Here are my goals for this summer:
Spend more time with my best friend. Spend an afternoon lying in the sun and eating pizza and talking until we have nothing left to say, like we used to do as teenagers. (I’ll allow myself one cigarette, but only one, since smoking is much less pleasurable after watching Garrett march through cancer.)
Swim as often as possible. Never turn down an opportunity to swim because I am worried about how much I ate and how my stomach looks in a bikini. Never turn down an opportunity to swim because it’s raining or because I’m lazy or because I don’t have a swim suit. Just swim anyway.
Finish my book. Be happy with it. Remember that this book has been years in the making. Be proud of what I’ve done.
Eat pie. Particularly pies made of berries and cherries.
Go camping. See more of Maine. Climb mountains. Ride a bike through the woods and be afraid, but do it anyway. Nap in a canoe. Pee behind trees because there are no bathrooms way out here. Eat s’mores. Make dandelion wine. Read magazines on the beach. Smell tree bark. Get drunk and swim in the ocean. Be too cold. Be too hot. Build a fort. Watch the stars.
Image: Illustration by Adams Carvalho, who makes being young look so fucking fun.
In her famous essay the Ecology of Imagination in Childhood, Edith Cobb proposed that contact with nature stimulates creativity. Reviewing the biographies of 300 “geniuses”, she exposed a common theme: intense experiences of the natural world in the middle age of childhood (between five and 12). Animals and plants, she contended, are among “the figures of speech in the rhetoric of play … which the genius in particular of later life seems to recall”.
Studies in several nations show that children’s games are more creative in green places than in concrete playgrounds. Natural spaces encourage fantasy and roleplay, reasoning and observation. The social standing of children there depends less on physical dominance, more on inventiveness and language skills. Perhaps forcing children to study so much, rather than running wild in the woods and fields, is counter-productive.
From an essay on the “second environmental crisis” in The Guardian by George Monbiot. He argues that kids these days don’t spend nearly enough time outdoors, which has caused many people to lose their desire to fight for environmental rights. It makes perfect sense—the most eco-minded folks are usually people who really like nature and spend a significant amount of time in it.
It reminds me of a piece I read earlier this year about wild words being removed from children’s dictionaries. The publishers at Oxford University Press decided that some words were more relevant to modern kid’s lives than others. What’s out? Bluebell, newt, and willow. What made the cut? Broadband, block graph, and celebrity. Ouch, right? My personal hero, Margaret Atwood, protested the change, and when someone who specializes in spookily prescient dystopian fiction warns of a dangerous societal shift, well damn, I sit up and listen.