For The Recovery Of Childhood

Andy Stallings

 

Exercise #5: in summer, in the hot mid-afternoon, get everyone else in the house engaged in an activity, such as drawing, or lining up cars, or napping, or playing a board game. When everyone is occupied, slip away quietly, as though to go to the bathroom or fix a snack. Find instead a chair or a sill by a window. Stare out the window until you forget that you’re staring out a window. If anyone finds you and interrupts, allow them to talk until they’re satisfied and quiet. Then, move to another part of the house, and stare out another window.

Exercise #3: in the afternoon, walk to a nearby yard, or field, or street, with a wiffle ball or tennis ball, and a bat of any sort; if at the seashore, a stick and some rocks. Establish a visual field, the limit of which (if no fence) shall constitute a home run. Self-pitch the ball, and hit home runs. Keep count as long as you’re hitting, and forget forever once you’ve stopped. If you hit too many, turn around and hit from the other side.

Exercise #9: Make a plan to stay up until midnight. Or all night. Let everyone know that you’re going to stay awake until midnight. Or all night. Get board games, get movies, get snacks. Eat the snacks instead of dinner. Run around a bunch doing this and that, without settling into any activity. When it gets dark, put on the first movie. Fall asleep.

Exercise #6: walk to a creek in a wooded area. Hunt around in the underbrush until you’ve collected a pile of medium-sized sticks. Situate the pile on the creek bank in a place where there’s a clear straightaway to either side of the pile, and some small stones nearby. Gather some stones, if you wish. When ready, throw one stick as far upstream as you can. As the stick drifts downstream, take aim, and attempt to hit it with stones. Continue to throw stones as it drifts past you and downstream, until it’s out of sight. Throw another stick.

Exercise #13: on an inclement morning or a wintry afternoon, arrange to be given a stack of catalogs. Lie down on the carpet, stomach to the floor, legs stretched out flat behind you. Spread the catalogs out in front of you. As you leaf slowly through the pages, use a cheap blue ballpoint pen to circle, in rough, misshapen loops, anything in the catalog that looks even remotely fun. From time to time, pause in your circling and daydream about your upcoming birthday. Circle at least 70% of the items in the catalog.

Exercise #8: Run everywhere. If you have to cross a street, run across the street. If you have to cross a field, run across the field. If you have to cross the kitchen, run across the kitchen. If someone rings a bell, run to the source of the ringing. Run up the stairs, run down the stairs. Run through doorways and around corners. Run to put your shoes on, then run in your shoes. Run for a quarter mile. Run for eighteen inches, if that’s all there is to run.

Exercise #15: touch things throughout the day. Stop your motion, and the motions of people and things, and carefully, lovingly, feel the texture of unfamiliar items. Stop a stranger and pinch the fabric of their shirt between your fingers. Run your hand for a few minutes across the bark of a pine tree or oak tree. Obsessively feel the indentations that sofas, carpets, and clothes leave on your skin. Press down on unfamiliar food. Put a bug on your arm to feel its tickling legs. Scrunch things up, if they’ll be scrunched. Dip your hand into a bowl of water.

Exercise #7: love something intensely. For instance, love swings, or turtles, or cherry crisp. But then, on an ordinary day, stridently deny that you love that thing intensely. Stridently deny that you *ever* loved that thing, even a little. If you wish, deny that you’ve ever encountered that thing. Carry on with your ordinary day.

Exercise #11: allow yourself to be overwhelmed by sleep. At any time, and in any place. In a park. At a desk. In a moving car. Beside a river. At a bus stop. In the middle of the floor, or in a corner by the window. At the dinner table. Especially at the dinner table. Maybe smile a little bit at anyone around, as you catch yourself drifting off. But then, simply let your face fall forward, pull your arms up around it, and sleep.

Exercise #1: walk to a field, lie down on side or stomach, imagine that you are miniature, prolong imagination by focusing on the size and difference of individual grasses, or stones, or moving creatures. The world is huge.

 

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