Prayer for Children Reclaiming Structures Meant for Climbing

This is a summer scene along the Harborway in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

IMG_20150724_112143203It both delights (the children) and infuriates (the sign) me.

My companion and I debated what we thought it might be. It turns out that it is called “The Wave.” It was created by artist Donna Hiebert. Its shape and size seems built exactly for the purpose to which these children are putting it to use.


It is located right next to a community playground, for godsakes.

the waterfront playground right next to The Wave in Halifax

Someone — or more likely, some entity — put up a sign (several signs, actually) around its perimeter. Not just any sign. A sign etched in granite.

Don’t do the very thing your heart leaps toward at the sight of this structure.

Don’t scale this whimsically shaped protrusion that provides the perfect amount of traction underneath the soul of your sneakers or your bare feet.

Don’t risk greatness because you might end up with a scraped knee or broken arm along the way.

This scene calls to mind the fourth stanza of Woody Guthrie’s anthem, This Land Is Your Land:

As I went walking I saw a sign there

And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”

But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,

That side was made for you and me.

My first prayer: No way. Amen.

It turns out that there is a whole history to this piece of art: municipal attempts to keep it as untouchable and human insistence on reclaiming it for the righteous purpose of whimsical play. I was glad to learn, as this article seems to indicate, that in 2012 authorities gave in: the sculpture has been given over to its rightful, if not originally intended, function.  (Even if the granite markers suggesting that people stay off are still present.)

Still, I offer up this second and lasting prayer:

May all children know the call of adventure, the thrill of risk, and the heart-leap of “let’s do that again.”

May all children know failure as the teacher who says love yourself, then try again.

May all children experience the astonishing fruits of their bodies and minds whatever their abilities; may they be praised no matter their accomplishment.

Should they tumble down or fall off, may all children be met with kisses and caring, as well as respect for personal autonomy in deciding when to return.

Should they have to leave before they are ready, may all children be companioned by patient grown-ups who remember with empathy disappointments from their own childhood.

May caregivers of children be not reckless with the safety of those in their charge; but may they also be willfully ignorant of bureaucrats saturated with disproportionate fear of litigation.

May the seduction of protection or security never stop any of us from finding delight or courage, stamina or justice.

May all our metaphorical climbs contain some portion of the whimsy, some portion of bravery, some portion of helping the person beside us.  

May all our metaphorical descents contain some measure of pride in our accomplishment, some measure of gratitude for those who helped, some measure of humility for the gift of our body, heart and mind.

And let the people say: Amen.

5 thoughts on “Prayer for Children Reclaiming Structures Meant for Climbing

  1. Reblogged this on The Considered Kula and commented:
    We need to have a thoroughgoing conversation about other hazards of childhood: helicopter parents, who can be called in for air support, producing extrinsically motivated young adults who can’t do their own laundry, climb mountains, or meet new people in a new city.

    Of course it is a public good that a municipality should limit its liability. But that should be balanced with dialogue and inquiry into the likelihood of threats.

  2. This is lovely. My youngest loved to climb things. When he died, the neighbors donated money for some sort of memorial in the neighborhood. We asked for a tree, suitable for climbing, to be planted in the neighborhood common house grounds. It’s still there, dedicated to a boy who loved to climb trees. I’m hoping to see some children in it one of these days.

  3. I would only add: May caregivers of children be not greedy and ridiculous in pursuing lawsuits for every friggin’ broken arm suffered as the cost of passionate involvement with the world.

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