Magical Places

The light filtered through the pine branches, illuminating the specks of pollen floating gently in the air, carried hither and yon by even the slightest breeze. Below, the carpet of brown, spent pine needles smothered my footsteps and those of my friends--Little Jeff, Big Jeff, Tyler, Wendy and my brother Ryan.

It was here, in this forgotten glade of pine trees set high atop the peak of the biggest hill in our part of Wisconsin, that we had chosen to make our fort--a special place, a quiet place, a spooky place.

It was wonderful.

Every time we hiked the hill--and it was a hike--we talked excitedly of things to come, of the improvements we were going to make to the fort. But, once we reached the glade, without any proclamation or written rule, all the rambunctious chatter stopped, as if this beautiful, quiet place deserved respect. When we needed to talk, it was always in a quiet tone, one I’m sure our mothers didn’t even know we possessed.

And, instead of acting on those grand plans we’d made on the way up the hill, more often than not we simply lay down on the carpet of needles, hands folded behind our heads, staring vacantly at the patches of blue sky peaking through the canopy of branches, and watching the pollen swirl, float, and dance in the air above us.

It was a magical place--a safe place. The type of place that, I fear, may be more difficult for our kids to find these days.

But those places do exist. And, more often than not, you provide them.

In this issue, we cover one such place, starting on page 12. If you have the chance, take a look at how the folks in Des Moines, Iowa, turned a portion of Jester Park--a 1,834-acre county park along the shores of Saylorville Lake--into a playscape with eerie and wonderful similarities to the natural pine glade I enjoyed so long ago.

Of course, we also cover those special places you provide--places like ball diamonds, where the next (or probably not) Derek Jeter hones his or her skills; swimming pools, where parents and kids learn to swim and cannonball; playgrounds, where kids of all abilities can co-exist, and so much more.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy this issue.

Or, better yet, find a nice spot of shade under a tree somewhere, and lie down like you did when you were a kid. That’s probably the best way to enjoy this month’s issue.

Till next month …

Rodney J. Auth