Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Summer + Rope Swing = Happiness

Maybe it's the fact that summer is here, or that school is finished, or the fact that at 6:31 am this morning it was already 89 degrees, but I'm going back to my salad days for today's reflection. Let's talk about ROPE SWINGS!

Ah yes, I remember it well.... The year was 1980something, and the summer broke over us like the peel of bells, and our freedom flashed like light from brandished swords, and the slamming of our lockers was definitive! Peaceout Mr. Biscardi! Your jokes were lousy! And thanks for the B - in Algebra! Yeah!

For my brother and I, and our motley crew of friends, it was to the woods that we would go, to live deliberately. And so it was, one fateful day in June as we slithered down the Rancocas Creek in canoes, as furtive as Iroquois, as reverent as the Sioux, that we stumbled upon a single strand of rope, dangling down from heaven like a silken cord, suspended over the water like a magic wand.

"Holy crud!" we all cried in unison.

There is something magnetic, something even cosmic, that occurs when youth and rope swings encounter each other for the first time. Weary as we were from paddling, a new fire coursed through our adolescent veins, and in seconds we were clambering up the grassy knoll to this Tree of Life. What we found (pictured above in a snapshot with my cousins Mike and Tommy, circa 198osomethingish?) was a platform that was apparently built by lumberjacks in the 1800's. At least 15 feet off the ground, with a second platform for the real thrill seekers another 6 feet higher, was the launchpad into summer that became a second home to us.

We'd waste away the hours, discovering new ways to fly off of the rope, freestyle moves, the Jumping Jack Johnny (expertly done by John Moyer), the Classic Cannonball, the Triple Lindy... you name it. Gazing up at the green canopy, dappled sunlight streaming through, laughing, exploring, looking deeply into the cedar water of the Rancocas, the color of sweet tea, the smells, the sound of the hermit thrush, the chickadee, eating store-bought hoagies and Cool Ranch Doritos while batting away green flies. Ah summer! What a gift, and we knew it all along.

I dream of this freedom for kids today. Some have it. Some have never tasted it. Some find the virtual world of video games and media more appealing (a tragedy). And granted, the world seems a more violent place than ever. I know the risks. I know it's scary out there. But I thank God I had the chance to run through this playground, to taste it and savor that taste. Those were the salad days and I'll never forget them.

I think fear and comfort can lock us in, but what a price to pay. The freedom we had formed us, the risks we took made us stronger, and I'm so grateful for this....

Let me turn off your TV before you go crazy.
Come out for a while with me. No, don't be lazy.
Tall trees whose shadows fall along Sheep's Meadow.
Never know what we will see. Come take a walk with me.

- Edie Brickell, Take a Walk
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