Over and over again I have been asked, "Why do you do this work? Why Forest and Nature School? Why outdoor play?" I have had many different answers, depending on the time of day, the day of the week, how well I knew the person, my own stage of emotional maturity, and my own wisdom about how my path led me to here. At many turns, I questioned, how much do I share about my own story?
Some people come to outdoor play because they've been fortunate to have a beautiful and supportive childhood with many opportunities to play, explore, and roam. I've met many parents and educators who speak fondly about cottages, summer camps, growing up in the country, having parents and grandparents who fostered their love and joy of nature.
I, too, had formative experiences, (and parents), who opened the door for me to play. In "A Townie Now" I've had the opportunity to highlight some of these experiences: playing with cousins in the yard in the bay, feeding the ducks at the pond, swimming in the girls swimming hole down the lane, jumping icepans (and daring the waves), to name a few. But my path to play wasn't a straight one, and like many, this kind of play, life as I knew it in the bay, was cut short.
My passion for play does come from these early experiences, a value that got stuck in my nose like the smell of salt ocean spray on a foggy day. BUT, this passion was also formed out of loss, out of a sense of displacement, a shifting and confused identity that came about when I moved from being a *Bayman to becoming a Townie as a child.
In writing "A Townie Now" I got to revisit what this connection and loss felt like, told from the perspective of a child:
Edith Maude considers herself a Bayman. That is, until her parents tell her they are moving to town. Leaving behind the ocean, the gulls, her cousins, and her nan’s homemade bread, she finds herself in a lonely apartment near a concrete playground. With the help of her new friend Alice, she explores what it means to be a townie now, and how she can play, be happy, and find home wherever she is.
If this were a memoire there'd be more layers of complexity, loss and adversity in Edith's (my) process, but as an illustrated children's book my hope is to shine a light on place, and how we build this connection to place for children no matter what losses they experience along the way. Through play we build micro-connections to place, and as we continue to play over time we shape our environment and our environment begins to shape us.