Back in October, we visited my aunt and uncle in Maine. This would be the second time that my daughter, now five years old, would visit them – out on the Maine coast at Tenant’s Harbor. The last time we were there, a couple of years ago, one of the places we visited was Marshall Point. It is ridiculously beautiful, as much of the Maine coast is, featuring plenty of ocean spray and stones and a lighthouse, as well as a museum that has never been open when we were there.
What I remember most from that first visit two years ago is that for two hours, my daughter just ran around squealing with delight. It was clearly her favorite place on Earth. Something about the sea, and cold wind, just sets her off.
I was glad to see that, on our next visit two years later, her joy remained. But the last couple of years have had some hard bits for us as a family, and five is a long way from three. At first, she was really hesitant. She wanted to hold hands on the stony trails down to the water. It took some convincing to get her to walk with me out to the lighthouse itself. She had just learned how to identify poison ivy from our traipsing out behind our house, and there was a lot there to avoid, which made her nervous. It was wonderful, but I definitely had to lead the way.
While we were on that trip, I had printed out some interesting indie games to read through while on vacation. One of those games was Brave Sparrow, a fascinating little game by Avery Alder of Buried Without Ceremony. It is designed as an alternate reality experience. In brief, you are a sparrow, but you have forgotten who you are and how to fly. So you have to find your wings again. You gather feathers, and then you go and seek out numinous experiences in beautiful places, and see whether you can re-attach your feathers in order to fly again.
Specifically, one goes on missions. To count as a mission, you must take a risk, and act with courage in a place of beauty.
This game was on my mind on our second trip to Marhsall Point. I was proud of my daughter, because I know that it took a lot of courage to follow me around in a place she probably only barely remembered. And I’m learning that kids go through ups and downs with everything, including fearfulness.
Our second visit was entirely different. Her adventure meter had apparently refilled, and the tide had gone out. Not only were we clambering over sea-wet stones, but we were naming and claiming them: Baby Snail Island; S Island (featuring a stone that once had a compass etched into it, but only the S for South remained). She chose her own path, and took risks, and led the way. She was agile, and confidently chose the best way from rock to rock, navigating obstacles and stopping when she was stuck.
She acted with courage, again, in a place of beauty. My heart was filled, and so was hers, I think. She even inspired her grandma to clamber around on the stones with us.
I’m not sure what to write, here, but I’d made a note to write something, so here it is three months later.
I remember thinking, this is about the best thing I can ever do as a dad. Be with her while she acts with courage in a place of beauty.
My brave sparrow.