An empty square with an old fountain. A few wooden slatted benches. Three giant plants and a bike, locked up without love, rusting against the town hall brick. It’s pleasant. It’s pretty enough. It’s nothing remarkable.
To the five eager children that burst around the bend, it is a wonderland. Enthusiasm radiates from their eyes and through their laughter. An adventure is afoot. Anything could be hidden under those benches. Treasure and chances await in every corner, behind every plant pot. The bike tells a thousand stories; it’s a bike, a car, a spaceship.
On hands and knees, they manipulate themselves into tiny spaces, scrabbling to find the best prize. One finds a stone, cold and smooth. Another discovers a stick, wonky and knobbly, but a stick nonetheless. It, however, does not remain a stick for long. It fast becomes a wand, a sword, a pen, or whatever it needs to be for the next adventure. Heaven forbid that the stick should be lost. For today at least, it is irreplaceable.
Turning around, treasure stuffed in pockets, the red berries on the bushes are just out of reach and therefore they must be had. Standing on one leg, then the other. Jumping, hopping, reaching, stretching, whatever it takes until the berries are won.
From what’s on high to what’s hidden below, the edges of the fountain are perfectly matched to the height of these six year old pioneers. On tip toes, with fingers grasping desperately at the the harsh stone lip, they peek excitedly over, desperate to discover the hollow darkness, the pit into which the water trickles.
Every nook is a question, every cranny a mystery, every paving slab a possibility, a game or a scheme.
The landscape is a castle, a desert, the moon. The seemingly mundane surroundings are the props and the tools to build a game, to extract squeals of delight, and to pass away a happy hour. The possibilities are endless. They could find anything, discover anything, do anything or be anyone. A space is all they need.
A space and pure curiosity to find the answers to questions they didn’t even know they’d asked.