“...all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by…” --John Masefield
I’ve always liked this quote from Masefield’s poem “Sea-Fever”. It speaks to the joy found in simplicity and the comfort found in things which remind us of simpler times. In recent weeks, the snow here has begun to finally pile up. Not surprising considering it is February. But there is finally enough snow on the ground for the kids to start having fun outside. I usually spend a day or two each winter building a snow fort with my kids. (I mean, someone has to do the heavy lifting right? It's not like this is just a convenient excuse for playing in the snow!) These structures have ranged in size and complexity over the years depending on the conditions and the amount of energy I have for digging through tons of snow at the direction of my kids. This year there is no snow fort. What we have this year is a sliding track.
It all started innocently enough with the kids sliding down the hill in our back yard. They would trudge to the top of the hill and slide to the bottom. It was a quick drop and a fast ride, but the whole thing lasted about 5 seconds. Enough for a brief thrill but over too quickly. That’s when the brain wave hit me. I have a snow blower. With some forethought, I cut a trail through the snow from our back step, across the back lawn to the base of the hill. Because of the play structure that lies directly in the path of a straight shot from hill to back step, I had to curve the sliding path around the play structure. A few hours after I had started (the kids helped too, from time to time) we ended up with a baby luge track.
The kids now start at the top of the hill and careen down to the first curve to the right. Their momentum carries them up the banked corner and slings them into the next corner to the left. Here they are again carried up the side of the banked track. As they leave turn 2 they enter a gentle curve back to the right and onto the straight away towards the back step. This ride now lasts for upwards of 25 seconds.
From the moment I completed the track last week, the kids have been on it non-stop. We have a video game system, DVDs, a video streaming service and internet. None of them have the thrill of the wind in their faces and the excitement of hurtling down the icy track in the back yard. They play on it for hours and then come in to get warm. Not long after that they are back out at it again. They have even asked me to think about putting up lights so they can slide into the evening. I haven’t tried it yet, but his afternoon looks nice. (This would be for determining the safety of the track I assure you.)
I find it refreshing that even with all of the modern entertainment choices they have, my kids choose to use a round piece of plastic, gravity, some snow and a little hard work to have their fun. How much simpler could it be than that?