"Don't go in there...it's dangerous." So glad I didn't listen.

October 24th, 2013, 11am


You are looking at the bridge of my childhood. It was the physical link to the woods you can see, just a short walk from the home where I grew up. A small wooded lot really, just a drop in the Rouge, so to speak. But to a boy and his friends it was a vast, and cool space. It is beautiful in there, but my buddies and I weren’t interested in esthetics (what boy is—-except when it comes to the look of his first “real” bike). We went there for adventure, to escape, to play, to dare, to just hang. And yes, we went because we were told not to. It was “dangerous” after all, a label that made the place almost irresistible.

I won’t lie. I can remember times in those woods when I did feel the heavy, cold stone of fear in my little boy tummy. Sometimes it was coming upon a group of older boys talking loudly, laughing, shoving, smoking, presenting the immediate physical manifestation of what our parents called “bad boys”. Other times it was being the one left behind in the tall, suddenly unfamiliar, trees, when your buddies would take-off, that fear only subsiding when you would eventually find them at the bridge, laughing, teasing you for being scared.

But we returned, again and again, because it was pure fun. No parents, no rules. Imagination and wonder our only guides. Curiosity ruled. Thinking on it now, we must have been fueled by the sense of complete freedom those woods offered, though we never thought of it like that. It seemed like a new place each time we ventured across that bridge. Building a fort that might last a couple of weeks, before you would return one trip to find it destroyed. A momentary emotional pretzel of anger and sadness unwound under boyish determination to “build a better one!” Exploring the creek (you can just make it out below the bridge in the picture), and heading home with a “soaker”, wondering if you could get your wet feet past mom. Stick in hand, writing your name in the looseness of the earth’s dark brown dirt, letting the world know that you were here.

And now it seems to me that kids are not playing this way anymore. The outside ignored now as just the space in between the familiar places of home, car and school.

Yes, so glad I didn’t listen.

Sanna, Adrian, Jordan, Lia and 6 others said thanks.

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Mark Yearwood

Can a man remake his life? In the woods, no less? I am trying. www.kidsinthewoodsinitiative.org

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