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.