Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Art of Play

I loved to move when I was a kid.  My parents would leave me in the wind-up swing for hours because I loved to be in motion.  At the age of five, I was organizing headstand contests with the kids on the block.  At seven, I moved on to racing Big Wheels for penny candy.  And by nine, I was hosting treasure hunts in the limestone quarry behind our house.  I would hide my mother's Precious Moments figurines and draw a map with an "X" where they were hidden.  Then we would spend half the day trying to find them.  We managed to find most, but my mom quickly put the kabosh on it when she noticed her collection was slowly deteriorating.

Activity was always fun as a kid.  We didn't exercise, we played.  Well, I got the chance to play Sunday with my good friend Sallie.  I dusted off my compass and did an Orienteering meet.  Although we weren't finding Precious Moments, it was just as much fun.  I did quite a bit of orienteering/navigating while training for my adventure races, but it's been years since I've looked at a map.  Needless to say, I was a little rusty and Sallie was a newbie, but we quickly learned to identify our strengths and weaknesses, and worked well as a team.

Orienteering involves finding a series of control points (check points) in sequence.  The beginner courses  are shorter in distance and the points are just off a trail.  The more challenging courses are longer in distance and the control points are much more difficult to find (like some of those figurines:)  Turns out, Sallie was great at reading the map with the clues.  I was good at translating what was on the map to what was in front of us (reading the terrain).  This is a picture of one of the ten control points we successfully found Sunday.  

Before we knew it, we were out bush-wacking (moving through thick sticker bushes and vegetation), jumping across ravines and slowly finding our way.  We were playing, and it felt good.

The greatest part of orienteering is it requires equal parts of physical and mental activity.  It's a thinking sport.  And a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  I'm looking forward to my next play-date.  It is a wonderful way to get in touch with my inner nine-year child.