Play: to engage in sport or recreation: FROLIC
Walk past any playground and you will see a choice to be made.
An empty bench says, “Sit here. Observe.” An empty playground says, “Come here. Enjoy.”
The choosers are easily distinguished on such grounds: onlookers and partakers. Onlookers usually consist of adults: parents, grandparents, and babysitters. They watch, sigh, shout warnings, soothe ouchies. Partakers usually consist of children: tall, short, small, big, but always wildly active children, in full swing, joining in the frolic. They wiggle, scoot, sing songs, laughing as they go. On rare occasion, an adult or two crosses the line from onlooker to partaker.
Even before the final spring snow, across the way, the farm-turned-botanic-garden-country-version began creating a playscape for autumn adventure. John Deere green and yellow tractors plow spring white snow, upturning chocolate-dark soil. Upturned soil, furrowed into precise rows, produces tiny lime green seedlings. Abundant summer storms, purpled and silver-streaked, join mile-high sunny days to lengthen seedlings into stalks, knee-high, waist-high then over-my-head-high green sentinels. By September, teeth-chattering nights and apple-crisp days dry the green to golden brown. Tasseled corn stalks rustle in gentle autumn’s breezes.
Through bare spring into lush green summer then into golden fall, from our back deck we sit and observe as the bare dirt becomes a corn maze. Old farm trucks and new tractors, from this distance, remind me of sandbox days. My then-three-littles imagined new worlds there among mounds of sand. With the help of Matchbox cars, Brio trains, sticks that became railroad ties, pitchers of water for creating mudslides, and Fisher-Price figures, stories sprung to life among mingled stones and leaves.
Through our old black bird-watching binoculars, I see farm workers haul in wooden poles and wires, creating small haddocks for pony rides. White tents pop up, covering picnic tables. Bales of hay are stacked like blocks here and there for ambience and crowd control. Trailers unload draft horses, ready to pull hayride flatbeds around the ponds and fields. Out on the roadway, just south of a major Denver interstate perimeter highway, green and gold signs announce Corn Maze dates: Come. Enjoy.
At sunrise, and again at sunset, my husband and I observe the vast brown fields as they change. Behind the newly painted red barn and its sidekick brick silo, a once calm hillside buzzes and sparkles with canary yellow school buses, dust-covered minivans, and family-sized SUVs. Empty paths winding through the forest of old cottonwoods are now thick with children intent on making their way to the start of the corn maze. At night, glow sticks shimmer silver, pink, neon green. We hear laughter wafting across the open space between our back deck and the distant farm.
One Sunday afternoon we can stand it no longer. We leave our comfortable observer post to become partakers. We join the throngs, paying our way into the playscape of corn. Red-faced children run full force, panting parents trot to catch up yelling, “Hold up.” Overhead Canada geese soar from field to pond, moving a bit further south, reminding us that snow is soon to change the landscape again.
Though our deck view is a tiny bit elevated above the farm in the valley, it’s not high enough to see what shape the maze is. You’d need a helicopter to gain such perspective. But, as we enter the corn maze, a printed map captures the farmers’ creation: a giant butterfly…fore and hind wings, abdomen, antenna, swirled among soil and seed into a bushel of choices to be made.
Here in the middle of the corn maze, choices crop up fast. Right, left, or straight? Follow the crowd? Follow my instincts? Follow my husband? Even with a map, we quickly realize that there are no markers, no directional signs to help one orient. Which way is north on this map? Which way is west? Even with a design on the map, we are so far down in the corn maze that we can’t gain any perspective. Are we at the outermost loop of the butterfly wings? Are we walking an inner wing that will send us back around to the start? Are we at the dead end of the antenna?
Ahead of us in the maze, a couple argues over which path to take. Their children don’t wait to see what they decide. Half their kids run one direction while half take off in the other direction. I like the left path; my husband likes the right path. This time, I choose to follow him. The sun’s intensity warms us as the shadows begin to fall. Two ducks fly by overhead. We walk and walk and walk some more. We’ve been going in circles as it turns out. He laughs and shrugs as we hit a dead end. We are dazed in the maze, unsure of which way to go now. Laughter accompanies most of the maze-dazed folks. Joy is always a good companion to have along for the journey.
Children zoom back past us, shouting at their parents to hurry up. Bewildered faces, a family we’d seen going in circles like us, confront us as we come upon another junction with fork after fork that probably leads to loop. “Do you know the way?” the youngest of their brood asks as he points at a forbidden shortcut through the forest of corn. Just a few feet away, we clearly see another path but we can’t get there from here. The temptation is to cut through…yet signs warn us of the dire consequences of shortcuts….and I’m reminded of a few shortcuts that tempt me beyond the corn maze.
A late afternoon breeze rustles huskily in the dried corn. An ear of half-eaten corn, a squirrel’s afternoon snack, sits abandoned under the shadows of stalks. Next to it, an abandoned plastic cup, still full of lemonade. The path, strewn with trash, reminds us that civilization is just steps away from this corn crop puzzle. Bright yellow police tape cordons off the shortcut. A rabbit scurries through the tall rows, right under the tape. He takes any shortcut he desires. He can’t read the signs. We are frustrated that the rabbit can find a way through when we cannot.
On we wander. I go one way, my husband another. We find each other again at another dead end. We laugh and sigh at the same time. The beauty is literally all around us. Blue skies above, dark soil beneath, golden brown stalks of corn lining our path, merriment among children of all ages stuck in the wonder of a maze.
