“Wandering is the activity of the child, the passion of the genius; it is the discovery of the self, the discovery of the outside world, and the learning of how the self is both ‘at one with’ and ‘separate from’ the outside world. These discoveries are as fundamental to the soul as ‘learning to survive’ is fundamental to the body…To wander is to be alive.” ― Roman Payne
One of the pastimes of childhood that too often vanishes into the busyness of adulthood is this practice of wandering. Kids are naturally good at it, although I think contemporary and quite valid concerns for safety have curtailed the scope and freedom we enjoyed when we were very young. But perhaps I’m only imagining that we had a wider world open to us, when in reality, it was almost as carefully circumscribed by watchful parents and caregivers as it is today, and I was simply unaware of it because of their ability to keep those limits hidden.
For Christmas, Drew and Megan requested a family membership to the wonderful Fernbank Museum of Natural History, and we spent an unseasonably sunny and warm Christmas Eve there. When we went outside to the WildWoods, Grady took off to explore well ahead of us, and there’s no doubt his imagination took him worlds away as he navigated the fascinating features of the outdoor trails. Of course, he never left our sight, but in his mind I’m sure he might as well have been alone– with the added benefit of a comforting certainty that we would be there if he needed us. Watching him from a distance was almost as good as being a child again myself, remembering the delight in discovering so many things for the very first time.
When was the last time you went wandering? I encourage you to find time for it. If the weather and your health will permit it, wander around outdoors, perhaps visiting a park or garden. But if you are unable to get outside anytime soon, you can let your mind wander by visiting any library, or browsing your own well-loved collection of favorite books. The passion of the genius, as Payne implies, really does start out as the activity of the child. And perhaps we all still have a bit of the child– and the genius– somewhere inside us.
Editorial correction: I was just going through my photos and realized that I mixed up two different days of photos taken of Grady at the WildWoods trail. The one above was actually taken by Megan on a subsequent trip in January, 2017. As the photos below from the December 2016 trip that I wrote about here show, Grady (in a different outfit but just as adventurous) DID stay ahead of us then, too, both inside and out.