I was a grubby little girl. Grimy and dirty and messy with stringy dishwater brown hair that turned blond from spending too much time playing make-believe outside with my brother and sister out in the country. My sister ate ants. Just to gross us out. She said “pretend they have chocolate on them and have a bite.” I drew the line at eating ants. But other then that, we were little country bumbkins frolicking through the acres of meadows and fields that was our playground.
There was always dirt under my fingernails. A lot of the time it was because I was digging a pathway to China, or digging for gold, or had determined that there was a lost city like Pompeii right underneath the garden that nobody had discovered yet.
My mother spent a lot of time saying “Comb your hair.” and I would say, “I just did.” It wouldn’t matter. It wasn’t meant to be combed looking. Still isn’t for that matter. I’ve just accepted it now. I have jumbly hair. It does what it wants. And it doesn’t want to looked combed.
My Father was the most dismayed. His expectation was that his daughters would look like proper princesses. And that at a moments notice we could be taken out and shown off as the little delights we were supposed to be. Except I wasn’t a delight. I was a disaster. He often lectured me on the state and condition of my legs and knees. Crawling around in the dirt didn’t do a lot for my lady-like calves. I was always sporting a multitude of scrapes, bruises, cuts and band-aids. When they would dress me up I looked like a battle victim from the knees down.
I don’t remember having a lot of store bought toys when the three of us were kids. I remember having books-lots and lots and mountains of books, and play-dough and markers and finger-paint and acres of land with gardens and trees and dirt.
“Pretend that we’ve just discovered a secret cave and we are the only ones who live here, and we have to find stones to make a campfire, and food to eat, and hunt and where will we sleep and how will we live..” and on and on went every adventure. My brother, being much younger, may, if you ask him, tell you that his childhood memories center around “go fetch this and go fetch that and here-lug that over there and here- lug this big tree branch here to make a fort over there. My sister and I were the dreamers. The schemers that made imaginary worlds out of grass and trees and gardens and dirt.
Despite our parents attempts to keep us from looking unruly, I’ve never regretted a single scraped knee. Those years of fearless abandonment of rules and structure, hours of imaginary free play, shaped and formed who I am today.
I struggle against the conformity of over-scheduling that our kids ( even mine) are dealing with in society today. I struggle against the scheduling that we as adults face on a daily basis. Every minute booked up. I long to run free and play in the fields, letting my imagination run along beside me.
In my life I have found ways to gain those moments of unabashed freedom. My morning quiet time, journal writing, now adding back in fiction writing, the greatest “let’s pretend” of them all. My gardening lets me get literally down in the dirt, hands full of the rich brown loam, planting seeds, participating in the bringing forth of new green life, new flowers, fruit, vegetables. The anticipations of the first harvest of summer, the excitement almost…brings back that childlike thrill.
Remembering to take the time to play, letting go, letting the creative juices run wild and uninhibited returns us to a more natural state. A state of mind without fear. A child-like state of mind where creativity is as natural as a flowing current of water.
In a happy, playful child there is no fear of failure. No fear of success. No “what if they see me acting like a fool, what if I’m not the best. What if I AM the best?” There is no deadline to beat, no quota to match, No target to topple.
There is giggling, there is laughter. There is adventure, there is fun. There is the restoration of the spirit. There is growth. There is love.
When is the last time you got down and played? Went out and romped in the sun, went for a ramble with no destination, wandered about for a new place to discover? When was the last time you went digging in the dirt, not afraid to get dirty, not afraid to be caught being a mess, not afraid of what others thought?
When was the last time you were completly uninhibited, without a care in the world, skinned knees and all, flaws and all, exposed in all your authenticity?
Would you like to come and play in the dirt with me? It’s fun. After all. Seeds grow in the dirt. You never know what might happen there.
Janice Cartier says
I love this post. Life unplugged let’s a lot of ideas run around barefoot.
Darren Daz Cox says
I’m the poster (inner) child of your blog I feel, I play in the sand on the beach, I pick up stranded horseshoe crabs and put them back into the ocean and last week i bought a pack of organic cucumber seeds and put them in my dead fern pot in my apt (i have no loam of my own except in pots inside) and they grew 4 inches over the weekend!!!!! I’ve been tripping out over them for days now!!!!
Play keeps us young. It is the fountain of life. And yes, I believe you are ethe poster child. When the book comes out, I just may put you right on the cover arms outstretched on the beach.
thank you, yes I guess it does go in the unplugged section. Its important to unplug. Got to have down time.
Brett Legree says
A wonderful post, and what Janice said is pretty interesting on a physical level. You take off your shoes and socks, and go outside to feel the ground. The grass. The dirt. Nothing like it at all.
