I’m not sure why, but people seem to want to come up and talk to me when I’m wearing my red rubber boots. With or without the dog. Any time of day. Downtown or in the woods or at a store or anywhere in between.
It may be simply the color of my boots that draws people to me when I wear them. They are a bright, true red. Like Superman’s boots. Or Dorothy’s ruby slippers (without the sparkle and glam). There are wonderful associations to be made with either – like saving the world, or returning to the safety of home. Iconic fashion designer, Bill Blass, even believed that “red is the ultimate cure for sadness.”
Then again, it may be the clunky thick rubber design of my boots that makes people want to stop and talk, to share a hug or pet the dog, and walk along beside us for a bit. The boots are rather ageless looking as if they were molded around memories, hefty and bold and just a tad too big. Very Christopher Robin. With glimpses of childhood clumping out loud with every step, stepping into every puddle, smacking over sidewalks, squishing down dirt roads.
Yet more than either their color or style, I have begun to suspect there may be a deeper, less obvious attraction about my red rubber boots. I suspect it may be the implied invitation to “play” that seems to be inherent with them.
We all need to keep connected with our ability to play, I think. Even when it has been neatly packed up and tucked away behind our hearts and in the corners of our being for a very long time – yet never completely out of reach. We can still touch it and hold it near, in flashes of thought and remembrance, often without our permission, but always with a smile. Writer Joseph Brodsky captured such an image as this: “I remember myself, age five, sitting on a porch overlooking a very muddy road. The day was rainy. I was wearing rubber boots, yellow – no, not yellow, green – and for all I know, I’m still there.” And for all we know, we are all still there.
This sense and memory of play intertwines our past with our present, and seems to be what calls us to engage with all sorts of games and hobbies and sports. It compels us to throw a ball, and skip a rock. To toss a frisbee for the dog, or dangle a string for the cat. It coaxes us to swing on a tree branch or walk along the top of a fallen log in the woods. It’s that invisible yet undeniable connection to being a child – when the opportunity to play woke up with us every morning and made us laugh in our sleep at night. When the world was meant to be discovered and adventurous, thrilled over and shared.
I remember learning a long time ago about the ancient Hindu version of creation, and how it speaks not of the “work of God,” but of the “play of God.” And that the whole existence of the universe is meant for play, for sport, to be experienced like a dance.
And now there is a relatively recent virtual reality circulating throughout the cyber world that is known only as “Oaqui.” Whether Oaqui is a person or persons, young or old, male or female, or simply a concept, no one is telling. But it is all about fun – “deep fun.” And one Oaqui message to which I am particularly intrigued is this: “When fun gets deep enough, it can heal the world.”
Perhaps authentic play and fun can, in the end, solve and resolve any number of problems; perhaps it can answer hard questions and piece together puzzles, fix and invent, cure and care for the universe and each of us who lives here and those of us yet to come.
I suspect the world could at least be a better place if we all just played together more – with our child hearts – without goals or sides or keeping score; but with abandon and humor, with imagination and inclusiveness, taking turns and holding hands.
Perhaps play is hope wearing its red rubber boots.