Childhood dreams and imagination cast wonder on a world grown ordinary to the adult mind. To spend a golden afternoon in dreamland is a rare privilege, led by small children into the realms of imagination and adventure. I spent such an afternoon with my children, Sam (6) and Noah (3) last weekend – an afternoon I will long treasure.
Sunday afternoon is a wonderful time to spend together as a family. To help the boys use up some of the energy they possess in such abundance, I took them for a walk to a park not far from our house. This is a favourite place of ours – a wide green field, hills for rolling down, Australian gum trees and hills for BMX riders to ride (or little boys to run up and down!), playgrounds and bike paths, areas sheltered by shrubs and trees. We have visited this park often since Sam was born and had many adventures.
On this particular afternoon, we were the only ones in the park for over an hour, and perhaps that is why imagination was able to ebb and flow, unstilted by the ears and eyes of curious onlookers. It started with a camp fire. The boys were collecting sticks and I was showing Noah how to place kindling, small and large sticks to build a camp fire. Soon there was a small warm glow as we rubbed sticks together. Sam announced that we were lost in the woods. At least our camp fire would provide warmth and a means to heat water and cook our dinner.
Some brown hens were scratching in the dirt nearby and we thought roast chicken would make a tasty dinner. The boys had brought their shot guns and were ready to provide a bird for the cooking pot. Meanwhile, I was hankering after some billy tea and set the water boiling, held up over the fire on a skipping rope, strung between Sam’s scooter and a branch. My little boys had a craving for more fulfilling meat and soon were off hunting for rabbits, wolves, foxes, bears and ‘something with steak’. We foraged for wild potatoes and yams and collected seed pods to be cooked in the embers of the fire. This was going to be a feast we would not soon forget.
As night approached, we became aware of our need for shelter. An old building nearby, a shack of two stories with a dirt floor and benches would be our sleeping quarters. I became concerned about a bear that was approaching our camp site. Sam soon allayed my fears, explaining this was ‘the friendly bear’. He would sleep with us tonight, keep us warm and protect us from wild animals and collect wild honey for us to enjoy for dessert. We were soon snuggled down for the night. It was during the wee hours that howling awoke us. Fear gripped us as we felt the unseen, but stealthy approach of wolves. The boys got to the upper storey of the shack and levelled shots at the approaching wolves, while the friendly bear raised himself on his hind legs and growled menacingly into the night. The wolves were set to flight and we went back to sleep.
As dawn approached, we awoke, limbs stiff from the activity of the previous day and the coolness of dawn. Perhaps it was the open air, but our stomachs were growling and I wondered what we would have for breakfast. The boys wanted wolves, so we prepared to hunt. Sam had wandered off, but came dancing back towards us, a pack of cuddly wolf pups playfully snapping at his heels. They captivated us with their frolicking ways and certainly would not be our breakfast that day! They became playmates instead.
The sun rose and as we looked about us, the landscape took on a more familiar form. We surmised that our direction home was approximately north and so we set off. Other people were arriving at the park as the afternoon was cooling. I wonder if their adventures were as exciting as ours! We went home happy and smiling, sharing the secret knowledge that we had found dreamland and entered it with abandon.