Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Writer Michael Chabon makes the case for the place of wilderness in young peoples' lives (here). Unfortunately, Chabon (or, one supposes, the editor who titled his piece) identifies this as a male phenomena, but otherwise I agree. Growing up near open desert, mountain spaces, gravel pits, vacant yards, abandoned houses, and even cemeteries always meant preserves for adventure and learning empirically to deal with a measure of danger. Building rock forts at the desert/mountain edge of Cathedral City or tree forts in Mt Baldy oak trees were probably the first unsupervised creative acts of any consequence in my life, and there's a direct line in my mind from these rough constructions to any music I've ever made. It's a real pity that kids today are increasingly kept away from similar opportunities. I suppose the trend to protect children from childhood misadventure is unavoidable (even in the first of the Great Brain books, set in Utah in the last decade of the 19th century, the parents decide to shut down a cave entrance to protect kids from getting lost), particularly given the shrinking spaces in which people are forced to live, but there ought to be a place in city planning for wild spaces in which kids can learn to deal with danger in a useful way rather than be artificially isolated from it and discover playthings and playgrounds in real, found objects landscapes rather than in the toys bought, and parks built, for them.