Tag Archives: present

Down the Rabbit Hole to Play

Long View: Disappearing Down Rabbit Holes

A few years back, some friends and I were camping just after Halloween at Indian Cave State Park in Nebraska.

The prior weekend, the park had hosted a “haunted” park drive-through where ghouls and ghosts good-naturedly jumped out to scare you in good, old-fashioned Halloween fun. While hiking on some trails high up above one of the park roads, we came across a straw-stuffed witch on a broom tied up by a rope to a tree. Untying the rope let this funny-looking witch fly out over the road and spook any car driving by. You can guess what happened next.

Brenda and Cathy (both grandmothers, by the way) agreed to be lookouts for approaching cars from around the bend. Vicki and Jackie lay down on their stomachs in the weeds to hide and relay the “get ready” sign. My buddy Fara and I held tight to the rope waiting for the “go” sign. When a car came up the road, we let our witch fly, shrieking with glee like 8-year-old naughty little boys and waving furiously at the cars we’d managed to scare below. Later, Fara marveled that she had not “played” like that in years. That statement has stuck with me all these years.

Why don’t adults play anymore? We pay money to take yoga and tai chi classes to try and clear our minds of the clutter of life. Self-help gurus tout their books about “living in the moment” or striving to “be present.” Really, isn’t that just playing? To me, playing is a special state of being where one loses all track of time and disappears down a rabbit hole that has nothing to do with lists, responsibilities, or errands. Playing definitely has nothing to do with CNN, the newspaper, or our Facebook page. Playing is the single-minded pursuit of something that does nothing but make us happy or relaxed or at peace.

I recently traveled down a rabbit hole on a Sunday afternoon and found myself wandering through a small-town cemetery looking for the graves of my great-grandparents Benjamin Hugo and Millie. I didn’t wake up with that idea on my agenda. I actually woke up that Sunday with no agenda at all. My yellow lab, Harvey Benjamin (named after my grandfather), and I had a lovely afternoon just wandering up and down the rows looking at names and noting dates and family connections. Happily, I not only found Benjamin Hugo and Millie’s graves but also the grave of my great-great-great-grandfather Hans Detlef, who was born in Germany in 1800 and died in Iowa in 1887.

No timelines, no reasons, just hanging out in a cemetery, which is probably weird to some, I agree, but it was a special day spent thinking about nothing much for me. It felt wonderful. It was like those worn-out areas of my brain that have to plan and decide and be a grown-up got a chance to power down for a while, to rest and recharge while running on power save mode in the background.

The amazing thing about it was I was deep into writer’s block at that point. I had no idea what I was going to write about for this monthly column. While that part of my brain was running on power save mode, the topic presented itself. Isn’t that cool? I also think my next dog might be named Hugo, although I recently found some ancestors in my tree named Ichabod and Wubba, so I might need a lot more dogs.

There is actual science behind the value of adults taking the time to play every now and then to reduce stress and improve their overall well-being, so let’s start playing.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.

Reliving Summers Past

Long View: Summer Memories

It’s been quite a summer hasn’t it? We’ve faced state budget issues, unreliable weather, and rising prices every time we turn around. By the way, when will we be done with the ragweed pollen? There seems to be a never-ending parade of things to worry about, and I’m worn out.

This summer does not fit with my memories of my favorite season. My main worries used to be how to get the frisbee off the roof and finding the next bag of Fritos. It seems I didn’t have much to worry about. But wait a minute, I was a kid, so it was my parents’ job to worry.

My mom and dad would leave my younger brother and me at my grandparents’ farm for a couple of weeks in the summer, and we had a great time. We were a little spoiled, to say the least, and at the time, I felt like we had no rules.

We could eat anything we wanted, as long as we cleaned up our plates at mealtime. We could stay up as late as we wanted, but we usually turned in early because we were exhausted from playing all day. We could go wherever we wanted on their property, as long as there was a grown-up or older cousin within shouting distance. Best of all, we could watch as much TV as we wanted, but there always seemed to be too many distractions on a working farm.

The day before my parents would come to pick us up, our grandfather would take us into town for haircuts at the same barbershop he had used since the Great Depression. The morning of my parent’s arrival, we were scrubbed and polished, from our fingernails and neck to our ears, and dressed in our traveling clothes. It was hard to leave, but I think we were ready to get back to our routines, our friends, and the start of the school year.

One of the nicest parts about talking to our Medicare members is hearing their memories. I think the stories and experiences they share enrich us and give us a better perspective on the present. Try asking an older family member or friend about their favorite summer. I bet you get a smile and hear a wonderful story from their past.

Looking back, maybe this wasn’t such a bad summer after all. There might even be kids today who will look back on the summer of 2016 as the best one they can remember.

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.