Sunday 17 December 2017

Playing Alone

“It was when I played alone that I found it possible to be myself,
but a different myself, a myself who was Davy Crockett’s close
and valued friend...a stronger and more certain myself, wittier,
more clearly defined, a myself of accomplishment and renown,
someone Davy Crockett could rely on in a tight spot.”
-Philip Pullman, Imaginary Friends, pp 18-19 (Oxford, 2017)

Earlier this fall, I wrote glowingly about children’s author Philip Pullman in this blog. His new book, La Belle Sauvage (part one of The Book of Dust trilogy), was a joy to read. One of the reasons I like his writing is that he takes the inner lives of young people very, very seriously. He assumes that his readers are capable of negotiating ambiguity and appreciating complexity. His respect for the reader is rooted in his own childhood when he preferred playing by himself, thus developing his imagination and sense of agency. (See last week’s blog post that featured a similar approach by the psychologist Bruno Bettelheim.)

Pullman’s approach to the importance of a child playing alone resonates strongly with my own experience – and not just because we both fantasized about Davy Crockett.

When I was seven-years old, I was diagnosed with rheumatic fever or, as it was described to me, “heart fever”. For an entire year, I recuperated both at Kingston General Hospital and our farm near Wellington.  My memories of that year remain clear, and not just because I didn’t have to go to school: I was surrounded by gifts, attention, and extravagant love. Ten years ago, a family friend said to me, “Oh, Larry, that must have been a dreadful year for you.” To which I replied, “Um – no. I loved it! No school, lots of television, and endless time to play by myself. Bring it on!” It was during that year that I learned to enjoy my own company, play alone endlessly, and develop a wildly complex fantasy life. All three of these elements still thrive in my soul. It’s not that I dislike other people, but when given the choice, I usually opt for solitude. There are exceptions, of course: I dearly love hanging out with Bill and grandchildren pretty much any time, and a circle of close friends nurtures me, but I recognize that if I don’t get a daily dose of solitude, I get decidedly cranky.

Which is one of the many reasons why photography is a godsend for me. How wonderful it is to wander off on my own with a camera in search of images while simultaneously recharging my batteries. Absolute heaven!

The photos that follow all come from solitary walks this month in Belleville, Wellington, Foxboro, and Corbyville. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them.

Moira Street, Belleville 

Harriett Street, Belleville

Harriett Street, Belleville

Victoria Avenue, Belleville

Main Street East, Wellington

Village Green garden, Foxboro


On the Grand Junction Railway hiking trail, Corbyville

Canadian Pacific Railway telegraph pole, Belleville

Dewe's Independent Grocery Store, Belleville

St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Belleville

Village Green, Foxboro

1 comment:

  1. It is a gift to enjoy one's own company, to be sure. Life is too short for small talk. Thanks for sharing the discussions you have with the world about you, as you wander (never alone) with your camera.