High above the field, a man oversees the entire maze from his perch in the metal cherry picker. At another fork in the maze, I look up, hoping for guidance. I catch his eye and he nods, a subtle reassurance that we are choosing well. When he nods, he seems like my best ally. Yet, at other times, he won’t even make eye contact and I feel caught in an endless knot of wrong turns. Frustration amid laughter and beauty.
Eventually, after an hour of dead ends, right turns, rabbits and kids hopping across the paths, wrong forks, loops upon loops within loops, my husband and I emerge at the exit, not even sure how we got here. We are, however, most certain we couldn’t easily find our way back through the maze again.
About sunset, we sit again on our deck, observing the corn maze in the distance.
Having partaken of the maze itself, the entire scene looks different.
We’ve engaged playfully among stalks and loops, under a blue October sky. Deep in the maze, we know firsthand about the sound of corn husks in the breeze, dead ends on dusty paths, tempting shortcuts, disorientation from no landmarks or perspective, a sometimes present-sometimes silent overseer, and the pull of the crowd mentality versus going it alone or with just a few others. We also know the frolic of finding our way among corn stalks, which we so long only observed at a distant.
Play: to engage in sport or recreation: FROLIC
Walk past any playground and you will see a choice to be made.
An empty bench says, “Sit here. Observe.” An empty playground says, “Come. Enjoy.”
What choice will you make?
The Why of today’s blog: Today’s blog comes in response to my reading of Laura Boggess’ new book, Playdates with God. Her book encourages us to engage with God differently through playdates with God. Reading her book prompted me to move from an observer to a partaker in the joy of play.
The corn maze is but one of the adventures I’ve had lately with God. What about you? Have you ever had a playdate with God?
Not sure how play and God go together? Read a copy of Laura’s book!
Laura’s book can be ordered from Amazon, Barnes & Noble , ChristianBooks.com, and Hearts and Minds.
Laura Boggess, author of Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grown-up World, lives in West Virginia with her husband and two sons. She is a content editor for TheHighCalling.org and blogs at lauraboggess.com. Connect with Laura on Facebook and Twitter.
Sample two recent blogs of Laura’s: one about how God can save a marriage at Ann Voskamp’s A Holy Experience and another about how life with Christ is part of an upside down kingdom as evidenced by the recent experiences of Dr. Kent Brantly and ebola at TheHighCalling.org
God has been calling me to enter more fully into joyful living and worship, the art of celebration as the worship band Rend Collective calls it. God is reminding me that my joy comes from Him, that it isn’t dependent upon others.
Celebration as worship…such a great concept! I’ll second that thought, Elizabeth!
I have been exploring the beauty of God’s creation as I walk in the two metro parks nearby. The adventure, the quiet, the exercise all combine to make a glorious “playdate” with God. I want to read Laura’s book to expand my ways of connecting with God that are out of my experience, comfort zone or creative thinking ability. Maybe I’ll try a corn maze!
Being outdoors is such a great way to enjoy God and His handiwork, Kathy!
Oh, Lane, this is such fun! Yesterday, our youngest went with his marching band mates to a local corn maze. I couldn’t play, had an appointment and you want to know something? I MISSED it! I’ve always been in charge of such things and this year it feels like my boys are too grown up for mom to play along. But…they’ll just have to get used to it anyway :). Thank you for this bit of fun and for sharing about my book. You are the kindest friend.
The corn maze was such fun…and your book and friendship are even more fun. Thank you for words that play joy to my heart, Laura.
Lovely, Lane. I love how you outline the joy, but also the frustrations of play with God. We expect to enjoy everything all the time, but sometimes play involves work and challenges to overcome. But we’ll never know what God has for us if we don’t say “yes” when he invites us to play!
Saying yes is both the risk and the wonder. Monica, one of these days, I want to play at your improv playshops…if I can get the courage!
I love how you and your husband decided to join the corn maze and the fun 🙂 I’m learning to laugh at little daily moments….with our girl….when our dog does something silly which is often.
A laugh a day…keeps a heart happy, doesn’t it, Dolly?
Hi Lane! It’s been a while. Enjoyed your post. Could feel myself in the corn maze with you. I had the best play date with God yesterday – got to ride in a banner plane over the Gulf Coast. My cousin has a farm where these planes land and pick up advertisement banners. A quick phone call from him to the pilot had me in the air in 30 minutes. What joy to feel the cool wind as we whipped through the blue skies. What a treasure to see the farmland, coastal towns, and emerald ocean from above. This world is one big playground and I never want to stop playing.
So this was an open-cockpit plane…where you could feel the air? Amazing indeed. I’m glad you soared above to enjoy the pleasure of time with God.
Monica, you won the copy of Laura Boggess’ wonderful book. I’ll contact you privately for your snail mail address.
Thanks to all of you for stopping by. Keep on with your playdates with God…they will bring you to new places. May you grow more and more child-hearted!
I’ve always wanted to do a corn maze. What fun! I also love your deeper point – all too often I’ve been a passive observer of life versus being a participant. They older I get, the more I want to change that. Thanks for the reminder.
Laura’s book is a great encouragement to play and participate with God in adventures. I highly recommend a corn maze…more learned than I wrote about…God speaks everywhere! Thank you for the bless-a-blogger connection…