In playing "Let's Pretend" as children, we rehearse various adult roles, and begin to imagine our future selves. The importance of play is tantamount to learning for children but what role does play have in an adult life? All too often, we put away our childish dreams and fancies when we reach adulthood. We decide to get serious, for once and for all, and then we wonder why we're creatively blocked. Play and silliness are as necessary to the creative individual as food and water. Dust off the toy-box. Dig deep. We're about to enter the Forest of the Lost.
Close your eyes. Relax. Breathe deeply, and clear your mind of outside distractions. Imagine a favorite toy, doll, or stuffed animal from your childhood. It will be your guide during this journey. When you were younger, toys had a life of their own. After we put them away at night and went to bed, they would sneak out of the toy-box and make merry, a midnight tea-party.
Right now, in the Forest of the Lost, there's just such a tea-party beginning. If we hurry, we can make it in time. Follow your guide through the trees. As you walk along the path, you notice something strange. You are shrinking, growing younger. Shedding the years as easily as a snake sheds her skin. You return to your child-self, as you pass through the trees. Your guide now appears big and strong, and you know you are safe here. You may return anytime without fear, for none will harm you here.
The trees are lit by paper lanterns, every color of the rainbow shining in a soft profusion of light. This forest isn't dark and scary, but a magical moon-lit kingdom made for midnight revels. The path is an endless hopscotch grid, chalked onto a smooth stone-paved trail. Somewhere, not far ahead, you hear music. There's a juke-box in the midst of the forest, playing all your favorite songs. Childhood friends, both real and imaginary, greet you with wide smiles. They're playing midnight baseball, and everybody wants you to be on their team. If you get thirsty, there's a soda fountain with three hundred different flavors rum punch and cherry cola, chocolate malteds and egg creams and strawberry milkshakes. Toys and games are scattered around the clearing. Ready to play?
You can spend as much time in this place as you want. Here, there is no curfew, no bed-time enforced by grouchy parents. Recess isn't interrupted by pesky things like gym class, and history tests. It goes on forever, and you can come join the party anytime. In this magical place, you can eat jellybeans for breakfast and never worry about cavities. There are no dentists here.
You will find everything you've ever lost in this place favorite toys, earrings, precious treasures, homework assignments, old friends, stray buttons and marbles, and kittens that ran away from home. You join a treasure hunt, following clues from one tree to the next, moving deeper and deeper into the woods. Soon enough, you leave the other children behind. You are hot on the trail of the Muse. Her laughter rings out through the forest, and you realize she's in a clearing, just ahead. You have to catch her! Running harder, you burst through the undergrowth and see her disappearing into a small stone cottage with a blue door.
Boldly, you cross the clearing and knock three times upon the blue door. The door swings open, and you are face-to-face with your Muse. She invites you in for coffee. She's been expecting you. Her mysterious smile tells you everything you need to know. It was all a part of her plan, to lure you here, make you give chase through the Forest of the Lost.
"Sometimes, to move forward, you must return to the past. You were wiser as a child. Remember. Find what you have lost. Reconnect with the child inside."
"How am I supposed to do that?" You sound like a sullen fourteen-year-old.
"It's already done. You are here." Her words ring in your head. You know she speaks the truth. "You may return anytime, for you contain multitudes. This forest, all the lost treasures, even me we all live here." She reaches forward to place a hand over your heart. "You are never without us, and we are never without you. We need you, you know to tell our stories, and sing our songs. Go forth now, with the courage of the lion, and create!" She leads you back to your studio, and when you arrive you open your eyes, filled with creative energy and vivacious giggles.
©2011 Molly Anderson-Childers and Chris Dunmire. All rights reserved.
Take a moment to record your impressions in a journal or sketchbook. Make a picture, poem, story or song about your experiences in the Forest of the Lost. You are granted permission to spend the rest of the day doing silly things and goofing off! Eat jellybeans for breakfast and refuse to comb your hair. Chalk a bad poem on the sidewalk and pray for rain. Read a precious book in the bathtub, and slosh water everywhere. Sing at the top of your lungs. Make spaghetti at midnight and have a teddy bear tea-party in the back yard. Play hide and seek with your Muses. Tag! You're it!