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Going Outside

Going Outside


Early spring, and life suddenly takes on a third dimension. We turn outward, shed layers, and lift our faces to the sun. We penetrate distance, pull the old dead leaves away from the green shoots pushing up through the soil. Babies, babies, my wee one bleats and points..

With the assembling of C’s new old play fort, down in a nook among the trees, we have literally been ascending upward. In two short days our toddler has mastered the stationary ladders and the climbing wall. He hurls himself down the slides with a new sense of daring and prowess. Almost overnight, his two year old torso's grown pecs and abs. Even though he’s still in diapers, he is suddenly a little man.

I can sense him expanding, unfolding on the inside as he masters these physical skills. He has crossed a threshold. My little destroyer has become a creator.

Perhaps it began down at the fort with his dad during the construction phase. He sat on one of the platforms with a monkey wrench in hand, cranking a real bolt into the real wood. This was a far cry from his toy hammers and saws. But more real, and palpable than anything, I know, was the sense of his father’s nearness as he took in the gentle, guiding tones of his voice, breathed in his earthy, masculine smell. Perhaps it was in that moment that he acquired this new pride of ownership. May I help? has become his question of the day.

And suddenly, instead of knocking down the tower of blocks before you could build it with him, he’s calling you into the room, taking your hand, pulling you over to the coffee table where he has constructed a tower ten blocks high. He wants to put his dinosaur puzzle together, and admire the complete picture it makes, maybe even count the number of flying taradactyls, or tell you which dinosaur is the daddy.

An old friend of Daddy’s stops by to pay a visit while we are down in those woods, pulling up roots, raking up the chopped down shrubs to make a smooth surface for the mulch. Our little C begins, in monkey fashion, to climb the high tower. Look at me, he says. I do-nin it all by myself. I stand behind him, supporting him ever so slightly, just in case. Then he whizzes down the high slide, takes Sam by the hand. Come and see, I want to show you something. Little man leads the big man to the edge of the play area. These for our greenhouse, he says, pointing to the framing poles stacked in a pile. Leading Sam past the pile, C adds, And this our garden [a little weed grown place that is still filled with promise] And this our watering can.

It’s as if our small child already knows the secret to life—that we build our happiness from the inside out. That when we tend to our environment, our yard, our flowers, our forts, we are creating the space for that inner joy to make its appearance. By cultivating a strong sense of place, we lay the groundwork for our true wildness to emerge. We create a safe, sound haven in which to fully and freely live.

Smart kid. 
This article was originally published in 2011 on my blog