"Every child needs such a place, a place that invokes the processes of the imagination and the possibility of transformation. A place that is at once a haven from the adult world and a source of mystery and wonder, a place that a child can discover and shape and lay claim to, simply by virtue of his or her own presence there, and deep observation."
I love this short and sweet chapter; it makes me want a quiet little spot all of my own! But it also makes me think about how much my boys would love such a place. And like each of the chapters before it, it really gets my maternal wheels turning ...
Children thrive on imaginative play, and a secret place would welcome them right into that world. Because whether they are imagining themselves to be pirates or just curled up reading a book, there's an element of pretend to it all. Here, they are on their own, and they are in charge (more or less). In these little places they can dream up all kinds of things to do, or to be - or they can just think about what's going on in their life. We grown-ups know the need for "alone time" all too well; I know I do my best thinking - and imagining - when I have a quiet little space for myself. Our children may not ask for it themselves, but that need is still there. The trick is figuring out how to provide it for them.
Because for one thing, we can't really let our kids just meander off into the woods on their own, as our parents and grandparents once allowed. Years ago most kids, like Ms. Kenison, just found these places on their own. I have a hunch most kids today would need a little direction.
And for another thing, most modern homes lack the kind of nook-and-crannies that older homes had in spades - every square inch, it seems, is accounted for. But inside or out (or both) this is a good time to think about how we might provide such a spot - a little haven of peace and mystery - for our children. Now that spring is here, look at your yard with fresh eyes, and see what you might come up with ...
I remember my own secret places quite well. There were a few cozy spots inside our house, but it was outside where I found most of my alone time. When I was little, we had a brook that ran through the backyard. Beside its north bank there stood a large boulder. I would climb that boulder (quite a brave feat in my mind at the time!) and just, well, sit. I think I remember "fishing" with long twigs and watching for rabbits to come out of the woods. Everything was quite overgrown and you could hardly see our house from the spot. My spot. Looking back on it, I recall feeling like I really was off in the wild somewhere. :)
The other outside secret place was at my grandparents' house. To the left of their house, just beside their small side yard, rose a hill. Near the bottom of this hill was (and still is) a small brushy wood. And at the top of this hill was a wild patch of tiny blueberries. Here I would climb, dixie cup in hand, and sit and pick and imagine. Some of the neighbor kids would join me here, too. There were trees for climbing and when you got near the top - you could see the whole neighborhood! Oh my, that feeling!
As much as my boys are outside - and they're outside a lot - I really can't let them off by themselves. We have wonderful woods behind our house, thick with fields and trees and a meandering river; an adventureland to be sure. But you know, we can explore it together all we want - we're just not comfortable letting them out there all on their own ...
So, I'm working on a few ideas. :)
~ For one thing, a tree fort. Every child (especially, I think, a boy) should have a tree fort at some time in his life, don't you think? Our neighbors - whose children are all grown - have a cool tree fort in their backyard. It's dilapidated now, unfortunately.
~ But a tree house is a big project, and we're knee deep in projects around here, so ... my next idea is a stick house. I saw this project in Earthways. (A book about which I cannot say enough!) Basically, you set up several long poles or branches as a base, securing them against a fence or a tree. Secure them together twine and then let the kids start weaving branches, twigs, grasses, vines and leaves all around until its filled in. (Leave a space for an entrance.) I have just the corner in mind for this, too - far from the house, but still within its boundaries. :)
~ Next on the list of possibilities would be a sunflower house or pole bean tepee. This would be a fun gardening project for the summer.
~ Finally, another idea which we've done in the past, is to set up a tent in the backyard for the summer. The kids can use it as a "clubhouse" of sorts and even sleep out in it at night (dad sleeping alongside of course).
And with an eye toward the fall, we're finishing off a portion of our basement as a playroom, a space that will be devoted to the boys. Not that it will be all that secret, but it will have a cozy den-like feeling to it, I hope. :)
So, there you have my thoughts after chapter eight ~ and now I'd love to hear yours! Please leave a comment if you have time, or a link to a post at your blog. Do your children have a quiet spot to call their own? Are you, like me, brainstorming ways to provide them with such a place?
"In choosing these places, and the things that go into them, we learn about who we are and what we love. We learn about the power of place, how to partake of the world's subtleties and secrets, of the human need for sanctuary."
Thanks for stopping by, my friends. Enjoy your weekend, and I'll see you all again sometime soon. :)