My building in Manhattan rises across the street from a major sports complex. All year long teams of children and adults engage in soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and pretty much every other sport of which you can think. When the teams are not on the field, there are multitudes of children attending summer camp.
Looking down at people playing is different than seeing them at eye level. By looking down from an aerial position, the people become parts of a moving pattern. They ebb and flow in often bright colors making for a fascinating tableaux.
I was standing at my window and looking down at the playing field an hour after the hurricane left New York. There were groups of children and adults, finally freed from hurricane enforced house arrest, running, jumping and kicking. As I watched I had the oddest feeling as I noticed that the patterns of flow were different. There was exuberance, anarchy and joy in their movements.
What I was seeing was not the controlled action of sports or the managed play of a summer camp; it was the exuberant release of free play. The people had, for a short time, taken the field for their own and were “playing.”
I always sensed that free play was important. I never realized how important until that day the hurricane left town and I got to see people playing simply for the pure joy of it.