The Forest for the Trees

When I was young, my family lived in a little town about an hour outside of Edmonton. Despite the small size I thought it was a great place to live because there were lots of kids to play with.

Our house was located pretty much in the centre of things. That, combined with the fact that we had a large, unfenced backyard, meant that most children in town ended up at our place. My parents bought an amazing playset for our backyard. It had two swings, a gymnastics bar, a teeter-totter and a carriage swing so a lot of us could play at the same time.

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The other thing that made our yard so entertaining was the forest of trees between our house and the neighbour's driveway. 

One day the forest would be a huge ship and we would jump from tree to tree as we dodged pirates and stayed clear of the crocodile-infested water beneath us. The next day it was our hide-out as we climbed amongst the branches escaping from the bad guys who laid chase. Other days we headed through our jungle in search of lions and tigers. The games we created let our imaginations soar and that vast forest was the scene of the most amazing adventures.

Returning as an adult years later meant seeing the town with different eyes. Much had changed. The store was gone, the school had been closed and different families were living in the familiar houses. Most striking, though, was heading into my former backyard and into the forest that had been the setting for our adventures. That dense, immense forest was … scraggly trees – covering a few square feet of land. 

While it's true we need to develop maturing perspectives and be ready to see the world differently as we age, I wish in the process we didn't lose some of the childhood joy we used to find in things. As children, a cluster of trees inspired imagination and play, not moans about dead branches or mounds of leaves. As children, sidewalks and driveways were basketball courts, "home free", or canvasses for chalk art, not maintenance challenges and snow shovelling frustrations.

Remember our birthdays as children? We couldn't wait to tell everyone how old we were. But as adults many seem reluctant to share their age, acting as if there is something wrong with getting older. 

And think of how we used to feel about getting our picture taken. As children most would love it when a camera was brought out and we could mug away. We couldn't wait to see how we looked. As adults we often cringe in the presence of a camera because we're so busy critiquing the weight we have gained, the hair we have lost or the clothes we are wearing. Why not, instead, see the pictures as precious holders of memories; capturing a certain moment or event that we can revisit again and again – without the critical grown-up lens.

Certainly as adults the world looks different. But consider everything that could be so much more amazing if we were to recall the wonder of looking at our lives through childlike eyes. Today … play, skip or find some sidewalk chalk and create. Or take the time to sit, listen and delight in the sounds of children at play. Think of it as something you can capture … or re-capture … right now.

Find the spontaneous joy in whatever you are doing and rediscover forests, birthdays, photographs and the things of life that can put a childlike smile on your face. That's my outlook.

© Copyright Carlyle Observer


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