Wood chips under my feet.
The bright colored landscape is unfamiliar and foreign, and I feel foreign in it. The shape of each structure is only partly registering in my mind. To stand present with this familiar, but hauntingly empty playscape feels like I’m looking at an old friend from a distance. It’s there in front of me, and I’m here, but it’s not enough. I don’t feel connected to it. Something is missing.
I sit on the swing. I grip the chains and start to swing. I can hear myself, from another time, teaching my younger sister how to swing, as I remember the terminology for the thing that gets the swing going. “Pump your legs!” I hear in my head, “Pump! Pump your legs!” I stretch my legs out in front of me and pull them back in. The swing starts to lift me up. Forward and back, forward and back goes the swing. The swing rises just high enough for me to nearly kick the leaves of the trees.
My mind flashes momentarily to the old swing set in Connecticut. The one that sat in my backyard, in the dirt, surrounded by a rock wall, and a fence with a gate. Trees stood tall and I could pretend I was in my own little forest within the wooded backyard. Like Mary Lennox or Mandy with their private gardens, I had a private forest I could run away to. I could swing high up into the trees, touch the leaves with my feet, and for that moment fear could not touch me. All I cared about was swinging. Back and forth, back and forth, excited to see just how high that little green swing could take me.
This swing, that I’m on now, takes me up high, but doesn’t feel as high as my dear green swing I used to know. I hold onto the chains, and feel something happen. A smile spreads across my face. I feel my breath ease out of me like a bus stopping and opening its doors. Ttssss. My breath flows more easily than I thought possible. Just like the swing my breath flows in and out, as my smile brightens across my face.
The colored shapes of the playscape come alive and though it’s grey outside, the sun begins to shine in my heart. A soft glow feels as though it’s radiating out of me. I fly on the swing and feel my heart fly with it.
How did I so easily forget my childlikeness? It’s strange how childhood wasn’t that long ago, but it feels so far away. As my heart hardened, and my mind built a hive of noisy thoughts I quickly forgot about my childhood, but on the swing flying through the air I remembered the carefree nature of children, the sweet elasticity of their minds, and their securely open hearts.
Wood chips under my feet again. Scrape, scrape, scratch. The swing begins to slow down. It gets slower still. It stops. I take in the thrill of the ride as I stand. I pick up the car keys, and my phone. The playscape loses its life. I’m back to the adult world and feeling like I’m looking at an outdated movie. Black and white, and unfamiliar. Although, the thrill of the ride lives in me. I return to a version of myself that’s well known, and weighted, but my heart got a lift for just a moment.
One day, perhaps, the thrill of the ride and being present with my pliable childlike essence will stick, but for now I’m grateful for the swing set for it reminded me what I’ve been missing.