Saturday, April 28, 2012
Where is your creative place?
The woods were farther out from the school even than the chain-link fenced-in playground with its wood-chipped surface, its canvas-seated swings, rings, and jungle gym. Crow Island Woods stood green and welcoming on the far side of the school’s playing field with its patches of grass and dirt and baseball diamonds. These woods were what Lesley, my best and only friend, and I considered our haven, a wooded sanctuary sacred as any church.
Every recess and lunch period we escaped to this tiny patch of forest from Mrs. Gellar’s third grade classroom. We didn’t like third grade much, because Mrs. Gellar often called on us to respond to questions we rarely had the answers for, and where bigger and more boisterous boys and girls teased us for our skinny legs and fat pigtails.
None of the other kids ever went into our woods, as we called them. They stayed on the playground and field to play games with their friends. Four to five times each day, if you counted before and after school, we were alone among the low hanging branches thick with leaf as spring reached into summer, or bare and crispy in midwinter.
Lesley and I sat ourselves on tree roots big as benches beneath our small bodies and worked on an ongoing saga – an epic tale based on the life we wished to be living in a time and place we would have much preferred to inhabit.
With our fat 3-ring, wide-ruled notebooks (red for me and blue for her) we made up our conception of an ideal society loosely based on the tribes of the American Indians that we were currently studying in school. We created our own secret language and drafted the laws of our world. Loud boys and stuck-up girls were refused entrance to our tribal lands. We stationed guards at all entry points.
The laughter and screams of our classmates in the field and playground beyond our sanctuary faded as we debated whether our society should have school teachers and priests, or if perhaps they too should be banned. As we focused on the details of our ongoing story and inhaled the heady fragrances of the cool mulch and sun-warmed leaves, we invariably missed the school bell calling us back to class. One of us would suddenly notice that the calls and laughter of the other children had stopped. Everything was silent except for the occasional chirp of a bird or the rustle of the breeze through the trees. Our classmates had returned to class and we were late again.
Crow Island Woods was not the first or only place I connected the outdoors with creativity. Nor was I the only child to do so. But because I had very few friends and was lonely much of the time, I retreated to the worlds of nature and fantasy perhaps more quickly and more often than most. Today I’m rarely if ever lonely and most of my solitude comes about by choice. Still, I find that love of a place – a special wood or field or beach – feeds my creative spirit like no building ever could.
Tell me, are you also fed by the natural world? Do you have a special place that feeds your creative spirit? If you've lost the connection you once had and are hungry to find it again or, perhaps, discover it for the first time, I'd love to know.