I shared my prairie with a four year old this weekend. We took about five steps down one of the wood chip paths I’d created and he exclaimed, “It’s a jungle!”
“Yes it is,” I said. “Can you find the way?”
Without hesitation he said, “I’m Tarzan. I have a knife. You follow me.” And he was off.
We explored every trail, backtracking on dead ends, forging ahead when the path disappeared in the undergrowth, searching with equal enthusiasm for butterflies and snakes. My young Tarzan’s imagination was in full flower.
I was as excited as he. This was exactly how I had imagined children responding to the prairie. Even though I laid these paths only a month ago, they have almost been consumed by the rapidly growing vegetation. It is a jungle in there! With plants reaching six foot tall or higher, a youngster who stands only three foot tall could easily lose himself in the jungle and the adventure.
‘Tarzan’s’ grandmother who followed along on this prairie jungle trek commented that she’s been told children lose that active imagination by the time they reach third grade. The structure of our educational system takes it out of them, she said.
If true, that’s sad. But it makes me even happier that I created this prairie. Happy that I let a child’s imagination run wild for one afternoon. Hopeful that the prairie planted a seed of memory that child may return to as he grows up. A memory of a prairie jungle where he and his imagination could run free.