A lazy wash of waves runs up and down the beach. Colliding rocks tumble from water’s push and pull, their rattling sound like a soft whisper. Sprays of seaweed are drying in the sun – white, brown and yellow. Other treasures are awaiting discovery – sand dollars with their elliptical etchings, whitewashed shells and driftwood sculpted by the sea.
We are alone on the shore walking unhurriedly with no real destination. A breeze from the Gulf of St. Lawrence whisks up sand flurries that dance briefly across the ground’s surface. The kids are in their element skirting the water, toes in, toes out, fingers, digging in packed sand, prying out shimmery rocks. A wooden, sea-cured pole measuring nearly eight feet in length catches their attention. It’s enlisted as an accessory that they drag behind them tracing a sinuous line recording their progress.
Up ahead along the curve of Shallow Bay in Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park, a form is taking shape. A tall pole stretches skyward with other bits of wood scattered about its base. One of our kids gives a whoop and runs over to explore. A few steps closer and we are able to make it out. There’s a skinny mast, a well angled bowsprit thrust outward to the sea, a deck and back aft an oversized rudder. It’s a minimalist driftwood sketch of a boat that some kind souls have created, a surprise installation beckoning to the kids to jump aboard.
They each have a go at navigating the bowsprit climbing, or shinnying up the incline.
The full body extension shinny gives them the appearance of living figureheads adorning the HMS Driftwood.
The smooth, uneven spars make balancing on the deck precarious. The crew moves gingerly as they try to find their sea legs.
Is it a sloop, a pirate ship, a catamaran, a yacht? The naming of it is not important. Each child imagines his or her own world. How long will this natural piece, so in tune with its surroundings, last? Wherever we live we can benefit from more of these simple, breathtaking wonders that engage, inspire and invoke play.
Are there temporary playscapes in public spaces within your community – what do they look like, how are they used?