Seeing the Forest for the Trees

I was sitting out in my backyard with a friend the other day. We were chatting as we held ice-cold beverages in our hands and looked up at the big, beautiful silver maple tree stretched out before us. Just a lovely summer evening of small talk.

“That tree was made for climbing,” my friend said.

“Really?” I asked. “How can you tell?”

“Well, look at those big knots, perfect for gripping on to. And those two long, wide branches … I would have sat on one of those branches and daydreamed for hours when I was a kid.”

She went on to explain the many climbing attributes of Woodrow, my tree. (Yes, I name trees in my yard. I blame Shel Silverstein.) In the end, she said to me, “Well, you know.”

But the truth was, I didn’t. I’d never climbed a tree as a kid. I was too scared, too sedentary, too chubby, too me. You’d have more likely seen me lying on a blanket reading a book beneath a tree than scaling its trunk and dangling my legs from its limbs.

I asked my friend if her daughter climbs trees.

“You know, I’m not sure she ever has,” she replied.

“How come?” I asked.

“Too busy texting, playing games. You know, doing modern kid stuff,” she said.

And that was the inspiration for this month’s cover story, “Old-Time Summer Fun” – highlighting 10 almost-obsolete activities every kid should do.

Summer is the perfect time to think about all the things that were the norm for kids back in the day that are becoming rarer and rarer among today’s kids. From tree climbing to mud-pie making, there is a lot to be said for this sort of simple fun, which is often unstructured and outdoors. At minimum, they’ll get to wax nostalgic while sipping drinks outside with a friend years later. Unlike me, who just felt that ping of regret that my love of trees had never translated to actually scaling one.

But at maximum, they get to experience what summer should be about for all kids: a surrender to the warmth and wonder of the season – physically, mentally and spiritually.

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