I have always loved being the first one to arrive at an adventure playground, to carry the big heavy key and unlock the heavy gate, to hear its squeak echo across an empty park. There was an AP I worked at in London where I’d get there early to open up and do the site check. Then, with about fifteen minutes before the children arrived, I’d make a coffee and climb with it up into the treehouse and sit among the birds. In my memory, those mornings were always cold and white clouds would puff in my breath, curl up from the mug, and disperse in the thin sunshiney air.
Places have souls, and there’s a moment of peaceful communion when place and playworker can share an anticipatory quiet. We can breathe together in that pause before the children arrive in all their raucous passion, their furious joy.
At the moment this post goes up, the children will come running out to AP. Fresh from their winter break, they’ll fly to the zip line they built in what is already last year. They’ll push the wheelbarrow and dig beneath the plastic tube. They’ll balance and shout, build clubhouses and smash ceramic tiles with giant hammers. They’ll negotiate turns on the ‘best’ swing, and sidle away for quiet moments in the hammocks.
They’ll celebrate their time here and, when the sun comes out and frogs come leaping from the muddy pond, the land will celebrate it too.