Monday, March 12, 2012

Sticks, streams & puddle-jumping – Life’s Simple Pleasures

Have you ever had an irrational desire to do something simple that you did as a child?  Or been swamped with a sudden wave of nostalgia?  These moments often hit unexpectedly, usually in the middle of something potentially important or when you “don’t have the time”.  We often suppress these desires.

Today was one of those days.  I experienced a rush of nostalgic pleasure as I walked to work this morning.  Then, after grabbing something quick for lunch, I was rushing to back to work to eat at my desk.  Following a couple of heavy snowfalls and a return to winter conditions, I found myself walking in weather that could only be described as spring-like.  As I slipped and slid down the sidewalks, I experienced that euphoric rush back into childhood memories and just about found myself in a puddle, on purpose.  

I remember the many times that we ventured outside in springtime to watch the melt water rush, trickle or gurgle over the uneven fringes of the road, running through the culverts and down the ditches.  We’d float walnut shell and Plasticine-filled boats (maybe with a toothpick and paper sail), or maybe just a “seaworthy” stick down these mini makeshift rivers, watching them bob along through the rough rapids, the placid straightaways and over the big drop offs, wondering if they’d get stuck, if they’d sink or just how far they’d go.  We’d be entertained for hours (and days).

I remember going to play in the puddles as a kid.  We’d play on the mini-slough that was the semi-truck parking lot across from my house, precariously venturing out onto the thawing ice, hoping that we’d get enough crack and give in the ice to make it interesting, without plunging us through it, into the frigid water below.  Sometimes, you’d have that heart-plummeting moment of going through the ice or that teetering moment that comes as you move through a P.O.U.D. (Puddle Of Unknown Depth), where you’d wonder, “Is the water going to go over my boot this time?”, giving the dreaded “booter”.  After the inevitable booter (or two since two feet = two booters), you’d experience a liberation or freedom from care (because, once your feet were wet, they weren’t getting any wetter), allowing you to boldly go further (usually leading to wet pants and a retreat indoors).

Do you remember that distinctive loud, hollow cracking sound that those big ice bubbles make in the morning or the sound/feeling that “crackle ice” makes as you walk on it?  Every time (I am serious, EVERY time) I walk on ice in the spring, it takes me back to more carefree times and gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling.  Hmmm.

We often refer to these things as “Life’s Simple Pleasures”.  What is it about those moments that have such a strong appeal for us and brings a smile to our face/mind?  Obviously, there is something there that is strong enough to provide a positive and happy memory, despite the separation of many years and the clutter of a million (or more) other memories.

I think that the reason that we are pulled back into these memories (with an almost unconscious movement to follow through on them) because they are pure and innocent and are not tied to any sort of serious, negative consequence (unless you still live with your mom and she is going to give you crap for getting your boots wet, again).  Too often in life, we restrict or limit ourselves mentally, saying we don’t have time, or it is too silly or we won’t look appropriate or we are grown up now.  There is certainly time and places for that (i.e. good, appropriate behaviour).  But maybe a few minutes of puddling (metaphorical or physical) is what we need to keep us sane and in balance.

I don’t know about you, but I am going to put on some rubber boots tonight and make a splash.  It won’t hurt...