As we become ever entrenched in adulthood, our focus can narrow to our careers, families, and responsibilities. We’re so busy putting one foot in front of the other on the path laid down before us to…what…retirement? And then, if we make it as far as retirement (no one is guaranteed tomorrow!), we have to somehow re-teach ourselves how to play and laugh. But by that time, it is possible that we have been too far removed from play that it’s just too hard to figure out what that means anymore. Without play, will we just become grumpy old farts?
I learned from my father (who is not a grumpy old fart) that play doesn’t ever have to stop. Sure he worked, and he enjoyed his work, and though I never witnessed it, I’d be willing to bet he brought that playful spirit right there into his classroom (he taught machine shop). That guy has never stopped playing as far as I can tell.
We work a lot during the main season. We haven’t found a way around that yet. I mean, the main season is the main season for good reason: longer days, more crop possibilities, crops grow faster and better…the list goes on. But we haven’t shut ourselves out from the power of play.
Play has been shown to release endorphins, improve brain functionality, and stimulate creativity. Studies show that play improves memory and stimulates the growth of the cerebral cortex. One of the definitions of play, from the Oxford English Dictionary, is to wield light and freely. Ha! Our work can be difficult, uncomfortable, tedious, and unending. Incorporating some play into our days lightens things up a lot! It makes us want to keep returning to the task at hand. It keeps us growing food!
This past weekend, the Tumbling Shoals team brought their A game to the world of play. We showed up to the 4th annual Farm Olympics in full costume (what do you mean it wasn’t a costume party?! Every event is a costume party!), and just upped the fun(ny) level for everyone. We wielded lightly and freely and we laughed hard. We gave our all to the power of play and are still riding the wave of endorphins.
I did a lot of leaving when I was young. I tried different types of work and lived in different types of places and participated in temporary programs. This ephemeral living involved many tearful goodbyes, but I was always the one leaving. Goodbyes were bittersweet-filled with the heartbreak of breaking bonds formed over my time in different places, but also with the excitement and distraction of the unknown things to come. This is a common story of youth.
But now I am older, with roots (both literally and figuratively) in the ground, and now I’m the one left behind while the young head off to the exciting and unknown lives ahead of them. My brain knows logically that this is inevitable. It understands that it was once young and free and filled with wanderlust. It knows that following that longing and filling their lives with new experiences is what is best for those that do.
My heart, however, is a selfish thing. It whines and cries and stamps its feet in protest. This IS NOT what it wants. I’m still trying to learn to embrace all emotions no matter how uncomfortable, and so I indulge the heart a bit. I return to a familiar grief mode. I once again listen to the music about the loss of love, about the dissolution of relationships that I was listening to after the death of our dog, and during previous moments of grief. I embrace the sadness and let my heart break.
No, things will not be the same. Yes, things have been great. But it will be okay. I’ll be okay. We’ll be okay. We will build another farmily from the ground up. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the heck out of the last moments with this one that we’ve been so lucky to have for so long.