Did you toss a stick and follow where it pointed? Wander in the stick-determined direction until your internal child-clock said it was time for another toss? Or wander until the way was barred by insurmountable fence or other obstacle? “Other obstacle” wasn’t always visible, sometimes it was a “No Child’s Land” haunted or just reeking of danger. I loved doing this. I had a teacher, our sixth grade teacher who would take the entire class out to do this on a particularly nice day after a long stretch of cold dark drear rain. She used the views and things we saw to ask questions, get us thinking about things, get us looking at the world and to let us stretch our limbs and eyes and restless child bodies and souls. Sometimes I just did this on my own on a particularly nice day, my beagle and I.
My dad did a version of this on our summer road trips to see mom’s family in Texas. We never repeated our route from Port Angeles, Washington to Henrietta, Texas nor the return. But it was more than variety in route planning, he would see a road, an intriguing road that was more or less heading in the right direction. He would see this road and I think his internal stick must have been thrown and landed pointing down the road and he found it too intriguing to pass up. We found a great dinosaur “museum” this way one year. It was a delightful way to travel and I always felt some of my best education came from those trips.
Later, when I was running, running almost every day. I ran by time more often than distance. I would head out the door, sometimes in the direction that looked like it promised the most sun exposure and I’d see a path or walkway or alley and wonder what was down it and that would be my running route until forced to choose another direction…time to toss the stick, real or virtual. I had wonderful runs this way and the routes never got stale.
A stick is a wonderful thing. And now I hear Taj Mahal singing:
“Remember the feeling as a child
When you woke up and morning smiled
It’s time its time its time you felt like that again”