“Play is to fun as joy is to happiness. Things tend to make us happy, whereas joy is a capacity of the soul. Happiness is often fleeting, joy is self-replenishing. When we go somewhere or take a trip, we’re often asked ” Did you have fun?” as if fun was a place we go to and then return from, sated by a visit to another country, content now to exist again in its absence. The ability to be playful rests less in the objects that surround us than in the quality of the spirit within us. Playfulness is a potential within us that allows us to recapture the lightness of our being and the spirit of a child. Playfulness is not to be confused with the donning of rose-colored glasses, a defense against the sorrowful side of life. Indeed, it can be said that only those who can laugh with all their being are also those whose tears are most real. Playfulness is an ability to see the heights of the depths of life.”
I am in the last-minute details of packing for a weekend in some back country ski huts outside of McCall. My mom will be in town and on call for Jasper, and so she sent me the above quote to wish me a playful time. Play is important to me. It is one of the 3 things that was and is a “must have” attribute in a partner. I have advised my daughter of this, some friend’s daughters, and perhaps it will someday be good advice for me again.
When Jim and I met and began spending time together, I realized that I would never have to teach him how to play. He was one of the most playful people I had ever met. He rode a silly, pink one speed bicycle, taped a duck to his bike helmet in my honor, wore a shark hat on the river, and insisted that ice cream sundaes were the best dinner hors d’ oeuvres after frisbee practice. Though he had great distaste for grading papers, Jim played in his classroom. Time, life, responsibilities, the accumulation of things, and the pursuit of excellence dampened his play somewhat…but it was never too far below the surface, and I know I was good at pulling it back out of him and into the light.
I remember a few years back, we were packing for a family river trip. This was at least a 2 day ordeal of food preparation, gear checking…and, in those days, packing for the kids as well. We were tired and cranky, and almost done. It was a hot day, and we could not pack the trailer until the sun went off the driveway. I grabbed his hand and pulled him into the back yard. There, with at least 3 days of combined dirt, dog hair and grass clippings making a fine stew, was the kid’s forgotten wading pool. We plopped down into it, clothes and all for a 20 minute respite from the heat. It was one of the best parts of that whole river trip.
In the summer before he was diagnosed with the brain tumor, Jim forgot how to play. He went through the motions of going on bike rides, working on trails, planning and executing river trips. But, the spunk was gone. I missed it, begged for it, and finally planned an anniversary trip to Nick Peak, hoping that he would remember…especially if I brought Gumby. It worked, and now I am so thankful for that trip, because 2 weeks later the innate play was gone forever. He still went places, and he still had fun, but he never again really captured the spirit of a child….well, except when I insisted he moon all departing visitors from out-of-town.
Play is important to me. It is going to be cold in the back country this weekend. I hope I have all the right gear. I think Jasper’s meals are covered. It will be fun. When I come back, it will also be fun. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to forget how to play.