I have heard people say imagination is dead, and with all the electronic toys, video games, and movies it would be easy to believe. When I see a small child staring blankly at an iPhone, I feel a very deep sadness. It is easy to believe that children do nothing all day but watch TV and play video games.
All week I have been away at a family oriented retreat we call campmeeting. Each family spends a week in cabins we call tents, the children running and playing under the trees and on the swings, the teens hanging out and playing volleyball, and the older adults visiting under the porches. Each tent is placed in a circle with the open air church, called the arbor, in the middle. I grew up attending campmeeting, walking to the store, we call it the stand, for candy and cheap toys, playing outside for hours, swinging so high in the tree swings I felt like I would fly, and mainly playing imagination games for hours. My cousin and I were Sherlock Holmes and Watson, and I can remember tracking the evil professor Moriarity through the woods behind the tents. I can still see the fogs of London moving through the trees and criminals hiding behind the light of the lampposts in those hot southern mornings.
In our imagination we truly could see and experience what we were pretending. Our family used to camp near Grandfather mountain, and I remember creek hopping, playing on the stones of the creek and being chased by an evil sheriff as we, the alien children like in Escape to Witch Mountain, had to flee and save ourselves. When I think about that campground years later, I still see the adventure we were involved in, within our minds.
When my kids were little they were Ninja Turtles, Magic Treehouse children, power rangers, and my youngest daughter was Pocahontas. I could almost see those imaginary worlds as well as they could. This is cooperative play at its best, as they climbed over fallen logs and created the story they were in.
Today I sit on the porch of our tent, back at campmeeting. One family has erected some playground equipment nearby, a tree house fort with a slide, ladder, and a plastic tree for climbing. I was only half way watching several young kids playing until I heard one little boy, with extreme urgency in his voice, yelling, “The ship is leaving, hurry up and get on before the ship leaves.” All the kids swarmed the fort, and the ship took off, flying to the stars. Imagination is thriving still and that gives me hope for the future.