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Deep Play

clarsen's picture

A summer trip to Mattituck was one of the biggest treats in my young life.  The transition from the stiflingly Manhattan heat to the breeze of Long Island was the perfect escape.  My mother and I made these trips fairly often to visit my Grandfather.  I craved for the beach year round and when June finally came, I was ecstatic.  One particular midsummer day, the three of us took a highly anticipated beach day.  Unlike any we’d taken before, no cars were parked in the lot and no umbrellas perched in the sand.  We had the beach entirely to ourselves.  We swam and soaked in the sun nearly all day and as the sun began to set we strolled up and down the shore.  The three of us walked shoeless and freely until we stumbled upon a collection of shells covered in paint and glitter.  He immediately told me that a mermaid who was decorating her “dishes” and must have leapt into the sea once she saw us approaching and left these behind. 

“Only take one,” he advised “or she’ll be very upset”.

            The day was not only one of the most relaxing and enjoyable childhood experiences but also brought me much closer to my grandfather.  My grandfather continued to gift me with additional mermaid souvenirs including photographs, postcards, dolls, and paintings.  I valued these gifts above all other belongings and they allowed my imagination to run free.  Often I fantasized that I one day would turn into a mermaid or meet the one who lost her colorful shell dishes.  This experience is an example of “deep play” in my childhood, which involved many of the descriptions mentioned in Diane Ackerman’s article.

            Ackerman defines “deep play” a number of different ways and uses words such as “freedom”, “thrill” “whole”, and “sacred”.  She states “there are times during deep play when one feels invincible, immortal, an ideal version of oneself”.  That day, I felt free.  I was alone in paradise with the two people that mattered most to me.  Free to skip, float, dig, run, and truly live: a moment cherished, rare, full, and joyful.  This deep play also led to a self-discovery or realization, which was how much I truly valued my relationship with my grandfather.  Deep play is an experience where one gains an extraordinary amount from an event.  It may be an extreme understanding or happiness or simply where “one finds clarity” and an “acceptance of self”.

            One word used when defining the many faceted “deep play” is realization.  I haven’t made many outlines when writing essays this year yet I’ve noticed that when typing ideas and concepts spill out.  Deep play in writing is realization.  After writing, the author should have a greater grasp on the topic at hand.  Not through research but rather through a self-discovery with words eventually falling into place.  Writing and thinking freely allows for this to happen naturally. 

            When writing essays for this class, I have found that I’ve practiced “deep play” in some aspects.  I usually succeed in gathering my thoughts together and grasping a new concept or conclusion.  The ideas don’t always naturally flow out however, and I feel I could have utilized deep play more in my last essay on Eastern State Penitentiary.  Rather than spending such a great portion of the essay focusing on facts, I could have shared more opinionated thoughts or even written it from the point of view of a prisoner, reformer, or guard.  Deep play both in writing and life should be something that comes organically with little thinking involved.  It should allow you to take risks, push the envelope, and be fully engulfed in the moment.