Enchantment: Teaching Grown Ups How to Play
I have this little morning ritual where I light a candle and some incense then sit down and meditate. But before I zen out I choose a couple of angel cards from a deck I’ve had for years.
Part of me thinks, “Come on, what’s with the Hocus Pocus?” But I mostly ignore my cynical mind and look forward to my quiet time with the angels.
I don’t live and die by what comes up in the cards, but they do give me solace, hope and often amazingly accurate information about themes that will run through the day.
One card that often pops up is Enchantment. It’s one of my faves. It has a picture of a unicorn in the foreground and a mystical forest in the background. It’s a seductive scene that makes me want to jump in and walk through the forest with the unicorn looking for flowers and other magical things.
The basic message of this card is to see the world through the eyes of a child.
It’s a card that I mostly take with a grain of salt… “Yeah, yeah – nurture your inner child and all that.”
But actually, it’s such an important message. When I’m feeling stressed, anxious or depressed, life feels heavy, serious and the opposite of fun.
But a walk in the forest or along a beach, and a light-hearted moment with my kids always lifts my heart and seems to open me up to inspiration again.
The importance of play for childhood development is well documented, but I wonder when and why it stops being important for grown ups?
Why do we get serious and forget about magic and simple moments?
Kids have so much to teach us.
The Joy of Creativity…
A few weeks back I trekked down south with my family to spend some time with my Dad, on the farm where I grew up. Gosh darn it was a fun week… And it reminded me how important and soul-enriching play is for everyone, not just the kids.
As soon as we arrived my boys and their cousins wasted no time diving knee deep into fun.
They spent hours upon hours making a super-cubby out of an abandoned truck crate, which Dad (Pa) covered with a tarp so that the rain wouldn't hold up proceedings. They spent the next few days exploring the piles of discarded farm machinery, broken furniture, miscellaneous cogs, wheels and planks of wood that Pa has amassed over his lifetime on the farm, looking for building materials.
By the end of the week they had created a table out of a wooden fencing wire spindle, repaired broken chair skeletons by lashing bits of wood to their absent seats with baling twine, constructed mezzanine levels, and collected precious objects like dismembered wing mirrors, heavy rusted cogs and even created a pulley system from a broken unicycle and yet more baling twine.
It was fascinating to witness their unbridled creativity.
Remember how fun it was to sit in front of a table full of craft supplies and let your imagination run free with clag, icy pole sticks, pipe cleaners, old milk cartons and paint? When was the last time you gave yourself the time and permission to simply have fun creating?
The Joy of Exploring…
Kids love it when adults slow down enough to spend time with them.
But what I often forget is how fun it is for me to join the boys in their activities instead of always adulting from a distance…
When my sisters and I were kids one of our favourite pastimes was exploring the gullies, which seemed like vast and mysterious canyons. We’d start at the top and wander our way down, wading through streams and puddles, searching for precious pebbles, bugs and other treasure.
The boys naturally discovered this joy of their own accord and on one of the days I jumped on the bike with them and we all rode to the other end of the farm to explore.
They were excited to have me with them, and I was excited to be exploring again after so long.
It had been raining heavily so there was a stream flowing along the gully floor. We all climbed through the fence, and down into the canyon and had so much fun wading through the water, climbing over dead trees and discovering all sorts of fascinating things.
An old sheep skull sitting semi-submerged in a puddle, a swallow’s mud nest jutting out from the exposed earth wall, tree roots dangling down like one of the ancient tombs in Angkor Wat, precious stones with lines of gleaming quartz running though the middle.
I felt so happy and alive and wondered why I hadn’t taken the time to do this since I was a kid.
As we were walking back up the paddock to the bike I made a daisy chain and put it on my head. The boys were fascinated and wanted to know how I’d constructed it. Once again something I haven’t done for years.
As adults, we're consciously preoccupied with chasing happiness. We invest time, energy and money into study, career, advancement, money making, investments... So that we can find happiness. But all this mostly brings the opposite - stress, feelings of inadequacy, failure, insignificance... And a lack of time to pause long enough to know whether or not we are happy.
We forget that happiness comes from simple moments like wading through muddy puddles, examining bugs, sitting in a field of daisies and spending time with special people.
Yes sure growing up is about responsibilities, learning and growth. Income earning is necessary, as is feeling fulfilled and useful...
But we can do this much more effectively with the wonder and adventure we have as kids, than getting all serious and dull.
...And the creative inspiration we need to do anything well, whether it be painting or accounting, comes from the place kids naturally exist. Not from this grey, solitary cubicle we go to be adults.
The Joy of Misadventure…
Pa has a quad bike and a little trailer, which he lets the boys drive around the farm. A few of them sit on the bike and a few in the trailer.
One afternoon the boys took the bike out quite late in the day. As night fell and dinner was ready we started to wonder where they were.
We walked around calling them for a while and then with the first threads of mild worry starting to grip us we jumped in the car and drove over the paddocks to look for them.
It was cold, dark and wet… So wet we almost got bogged.
Finally, at the other end of the farm we found them. Five little boys in the dark and rain waving at us as though they had been lost in the ocean.
But were they worried or scared?
Nope, they were laughing and having a great time. We shone the torch down at little Sid, the youngest of the cousins and all burst out laughing when we saw that his face was caked in mud.
And he was so proud of that mud that he didn't want to wash it off later in the bath.
Adventures, and better yet misadventures can be some of the happiest moments in life, yet as adults we mostly play it safe. I know for myself, the most vivid memories from my years of backpacking around the world were the times when things went awry – portals to adventure.
And More Misadventure…
On one of the days my sister and I and all five little boys piled on to the bike and trailer and drove all the way up past the ‘top paddock’ to a section of bush where we used to come with our grandma and cook sausages over a camp fire.
The bush was blushing with growth after all the rain. Wildflowers adorned the forest floor and the smell, oh the smell of the bush after rain. It felt like being in an oxygen chamber. I could feel each cell of my body filling up with forest love.
We sat on a fallen tree and ate biscuits, then explored a little creek. The kids threw off their shoes and started adventuring. At first we stood back and fussed over them staying dry. But they looked so happy we eventually gave up and joined them. Little Sid was saturated head to toe and in bliss - as you can see.
What a joyous afternoon it was... But the real fun started when things went a little bit wrong...
On the way home we got the bike hopelessly bogged.
Clearly we'd successfully left our adult shells behind because we didn't have a phone between us.
Remember those days? Before mobile phones? When if you wanted to visit someone you just turned up, and if you got stranded or broke down you had to walk somewhere. It still worked, we didn’t die, and we had a hell of a lot more fun along the way.
After trying unsuccessfully to get the bike out (see the branches) we left the big boys (who were already covered in thick clay mud) to keep mud frolicking and mind the bike, and walked home to get help.
When we asked the boys what their highlights of the week had been, they said: getting bogged!
Supposedly as adults we guide children and teach them what they need to know to be well functioning adults – And sure this is true at a practical survival level – But simultaneously children are always reminding us of all the important stuff that we need as grown ups to live happy, fulfilled lives…
Like living in the moment: where stopping to look at a bug, a slug or a flower is much more important than working overtime or rushing home to cook or clean. Like getting wet and muddy and not caring. Like laughing, telling jokes, building cubbies and being endlessly creative... Oh and like realising that the happiest moments happen when things don't go to plan.