Outdoor Diary: Taking Time to Seize the Play

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humans outside episode 320

Are you too grown-up to notice and enjoy play? I don’t mean you avoid it on purpose. I mean your grown-up brain just doesn’t see it, isn’t used to allowing it, crowds it out with other stuff and is just so, well, responsible.

Kids don’t have this problem. Play is how they learn and what they know. But adults, on the other hand …

Here’s what I learned this week by taking time to seize the play, and what it did for me. Listen now.

Some of the good stuff:

[:31] Setting the stage on a beautiful summer day

[1:15] And then I forgot this thing

[1:36] The relief of play

[2:00] The burden of being a grown-up

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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

It was one of those beautiful Alaska summer days whose memory and warmth you live off of during the cold season. It was hot, but not too hot. There were no clouds. There were few bugs. The wildflowers were blooming. I knew we had to go somewhere for the boys to swim. OK, and maybe me. But mostly the boys.

It was also a busy day. My 11 year old had a taekwondo lesson in the early evening. I needed to make and feed him dinner first, then head to an indoor meeting for parents of high schoolers going into the new school year. In short, I had things to do.

So we loaded up the subaru and headed to the lake for 45 minutes. I expected the boys to get out there and play.

I forgot that playing is an option for me, too.

We walked down to a fenced fishing dock with an about 6-foot drop into the lake, perfect for jumping. The boys climbed over and I watched. And then I thought, hey, I think I need to swim too. So I did

We jumped in the lake over and over again, others kids out there while their parents hung back and watched — the role I usually took, too. We took goofy pictures, jumped in holding hands and generally had a great time just playing.

It felt amazing — a release and a relief in the midst of a busy day. I wasn’t box-checking or knocking off my to-do list. I was just playing with my kids like a kid.

As we drove home I started thinking about how unusual it was for me to just take time to play and how grateful I am that my kids give me an excuse to do so. It’s not an excuse I should NEED — but it is one I have somehow started requiring of myself. My kids help me take a beat and remember the power of play, how refreshing it is.

I am also a person who loves to tackle a challenge or work against a goal. Maybe this is your thing, too. It’s why I started my Humans Outside 365 challenge to see what would happen if I go outside every day. And really there’s nothing wrong with creating and keeping a habit — it’s a good thing. But if you start to do it for the habit’s sake, and forget to enjoy the benefits of it and all the wonder you can find through it, what really is the point?

And so I was reminded about the power of play — and that my outdoor habit affords me plenty of chances to find the opportunity for play and silliness and the joy of it all. And that I just need to look for them and take them when they come.

I’m sure there’s a quote from the book Peter Pan that would fit well here about how growing up is the worst possible thing you can do, and takes away the chance for all the good adventures of life. And maybe there’s something to that. If I’m busy being a grown-up and only thinking about grown-up things, and never noticing the non-grown up things available to me or ruling out things because their kid stuff, well, that’s boring.

But isn’t that what we do unintentionally? We chase goals and check lists and big things, but ignore the simple things that delight kids and could delight us. We make things complicated instead of stopping to see what it’s like to throw rocks in a lake, jump off a dock or ride a bike around a neighborhood. The play of kids is dictated by seizing and enjoying the limited things available to them — their worlds are smaller in size but somehow also bigger in possibilities. I, on the other hand, am so distracted by all the possibilities around me that I make things too complicated and fail to notice the little moments and to seize the play.

Here’s to taking time to play this week as these days of summer linger before the cool, quiet of winter comes. See pictures of how I’m playing on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. And share yours with me, too, with #humansoutside365. Until next time we’ll see you out there.

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