much, if we “overly domesticatethem, they will lose their natural, inherent sense to discover, to experiment and be joyful. I believe children are happiest when they see the world as a playground.

A few days ago I caught myself telling one of my daughters, “Does this look like a playground?”

She had her roller skates on – in the house! I did not want her rolling those dirty wheels all over the floors.

But when I think of Abe splashing in the little blue whale inside of our bath tub, I see our home as a playground. He’s learning how to play here; he’s exploring: crawling, walking, reaching for things, and trying to climb up higher and higher. When he eats: he holds a piece of food in his hands, looks down at the floor and finds the perfect spot to drop it. I told the family, “It’s his art. The floor is his canvas.”

Sometimes I forget we are living in a playground. That doesn’t mean I want roller skates or food all over the carpets. But play does happen here, so does learning, experimenting, and growing. My children are beautiful plants always in bloom. And I will never again ask, “Does this look like a playground?” Because I know, it is.

Used Books & Hidden Treasures.

I recently ventured to a local used book shop to stock up on books as I wait for my little prince to make his grand entrance. The days are longer now, filled with longing and impatience. Reading is helping to pass the time and occupy my mind.

This year I set a goal to read 12 books. One book a month. It’s June and I’m halfway through book 11.

My “pregnancy brain” is getting a good work out and my vocabulary is improving. When I write, I notice new words popping-up to wow me. I smile, pleasantly surprised, and grow a little taller in my chair.

At the book shop, I picked out four memoirs to further study The Art of Memoir (book 8 by Mary Karr). I’m traveling down the non-fiction road, writing my own path, and plotting along the way.

Book 11, A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, was one of the purchases I casually flipped through and decided to take home.

As I opened it to read, I discovered an inscription from the author: For Ariane – Hope you enjoy my little story…bon appetite! Cheryl Tan June 3, 2011.

This is what I love about used books. There’s always hidden treasures inside.

In book 3, Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, M.D., I found a green juice recipe on the back of a piece of paper torn from the “Daily Teachings” of The Secret. This page is Sunday, Day 70, and has a quote from Buddha on it: “If a man’s mind becomes pure, his surroundings will also become pure.”

The recipe, titled “Juice,” is written and underlined in black ink with the following ingredients listed below:

1 bunch Kale

4 stalks Celery

1 Cuke

2 Granny Smith Apples

½ Lemon

Ginger Root

Each ingredient (including the title) is highlighted. I don’t know what the purpose of this is. Is it a way of checking off each ingredient as she purchased it? Why is the title highlighted? Was it just for fun? A way of showing enthusiasm for health?

And in the last book I read (book 10), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, I found a ticket to Cass Park Aquatics Center dated July 28, 2009. The phrases, “GOOD ONLY FOR DAY ISSUED” and “SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK” stood out in bold letters.

The warning to “swim at your own risk” screamed at me. I was reading a book of mystery at the time. Everything seems risky when you’re looking for the answers to who done it.

I wonder if the person who went into the aquatics center felt risky or if they ignored the blaring words on a ticket they might have purchased numerous times before. Maybe, he/she is an avid swimmer. However, the ticket in the book would indicate he or she sat on the sidelines reading and faintly watching the water fun. After all, the ticket did make for a good book mark.

I’ll never know for sure. But I love these little clues to the book’s previous lives. The hands that held them and took them along their travels.

I have books with notes in them. Lines that are highlighted or underlined, help me peer into other minds and wonder, what were they looking for?

Lines marked to remember, remind me to remember. The words, the books, the hands and minds that connect us. The people who loved and let go. My finger prints on theirs. I become a part of their journey.

And here you are, passing along the words.

The journey continues…

The Art of…

On May 16th, I received an email from writer Jeff Goins stating his best-selling book was on sale for three dollars. I like a good deal. So, I opened my Nook and purchased his book – The Art of Work.

I then searched for a book written by Mary Karr. I felt inspired by Mary during her interview with Danielle LaPorte and Linda Sivertsen on the Beautiful Writers Podcast. I didn’t know the title of her book so I searched “memoir” and in an instant, I found her book – The Art of Memoir.  

After my purchases, I set my Nook down and picked up my iPhone to do my school work. I am currently enrolled in a health coaching course through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. And yes, there’s an app for that. I clicked the little white square with the red swirl and discovered the next lecture was, Master the Art of living with Bernie Siegel, MD.

Wow, I thought, synchronicity at it’s finest. Today must be “The Art of…” day.

I thought about what I would write. What would my “The Art of…” be?

Any subject can be written about as a work of art. The art of traffic. The art of swearing. The art of laundry. The art of walking the dog…

I threw in walking the dog because in order to master the art of anything, it must be something you do constantly. And I am constantly taking Bubba out to pee. It is part of my every day routine and a time when I am forced to be still while my dog, who is slower than snails, pees.   

Recently, as I waited for Bubba to pee, I noticed two snails on the sidewalk almost parallel to one another. One snail was slightly ahead of the other. If I had my phone I would have taken picture and posted it on Instagram with a cheesy caption like: “And they’re off. Place your bets.”

I took turns between watching the race and Bubba, until I finally drifted off, staring into space, floating in my thoughts. Depression was on my mind. I thought about the ways I’ve managed my depression. And I found a swell of pride rise from within for the work I have done and continue to do to in order to take better care of myself.  

Meanwhile, Bubba was still peeing. When he finally finished and I snapped back to reality, I looked over at the snails and they had made it to the other side of the walkway. My dog pees as long as it takes snails to cross a path! I was amazed and slightly irritated. 

…  

On “The Art of” day, as Bubba and I paused on a grassy patch equipped with a poop bin, I spotted a single dandelion sprouting out of the grass. One seed of inspiration.

I once asked God for this particular sign. At the time, like usual, I was desperate for direction with my writing. I asked God to give me dandelions to help lead the way. And there it was, a tall dandelion in full bloom, on “The Art of” day.

Was it a signal to write my own “The Art of…?” Perhaps, my art will be: The Art of Finding Inspiration while Peeing Slower than Snails or something like that.

After contemplating my own “art,” my thoughts steered toward more practical things I should do with my time, such as cleaning, meal planning and grocery shopping. But, after walking the dog, doing my school work and writing a blog all I really wanted to do was eat, watch Julie & Julia “Master the Art of French Cooking,” lie down and master the art of napping.

So, that is what I did. Because, art is a lot of things but rarely ever practical.