Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sorting out swordplay

Danger

Last night Beren picked up "a sword", actually a big whitish stick, probably a tulip branch. At times, he called it a "light saber" (source:  kids at school who watch movies). At turns, he wore a "lightning suit" and used his sword to shoot lightning up into the sky. He told me he was going to hunt deer, and perhaps at this age he'd learn to do that but just a hundred years ago or maybe less.

The three of us wandered into the woods along a favorite trail we cut by frequent travel. We passed a mossy boulder nestled into a small wedge of mesic woods at ledge of the mountain before it descends to the road and then another couple hundred feet down to the creek.

We reached "the raspberry tree", a place Jared and Beren found. There, a tree was wrenched from the ground by wind or disease. At the top of the root ball in the mineral soil exposed by its fall, a purple flowering raspberry seed found purchase and germinated. Below it, and closer to the ground, is a red elderberry, about two nodes high. Plants, how do they know the perfect place to be?

From atop the fallen bole, Beren asked, "What time is it?" You don't yet need to know what time it is, my little one. Be free of the tickling ticking, tick tock tickling your sense of being. "It's dusk. The time when the sun has slipped behind the mountain, but its light is still strong. Dusk. Just before night."
 
Dusk painted itself darker blue, and we went down the mountain beneath a canopy of arching witch hazels, yellow in foliage and flower.

Back at home, Beren resumed his swordplay. In the darkness, I could see, but better hear, the sticks he and Jared swung. Click clack. The sound of a father teaching through play a skill a child might need. Defense and offense. Everyone needs to eat.

So often we think of fighting as barbaric. Sometimes it is, and can be unfair. When I look at the root, I sometimes see a human element suppressed - the need to hunt for food. Blood is usually on someone else's hands and land. The bloody hand probably don't own the land, they're there for a paycheck. Everyone needs to eat.

And if adults can fight (or "play fight" as in sports), why can't children? Because they don't know better? Perhaps they know better than we do! Closer to the earth and their biological needs, perhaps they know what's coming, or what would have come, if they were still directly reliant on the earth.

Who am I to suppress an ancient element with a nagging voice, "Put that down! Be careful!" No fighting!"? I wonder about the aimless, rage soaked ways of today. In cultivated, modern life there's hardly danger that activates human cunning and skill. Sports, sure, they are ways to hone energy, skills, muscle, and bone, and to use excess energy, and create camaraderie, competition, and maybe laugh. What about stalking the fields and forests, looking for food, following signs of predator and prey as you'd be both, reading the plants as they'd be your life's blood.

So, I'll guide my child through saber play, dreams of police and firefighters, and fast vehicles, allowing his swordplay as he defines good and evil, food and hunger, all for himself.

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