A Red-winged blackbird sings for his lovin' at the edge of a swamp.A male Northern Cardinal is snacking at the window feeder. It’s fun watching him chase off the House Sparrows. I dislike them, strongly, for the way they force every other species away. They don’t, mostly, actively attack interlopers. Mostly, they just crowd out any species that isn’t House Sparrow.

The dogwood tree outside my atelier window is a favorite perching spot for an assortment of feathered critters. A Downy Woodpecker wanders among the limbs, tapping on likely insectual hiding spots. A little higher up, a Tufted Titmouse preens after a brief swim in the stream below.

Would that the weather would become more spring-like. We did get a couple days, and I know in a few months we will be complaining about the cost of electricity to keep the house cooled down to the temperature we’re now paying to keep warm, but … I need to spend some time in the woods. What is especially odd is how although the entire planet is becoming warmer, here in the U.S. the west is hot and dry, the Arctic is melting, and north of Interstate 80 the nation is being hammered with cold and snow.

On the other hand, 12 inches of snow, for someone of my temporal perspective, is not really a severe snowstorm. This is the time of year when, as a young man, I shoveled and plowed up to two feet of snow before going to school. In those days, we did not close school for a 24-inch snowstorm. Closing school for a snowstorm meant many of the kids would head for the ski slopes. I guess school administrators figured if we could go to the slopes, we could go to class.

I did not ski, but I did strap on the snowshoes and head out through the woods. There was a certain spot about a half-mile from the house where deer yarded up among a stand of young birch and poplars and waited until they could bust a path to a new stand of young bushes.

If one walked slowly and quietly, one might get lucky and find a fox on a search for mice making under-snow tunnels, hoping to elude the attention of the aforementioned carnivore in search of dinner.

I was raised in the middle of thousands of acres of woodland. I spent my formative years where the last human sound I heard, as I headed into the forest primeval, was Mom saying, “You kids go outside and play.”

There is a growing body of evidence indicating the value of time spent playing in whatever world is outside the fortress of our home. In 1971, Simon Nicholson offered a “theory of loose parts,” in which he said, more or less, the number of possibilities a child’s imagination may create is directly related to the number of playthings that have no assigned purpose. More of our parks should have, as one being built in Hamiltonban Township will, “natural” play areas, where youngsters may climb rocks and pretend they are on expeditions to Mars, or just to the top of a big rock.

I watched one day with a smile as my then pre-teen granddaughter struggled to find a path to the top of a huge boulder.

At the top, she faced downstream to the water into which she had not fallen.

“I made it!” she exclaimed above the rushing course.

We say we want only to keep our kids safe. The best way to keep them, our communities, and our planet safe is to tell our kids what our parents told us:

“Go outside — and play.”