The Joy of Play
Recently I spent a few hours completely mesmerized by this funny little creature. I think it was a bird, though I am not sure. It changed shape or disappeared completely every time I got close.
I found it as I was exploring the gorges and caves in Petra, Jordan. I grew tired of listening to the guide. Time there seemed to stand still. If I strained hard enough I thought I could hear the sound of people from thousands of years ago. How can you not be fascinated by a place that has been inhabited since prehistoric times? Temples, tombs and terraces carved out of rock that still stand today. Red sandstone cliffs hold you so completely that I could not help but feel myself transported.
Slowly I drifted away into a kind of dream. What were these societies like? Who walked here? Was there another woman, a hundred or a thousand years ago who stepped in these very same places? What was her life like? How did it resemble mine?
I walked around in a meditative state, simply letting my eyes guide me to the next place of interest, letting all thoughts and text messages and worries of lunch just slip away with my hold on time.
As I climbed up a steep path and approached the entrance to a cave I spotted the bird. It was elusive; it sometimes hid and sometimes came into focus. If I moved in closer it slowly curled up, but I noticed that if I stayed to the side, it seemed happy to come out and reveal itself. What a delight. I spent at least an hour trying to coax it out of hiding to take a picture. I was lost in playing with its presence and created a whole story in my head about this little creature that had flown into my day for a visit.
The familiarity I felt must came from my memories of being a child growing up in the countryside. I often had to find my own games to play and make friends with the landscape and the creatures. It is a special kind of play that has no objective other than interacting with whatever is around you to find a moment of delight.
That kind of play seems so rare these days. It requires a discipline to simply have fun. To give ourselves the permission to play like a child. To use our imagination and suspension of disbelief to create whole worlds and relationships that will disappear as soon as we leave the moment.
How glorious it was to delight in finding a hidden secret, something only I could see. I completely forgot about that hour well spent until just now when I was looking at my photos and I spotted the illusive little bird caught in this photo. Not only did it have me smiling then, it makes me smile now.
I’m delighted to know that I am not to old to play with Imaginary friends.
I’m holidaying in Chicago today, just about to walk through Millennium Park. I think I’ll leave my iphone in my pocket and simply let my imagination wander, in hopes of finding new friends.