I think it is important that we do not isolate ourselves too much from Mother Earth. Without her, we would be nothing. And we can learn so much from simply getting dirty, getting back to basics.
Karen Swim says
Wendi, what an incredible post! It comes at a time when I am yearning to spin around in circles in the grass, pitch rocks into the pond and play until I collapse in a heap under the moonlight. We all need to reconnect with that inner sense of play and the freedom that comes with it. Funny, my post tomorrow is along these same minds. I guess girls really do wanna have fun! 🙂
Janice Cartier says
YES, we do Karen. :)))
Seeds of our dreams… ahhhh…makes me smile to see all the good thoughts here.
Hooray! I love it! Play is beautiful because it’s not about winning and losing, it’s just about the actual doing. Well put. I used to try to brew disgusting batches of slop by filling a bucket with water and as much gross crap as I could find in the yard. Now, like you, I garden. The best part is pulling a weed and have it leave a green streak on my hands; it’s like a life-affirming victory badge. Viva dirt!
Barbara Swafford says
I’d love to play in the dirt with you. Your childhood sounds similar to mine, except I used to catch frogs and scare my sister. I would catch horse flies and grasshoppers for my dad as that’s what he used for fishing bait. We would catch fire flies at night and trap them in a bottle so we could watch them flashing when we went to bed. And like you, my knees were always covered in bandaids. I was always in a hurry to get “someplace”, tripping and falling along the way.
Oh yes, those were the days. Now I love to dig in the dirt of my garden and watch flowers grow from seed. I find it truly amazing, relaxing and rewarding.
Remembering my childhood days….. yes. Those were great moments. I have bruises all the time, had those “little accidents” but those were the times where I’m happier. My mom would shake her head realizing that I will never grow up having “flawless” skin, and would never walk like a “woman” hahaha.
>>seeds grow in the dirt<< — this is beautiful! I have to repeat this sentence a few times. It’s a good reminder every time those motivation-meter is at its lowest. 🙂
Beautiful. My childhood was very similar, even down to the younger sibling who was thrilled then (and wouldn’t tell the story the same way now). Lots of adventures, lots of books (hence all the adventuring), lots of artwork and few toys, which encouraged creativity.
I try to keep that feeling with me, and I’m certainly more of a free spirit than a lot of folks, but oh, it’s easy to get caught up in running around and forget to run free. Thanks for this post. It’s a great reminder.
Melissa Donovan says
Wendi, I think you and I are playing in the dirt over at ER (hehee). You’re so right. Grownups need to loosen up and run carefree, get dirty and be uninhibited. I like that word: uninhibited. And this post is just in time for summer (yay!).
Whan I was about 13, our family vacationned on the Bay of Fundy (New Brusnwick), which has the highest tides in the world.
There’s one place, where at low tide, you can walk out on the mud flats….for miles and miles. As far as you can see, all the way to the horizon, is dark brown squishy WET MUD.
The sheer delight of feeling the ooze squish between our toes, and getting totally filthy…it was one of my best childhood memories.
OOZE, Friar, sounds just lovely. A wonderful childhood memory. I want my kids to have some of those memories to look back on. Not just “Hurry up we’r gonna be late!
Yes, it is a fun playground isn’t? And I have a feeling there is some good dark dirt just up ahead!
I think it is a gift to have a creative childhood. a huge gift to be able to give that to your kids.
I remember catching frogs in my grandmothers pond. My sister ( The same one) who liked all things french would tell us you could eat Frog’s legs and I didn’t believe her. Imagine my surprise when I found out she was telling the truth! I was So grossed out!
so good to see you! Yeah, the skinned knees. To be honest, I still have them. I haven’t changed all that much. I takes lots of showers now, but I still get dirt under my fingernails during gardening season.
Wendi, I think we had very similar childhoods. I remember not having a care in the world. I have often longed to go back there, with no responsibilities, etc. I remember not wanting to grow up. The dirt and the huts were my life. Every child should have those memories in my opinion. I do think that is where we find ourselves. I think we can learn a lot about who we are from our childhood. I think we should all set aside time to have those free, no responsibility days of playing in the dirt with no thought of time. I can’t say our whole lives should be that way, but I think we all need those days to refresh ourselves and remember who we are and to remind us to slow down and to refocus on what’s really important. Thanks for this post and taking me way back!
Janice Cartier says
Lots of playful spirits here…might have to take off my shoes and water the plants.
Janice Cartier says
Outside that is except they do not need it..hm…pull a weed or two? Watch the blue jays attack the squirrels. or just remember all the forts we made and trees we climbed as kids….