Spaces to talk and spaces to be
I’ve always been an advocate of leaving tricky problems and ideas to incubate whilst doing something different, be it walking the dog, baking or reading. With the mind released from the shackles of problem solving, the answer to a challenge magically materialises or becomes set within its rightful context. Winter is a time to ‘batten down the hatches’ and cosy up indoors so it’s not surprising that whilst we metaphorically hibernate we are subconsciously mulling over issues and recharging our body and brain in readiness for the inevitable bursting forth of Spring. In fact there’s something quite nest-like about being huddled up indoors be it with a loved one, a warming drink or good book. Den building outdoors is a favourite pastime for most children but in the Winter too, the notion of ‘nest making’ is evident. If my children are anything to go by watching a film on the sofa is not complete without cushions and a cosy blanket to snuggle in.
Working with children you see the importance of space time and time again as they naturally gravitate towards enclosed spaces for animated conversations, a good read or simply to watch the world go by. If such spaces are not available they will try to create them using a blanket or whatever else is to hand. You may have childhood memories of doing just that in which case it’s helpful to remind ourselves what it was about this that made it special and worth stripping the sofa cushions and throws for! In these private, nest-like spaces the quality of conversation and interaction may be quite different to that seen when running about and playing freely outdoors. It has been remarked that ‘there is quite a different sort of conversation around a fire than there is in the shadow of a beech tree’ (www.quotegarden.com). If you’ve ever climbed a hill and momentarily rested at the top to share with a companion the exhilaration of an expansive view, you will appreciate the marked contrast to a cosy fireside tete a tete. The seasons shape our inclination to get out and about or cosy up indoors and this in turn is reflected in the nature of our interactions with others.
When it comes to children’s play it seems that scale is as important as location. With more space available less communication is typically seen. Where the scale is reduced so that children have to share and rub shoulders with each other, communication and cooperation flourish. Just as children need both large and small scale play opportunities and environments to thrive, we adults need the introspection and quiet of Winter to relish the noise of Spring and Summer.