For some time now I’ve been working on living more playfully (the irony of this is not lost on me).

A frolicking fawn and her mother reminded me recently how it’s done.

As I mentioned in my last newsletter, I gathered with a group of wonderful women a few weeks ago at a camp nestled in the woods on Madeline Island in order to bless Lake Superior. One day, as six or eight of us left the dining hall after a meal, we noticed a fawn and her mother. We were surprised to see them standing in the camp’s fenced in tennis court. Women and deer stood motionless, watching each other. Suddenly the fawn began to play, literally kicking up her heels around her mother, white tail bobbing up and down. Despite trying to be still and quiet so as not to scare them, we couldn’t help but exclaim with delight. And keep watching.

After a bit, the mother set aside her caution about us and to our astonishment, joined in the fun, the two of them leaping and bobbing, circling each other with abandon. They lowered their heads and lifted their bottoms in little leaps, the way I’ve seen two dogs cavort, circling each other in play. Goofy-looking, and adorable.

frolicking deer2frolicking deer

We were enchanted. None of us, avid nature-watchers all, had seen a mother and her fawn play together like this. We felt honored and thankful to be treated to this gambol which would ordinarily happen (I assume) deep in the woods.

The deer’s exuberance was contagious. We felt the kind of elation—love and laughter entwined with the freshest of breezes–one feels when listening to a baby laugh.

Is it that something within us—soul? heartbody?—recognizes and entrains with this kind of expression of sheer joy in being alive, in a body, with a beloved playmate (a person, a toy,  the earth)?

Maybe in this state everybody is a playmate and everything is a toy. Fred Donaldson in his wonderful book Playing By Heart, calls it “original play.” Martin Buber said play is the exultation of the possible.

Maybe that’s the magic.

We see this glee in being here, alive all around us in babies, young children, animals. Not so much in adults.

If we wonder whether our hilarity, our wonder, our jubilation—our light–is of any value in this wounded world, perhaps we might remember how we feel when we witness such radiance in others–babies, children, animals or adults.

To live a more playful life, I guess I’ll have to continue to shed old habits of productivity, dignity, shyness…to stop trying so hard. To let the sensuous flesh of my body thrum with the vitality of the earth.

The fawn and her mother showed me again how and why.

I’d love to hear your ideas about original play and stories of your experiences with it.

(Photos above by Nancy Craver.)