Yesterday was Father’s Day, and it was not until a friend ask to switch our brunch plans to later in the day that I remembered what day it was. Often Mother’s Day and Father’s Day tend to fly by without much thought. My dad has been gone for 15 years as of this year, and it gets harder and harder to think about what my life would be life if he were here.
Recently we were talking about fishing at work. A few co-workers are fishing fans, and I was remembering a time when we stayed at a lake near our house in Indiana. I believe the cottage was owned by a friend of my grandma’s and every once in a while we got to go and stay with her, which meant playing in the lake and fishing. Something tells me what felt like a big lake at the time would probably look a lot like a pond to me now, but it always felt special and kind of a big deal to me.
I remember one weekend we visited, on the Saturday morning for some reason I slept really late, when I went outside to see what everyone was up to, I found my sister and brother were out fishing with my dad (this photo shows me standing on the pier, my brother is next to me, then my sister, then my dad). For as long as they had been out fishing, no one had caught a single fish. I asked my dad if I could use the bamboo fishing rod, that for some reason I thought was so special. My sister and brother were using real fishing rods. I did not like putting the bait on the end, so I left that up to my dad, and I doubt I even put the line in, but what I did do (which is completely against my nature) was sit and hold that bamboo rod, and eventually I caught a fish, and then another and another. My brother and sister eventually got bored, and most likely annoyed that I was having such luck. They went inside or off somewhere else to play.
It was just me and my dad and my happy success. I do not remember if we kept the fish and had them for dinner or if we put them back. What I remember was that I thought there was something special with that bamboo fishing rod, and that I got to spend some time fishing with my dad.
You can see all the fish I caught in this photo. I wish the photographer had not cut me out of the photo. I would love to see the look on my face showing my bounty. I know I have been fishing a few more times since then, probably while camping, maybe even with my dad, but that Saturday morning was the one I will never forget. He was happy, relaxed, and content to just sit on the side of the dock with his feet in the water, and watch us have fun with the process. Life was not usually that good to him (or so he thought) and so this year, Dad, I hope whatever you are doing, you are happy, relaxed and content. Wish we could go fishing again.
You have to keep playing. Get on your hands and knees, crawl through the dirt, climb, surf, dance, sing. Each day the more we play, the more we grow. I do not mean your waist, I mean your brain muscle. Play is a catalyst to keep adapting and growing, learning and evolving. Last week I finished reading “Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul” by Stuart Brown. It is a very interesting book and makes me realize how much more I need to PLAY in my life. This specific idea about sea squirts resonated with me:
“The sea squirt is an example of a basic principle of nature: Use it or lose it. If a capability is not being used, it becomes an extravagance that is jettisoned or fades away. Either we grow and develop or we waste away. Most animals don’t go to extremes like the sea squirt, but the pattern remains the same. Most animals grow new nerve connections extensively only during the juvenile period. The sea squirt stops moving, and many higher animals stop playing, and the brain stops growing. But not humans. The brain can keep developing long after we leave adolescence and play promotes that growth. We are designed to be lifelong players, built to benefit from play at any age. The human animal is shaped by evolution to be the most flexible of all animals: as we play, we continue to change and adapt into old age. Understanding why many animals stop playing in adulthood, and why humans don’t, helps further understand the role play has in adult life.” Page 48
A little side note about sea squirts. Earlier in the book, Brown explains that sea squirts swim around during adolescence, then attach themselves to ships or other structures, then later eat their own brains. It was his example of something that stops developing and growing. If you think about most kids, they do not stop moving, they do not stop playing. Even if they are glued to video games their brain is thinking, changing, even strategizing their next move.
Adults need to be more agile. We need to move it. We need to play. This week I am really going to try to embrace the idea of play. I am going to get rid of my sea squirt mentality and be adventurous, learn, play, and have fun. Are you with me?