The swimming ponds at Millennium Park in Castlegar. (John K. White/Castlegar news)

John White: Never lose childlike wonder and creativity

I managed to get out and enjoy the perfect summer weather over the weekend.

I managed to get out and enjoy the perfect summer weather over the weekend.

You would have been challenged to find a single cloud in the sky on Friday and Saturday.

There was intense heat in the sun, and more bearable temperatures in the shade, especially when the breeze kicked in.

Walking along the pathways at Millennium Parkin Castlegar, my senses were bathed in nature. The crisp scent of the still fast-moving water mixed with the sweetness of the flowers and the heartiness of the trees combined to create an intoxicating potpourri. The warmth on my skin was soothing, and the sounds of children splashing and laughing and having the greatest time of their lives really triggered childhood memories.

The mind-video of a random trip to the beach when I was eight or nine suddenly started playing in my brain, and I smiled like a doofus to myself.

I could smell that glorious combination of fresh fries and soft vanilla ice cream from the boardwalk vendors at Bird’s Hill Park near Winnipeg.

I could feel the sand between my toes, and the locker key tucked into my swim trunks pocket all over again. Let’s not forget that bloated feeling when you couldn’t resist the pull of the warm water just minutes after ingesting those fries and ice cream. I vividly relived my mom doing the human diving board trick so we could fly into the water at a safe depth. There were the toddlers and waddlers making trenches on the beach so water could flow right to their elaborate sandcastle houses.

On my drive back through town, I spotted two boys playing what appeared to be an elaborate game involving the yard as safe haven and the concrete as lava. They also had swords. And capes. They were so into the game, it was marvellous. BOOM —another triggered memory.

My friend Gord and I would buy those balsa-wood gliders with our newspaper route money and set up intricate, hours-long scenarios involving Second World War air battles and all of the intrigue that goes with it. The street and sidewalks were water and the lawn and boulevards were friendly and enemy land bases, respectively. We were so engrossed in the narrative that hours would pass and we would get bright sunburns for our commitment, but it was all in the line of battle.

I drove two more blocks and spotted several kids playing touch football in a park.

It instantly reminded me of my school friends and I playing on the street or in the nearby schoolyard every day. Kids from all over the neighbourhood arrived on bikes, which were haphazardly stacked nearby because they didn’t want to miss a play. While most of us played on organized teams in soccer or baseball in the summer and hockey in the winter, these ad-hoc street battles were so important to us. The games got very heated even though the only prize was bragging rights.

All of these incredible memories were born of nearly-free events and games, attributable to unending creativity and passion. I draw on these examples often as an adult. It’s the best way I can think of to stay young at heart.

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