I read Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods a few months ago and it has stuck with me for many reasons. (True book review coming soon.)
I especially appreciate what Louv has to say about edges. He points to an ecological fact that basically states that “life is always at the edges.” No matter what sort of ecosystem you’re talking about, the edges are where things get interesting, muddled and deviant.
“Even parks are manicured — there may be a nice smooth soccer field or a baseball diamond but no rough edges. Rough edges are the places children gravitate toward to explore, where they find rocks and weeds and bugs. Efforts to provide nice-looking and safe outdoor spaces are well intentioned, but they give kids the message that nature is not something you go out in to get your hands dirty.”
When we go to play, Eli is always drawn to the perimeter of our neighborhood park. Here is where the brush grows high and the sounds of animals scurrying come forth. It looks like a dangerous place to play with small dark trails leading off into the mystery that lays outside of the safety of the landscaped park. All the more reason he loves it.
With his help, I’m learning to love the edges again as well. There was a time when the edges were still a little too raw and ragged to be approached gently. But I can now see the appeal of the wild tangles that are just on the other side of the well-groomed lawn.
Children need no help getting closer to the edges. I think it’s us, as adults, that need to push ourselves to see what’s on the other side.
The edges are made for the curious, the creative, the childlike. And I’m pretty sure it’s where all the real fun happens.