daveheinzel.com  Since 2000
by Dave Heinzel, March 15, 2015

A Day Outside

After every Midwestern winter comes a brief solace, where warm air pushes out the cold, the last snow pile sinks into the ground and we all stammer squinty-eyed out of our caves and into the sun. This weekend was that for us in Illinois.

I drove the kids to the woods, put food in their mouths and led them down the trails. The ground was soft, the air was crisp and the lack of wifi and Netflix went unspoken.

The boy stayed close, for fear of imaginary bees and wasps, with the unexpected exception being the time he ventured close to the muddy banks of the Sangamon River, and promptly fell in. He stayed even closer after that.

The girl, however, found her own path. Every tree was a playground. Each vine a swing. Her boundless adventurousness was absolutely captivating.

She needed no direction, no rules and no limits. She wasn't impressing anyone. She wasn't doing it for Facebook. There was no pretense.

It was play for the sake of play. And it was beautiful.

It's something we all used to do, and I think we all share a deep, if not quiet, yearning to do again. To just go out into the forest, or into the mountains, or the desert, and just simply play. No objects, no games, no rules. Simply play.

But we feel uncomfortable. We are too grown-up for that. We're too out of shape for that. We worry what the others who see us would think. We worry about failing, falling, hurting. We worry about getting our shoes muddy. We stay safe.

And so we walked. And despite my well-intentioned yet conditioned parental pleas of "watch out" and "be careful", she played. Her limits were her own. And I hope she forever retains her adventure's soul.



Never too grown up. Glad you found that cool tree. I figured the water would be too high.

Mar 15, 2015, 10:17 P.M.

Simply wonderful

Matt Penning
Mar 15, 2015, 10:19 P.M.

Beautiful writing/story of a beautiful girl on a wonderful adventure!!!!!
And great photos!!!
Just another one of your magnificent masterpieces, Dave!!!
Thanks so much! Play is so important.... For all ages!!!

Mar 16, 2015, 2:54 P.M.

Dave, I am one of those teachers you left behind. Stumbled upon your blog and so glad I did. Love your writing, love your pictures. They are indeed wonderful! Keep it up, you have a follower :)

Apr 12, 2015, 6:18 P.M.