Friday, October 05, 2012
Another Friday is a good thing. It means that, for most of us, the work week is ending and we have free time to play for two days. Unfortunately play is usually shop, garden, clean house and do other chores we didn't get to all week. But every one of us needs real play, the kind that we did when we were kids.
I remember playing when I was young. We'd go outside and roam the neighborhood, sometime with our friends and sometimes alone. Our house backed up to the San Gabriel Mountains, a rugged mountain wilderness at the northeastern edge of the Los Angeles area. I'd follow the bridal trail right behind my house over towards Jet Propulsion Laboratory to meet up with my friends. We would go up the canyon to our "fort," a special manzanita tree that created a wonderful tent of its outer branches, reaching nearly to the ground. After a rainstorm water would roar down the gully at one side of our fort, creating a whole new beauty and place to play.
One day we were hiking the fourth trail up (we'd named the trails by how far into the mountains they were from the bridal trail) and went around a bend, suddenly meeting up with freshly turned dirt and a bulldozer digging out new home sites in the pristine wilderness. We could have been devastated that our "playground" was being ruined, but where the housing developers were dumping their excavated dirt, it made a soft mountain that we climbed and slid down like it was snow. We went up and down until dark when our parents yelled for us from the houses. Although I don't recall what happened, I would be willing to bet that our parents were appalled at the amount of dirt we brought home.
That game only lasted a few days, but it has lasted a lifetime in my memory. Now I play in the same way by hiking in the wilderness and rafting. Active play is important to everyone. It is a major stress-buster and your problems vanish in the experience of the moment. You usually don't eat when you are actively playing (like hiking, splashing in the surf, throwing the ball for your dog). I have fibromyalgia so I understand the limitations that disability can place on people who may want to be active but can't. But if you can, go have some fun and play.