By Kenny Peavy
The streetlights would dim. The magic hour when the sun sets over the horizon was settling in. Everything bathed in golden light.
It was the time of day that always beckoned for one last toss of the ball, one last kick, one last run.
Soon I would hear, “Keeeeeeeennnnnyyyyyyy! Keeeeeennnnnyyyyyy!!”
My mama would be shouting from the porch calling me home.
Time to scoot home before dark.
Whatever we happened to be doing that day was coming to its finale.
If we were playing some sort of ball, we’d have one last run. Screaming wildly as we knew it would be the last epic play of the day.
If we were in the woods, we’d scramble down the trail giggling the whole way. Stumbling over tree roots and errant rocks we’d make our way home before it got too dark to follow the path out into the clearing where it would still be bright enough to get home before it was pitch black out.
That was our life as kids. We had no idea it could be any different.
If you had this lifestyle, you were most likely born before the late 1980’s or early 1990’s. Most folks born in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s had a childhood growing up outdoors playing with other children.
Youngsters went to school until about 3 o’clock. After school, you changed clothes as fast as you could standing on one leg without falling over. You would gulp down some cookies and water and scamper out of the door not to be seen until the sun slid below the horizon.
That’s how it was.
We played all sorts of games. Half of them we just made up ourselves like stick ball, jump rope using a water hose, and plenty of variations of a ball game with the core theme to throw a ball up in the air and then pounce fiercely and tackle whoever caught it.
Gangs of youngsters voraciously roamed the neighborhood looking for fun and diversion. Boys and girls alike. Mostly from about age 8 to 12 years old.
If I recall correctly, the teens were just a bit too cool for our childish games. They had their own club.
If we weren’t playing ball games, we were fishing, exploring trails or building tree huts and forts of all size and manner.
I particularly liked fishing and exploring the pond and nearby creeks.
I was drawn to anything outdoors in the woods, really. A fascination for learning how nature works grew out of a natural curiosity to discover what might lie under half-decomposed logs, below the leaf litter or straddled on the creek banks.
Those days of endless outdoor play. Searching. Looking. Finding. With boredom as a major component of what spurred us into creating our own games and entertainment.
Those memories are burned in my soul like the Georgia sun on a sweltering August day.
We were always hot and sweaty. Perpetually looking for adventure. Seeking new ways to play and ultimately connect with each other and the earthy soil where we’d lie down in the shade of a massive oak tree collapsed from exhaustion.
I’m afraid children don’t get that sort of freedom anymore. Free to explore and roam and play with their peers unfettered, unsupervised and unafraid.
I am hoping we can recapture that. A time for kids to play and explore.
I wish we could see that it is necessary. We all need to get outside and connect with Nature.
I invite you to listen. Listen carefully and you will hear.
Our mama is calling. Shouting our names, she is calling us home.
She needs us to play in her forests and streams.
She beckons us to roam around seeking, searching and exploring the natural world.
The magic hour is once again upon us and it’s time to bathe in golden light.
Kenny Peavy is an environmentalist who has a memoir called Young Homeless Professional. He has co-authored a pioneering environmental education handbook, As if the Earth Matters, and recently, an illustrated book, The Box People , was re-released digitally to enable children, young people and their parents and educators anywhere in the world to use the book. He also created Waffle House Prophets: Poems Inspired by Sacred People and Places.
PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL