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