My dream is to have a small parcel of land, on which to grow vegetables and children. I have spent the majority of my life living in various cities, but, for me, my true home is my grandparent's farm, specifically the nine acre homestead and its ring of trees. When I envision paradise it inevitably looks like an isolated bit of semi-tamed prairie with assorted sheds and a dugout for ducks and frogs. Quiet and private.
So, with having just six weeks left on our rental lease and the preapproval for a mortgage, I've been searching for acreages for sale in our area. Getting my hopes up. Dreaming big. And quiet. And private.
I have this idea about what a childhood looks like, with wild adventures and private dramas uncolonized by adult concerns. Of living dangerously within the safety of a miniature world. Many of us share this idea, of Secret Gardens and places Where the Wild Things Are. I confess, I hold imagination and creativity to be the most important characteristics of which I want my children to have. If I had to chose at gunpoint, I would throw away ambition, intellect, manners, efficiency, and all types of adult held values in deference to the ability to dream up a good story.
Stories are where we get to practice courage, heroism, and idealism in a world where we are expected to be excellent at them without experience. We believe that standing up to dangerous foes or being gallant in the face of great pressure to be otherwise is an inborn trait; either we have it or we do not. But really, being heroic takes practice for most of us. The more we stand up for ourselves and others, the better we get at it. Why these values are thought of as either being there or not is because our societal love of quantifying things. We can measure muscle mass or count the words a person can read, but we can not weigh the bravery in a heart or sum up daring and fortitude. These terms are wishy-washy, vague and heavily dependent upon that suspected state of emotion. There are many systematic ways to teach a child how to swim but how do we teach pluck?
Yet, how can we ignore it? We can't teach it, but we can create fertile ground in which heroism can grow. I consider unrestrained play training for the development of really excellent human beings. Stories, time, space, air, sunshine, mud, trees, fields, creatures, and companions. Small spaces under the skirts of evergreen trees and endless vistas where the grass is as tall as a troll. A place where the speed can change from industrious to contemplative in a moment, to meet with the ever changing demands of an active mind. This is what I know, from my own childhood, to be good and true. This is what I want for my children. An acreage, an oasis, a nest. Quiet and private.
Alas, it is not to be so for us, right now. Besides being out of affordability range, given that we have chosen a frugal lifestyle so that we are available to our children and community (including you, dear internet reader), upkeep on an acreage is beyond what we can do in terms of time and energy. There is simply too much else to be done, without the plowing of driveways and endless vistas to mow enough to satisfy the county. In the effort to have it all, we don't want to lose time with who we are having it all for.
It is one another that we are most interested in being with, no matter where we are. And, though it may not be my first choice, I am remembering all that I've learnt through play, that it is more a matter of perspective that makes a good time rather than the actual location. We are looking for a home in a more urban setting. Amazing stories happen in all sorts of locations and I would do the most justice to myself and my children to be open to the possibilities beyond the farm, to where not my childhood is but to where my children are now. And to set the stage for drama and adventure, courage and tenacity, on these streets and in the domesticated parks.
If you can bear with me, I would like to, as a matter of personal growth and as a individually interesting project, to focus on urban outdoor adventuring for children on this blog. I would like to go out into my neighborhood and town and look for those spaces where stories happen. Find and be mindful of the urban wilderness and uncontrived possibility. To learn to love where I am.
Your comments and insights are welcome as always. I would love to hear about your own outdoor urban adventures and how we can create private quiet among the crowds and how we can all create fertile ground for imaginative minds.