September 8, 2011
A secluded and private space at Becketwood Cooperative is Fernwood Glen. Gigantic century old mature oaks shelter a sprawling wild-flower garden greet the eye. Bench provided offers a place for quiet contemplation. Often I visit here to enjoy the opportunity for private musing and thought. Immediately adjoining is the playground of Minnehaha Academy’s lower grade school. Recently at 12 noon found me at my quiet retreat when noon hour recess released the entire student body for play and exercise. Immediately my ears experienced a paradoxically pleasing cacophony of sound – shrieking, shouting, playful banter and running about enjoying swings, slides, climbing apparatus, and various games of ball.
Listening to the children at play set me musing. Spontaneously springing to mind was a line from William Wordsworth’s poem Intimations of Immortality from Recollection of Early Childhood: “But trailing clouds of glory do we come. The child is father of the man: and I could wish my days to be bound each to each by natural piety . . . . Delight and liberty, the simple creed of childhood.”
William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was one of the foremost poets of the Romantic Age. His revolt against the Industrial Age and custom stressed untamed nature and an emphasis on emotion and intuition. Minnehaha children were enjoying the freedom and escape from everyday life, in their case the rigors of the classroom. Interpreting Wordsworth’s poem in prep school, I seem to recall. were references to platonic philosophy. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, for example, held that mere shadows of reality is as close to the true “form”, or”idea” we can approximate. The need for understanding the “truth” is the rigor of philosophic method. What we take for the real word, platonism suggests, is illusion.
So then, Wordsworth has it: “BUT TRAILING CLOUDS OF GLORY DO WE COME . THE CHILD IS FATHER OF THE MAN. Memory allows me to recapture the “Delight and liberty, the simple creed of childhood”. Wonderful memories of playground recess play, Jump the Camel’s Hump, dodgeball, jump rope, the use of various sized balls in multiple activities, limitless types of play. Sheer delight in running home at the last school day for the year ushering the freedom of summer.
It is for us, perhaps, to love nature as a child, children at heart to guide life by childlike spontaneous simple natural unselfishness. Minnehhaha children may serve as teachers of the adult.