I experienced an amazing day when I was young, and it still echoes through the corridors of my memory. I was around six years old, living in a small town in northern Iowa. Our home sat across the street from a large park in a hilly part of town, and my youth was spent playing and exploring among its trees, ponds, and grass. Those images, imprinted on my young mind, still form the “magic cloth” of the tapestry in some of my dreams.
A fairylike day dawned in the depths of winter. The ground was covered with snow, which was not unusual, since snow normally arrived in the late fall. Then it covered the ground until those magical days of spring when, as the poet e. e. cummings wrote, “The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.”
This day was different. Something strange and unusual had happened during the night, perhaps a warming spell followed by a deep freeze. The result was magical for a budding young adventurer like me: There was a thin crust of frozen ice covering the whole snowy landscape. It sparkled in the morning light like a trillion diamonds, but beauty was the least of its wonders.
I could walk on it, although I had to be careful—if I jumped or ran, I broke through the crust. But if I treaded lightly, I was supported. And it was ice-rink slippery, fun for sliding. We occasionally visited frozen ponds and found them diverting for a few minutes, but this was different. This was the whole terrain. And it wasn’t flat and boring: It had hills!
My friends and I quickly figured out that we could slide down the hills on sheets of cardboard. These were not “sissified” slopes suitable for sleds and toddlers. There were trees to be avoided. Or not. We spent a whole morning sliding down, slogging back up, and launching ourselves into the danger once again. Finally, with my body bruised and my wonder sated, I headed home for a hot lunch, bubbling over with tales of my adventure.
I think this incident has lingered in my mind because there were so many lessons in it. First, it took several positive traits to take advantage of this opportunity: enthusiasm, courage, determination—a spirit of adventuresomeness. But another spiritual message comes to mind:
Our whole world is covered by a thin crust of grace, beautiful and delicate. If we are too heavy with worry, doubt, and cynicism, the fragile grace can’t support us. If we trod through life with anger, negativity, or indifference, we break through the delicate covering and lose all sense of the world’s beauty and wonder. But if we glide lightly over whatever befalls us, we can experience life’s wonder and joy.
Far too often as we grow up, we grow grim. We learn to fear and reject the slippery slopes of life, which God gives us for our “education and entertainment.” And we grow too sophisticated and prideful to be content with a simple piece of cardboard or a simple life.
When Swami Kriyananda was a new disciple, Paramhansa Yogananda told him that he was too serious. “You need to become more childlike,” he said, and quoted the saying of Jesus, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”
Let’s recall those magical days of childhood that linger still in our memories. Better yet, let’s become childlike once again, and play on God’s hills and valleys.
In childlike joy,
You may also enjoy reading a book written by Joseph Bharat Cornell: Deep Nature Play.