Be Playful

Archive for the ‘imagination’ Category


Sprites are playful, mischievous nature spirits with magical powers. They are one of the most creative spirits in the fairy kingdom, and can often be found writing poems or painting.

In the autumn they carry tins of brightly coloured red, orange and yellow paint, which they use to change the colour of leaves. They then shake tree branches to make the leaves fall to the ground.

Sprites have lots of excess energy, and they like to play with nymphs or tease butterflies.

Sprites are made of the element water, so they are only found in places that are serene and cool. In the springtime sunshine, sprites like to dance on moving water, making little rainbows.

During storms, sprites can cause lightening to strike or create problems with electricity.

Famous sprites include Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Tinkerbell from Peter Pan.

Their name is derived from the Latin word for spirit, spiritus.  The English word sprightly, meaning lively or spirited, comes from the word sprite.

Sprites are usually friendly to human beings, and can bring unexpected good fortune.


Inspirational quotations and uplifting photographs to reawaken your inner playfulness and creativity.

Difficult Sentences

Write (by tosaytheleast)

‘Writing sentences is difficult whatever their subject. It is no less difficult to write sentences in a recipe than sentences in Moby-Dick. So you might as well write Moby-Dick.’ Annie Dillard


Writing a sentence that expresses exactly what is on your soul, and does so beautifully and effortlessly, is an extremely difficult enterprise.  In fact, writing any sentence that articulates precisely what you’re wanting to say is a challenge.

Sentences are the building blocks of the writer’s trade.  A bricklayer building a strong and elegant structure needs a transfusion of raw talent (steady hand, level eye) and dedicated learning (how to mix cement, which bricks to use where).  Writing’s no different.   Talent is some of it.  But mostly you need the devoted, unswerving tenacity of a terrier chasing down rabbit holes.

What are the bricks of your creative talent?  Are you building a wall for security, a home to live in, or a sacred structure to nourish the life of all who enter it?

Do you use and stretch your natural talents to their outer limits?  Are you ever tempted to settle for putting together recipes when you could be writing Moby-Dick?


Creative inspirations is a new series of inspirational quotations and uplifting photographs to reawaken your inner playfulness and creativity.

The Artist Child


‘All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once she grows up.’ – Pablo Picasso

Some Reflections

I’ve been fortunate to discover blogging and writing as a way of expressing my creative side – to breathe life into my inner child and to refuse to completely grow up.

Have you been able to remain an artist whilst growing up?  How do you express your creative side?

Please share your experiences and ideas in the comments.  I’m excited to hear other people unleash their creativity.

Thanks to ishrona for the photograph.

In the economics of play, the currency is grace.

Photo by geeknerd99.

‘Grace finds goodness
In everything’


‘Grace is everywhere, like lenses that go unnoticed because you are looking through them.’
Philip Yancey

There are two kinds of economy: the economy of what is due, and the economy of grace.

Much of life is spent in the economy of what is due – at work we receive the pay that is due to us, shopping we pay the price that is due to the shopkeeper.  In this economy of merit, we get the good things and the bad things that we deserve.

Some of life is spent in the economy of grace.  The mother who loves us unconditionally, a letter of apology after a bitter argument, a stranger who shares his umbrella whilst we stand for a bus in the city rain, an evening sunset of breath-taking beauty.  In the economy of grace we receive beautiful, elegant and surprising gifts, whether or not we deserve them.

Signposts to Grace

Photo by nicksarebi.

I want to learn with you how to dance through the world with grace.    As much as I search, I still spend my life learning about grace, journeying through life trying to find her.

I would like to share some signposts I’ve discovered on the road to grace.

Grace means giving more to the world than you take from the world

Photo by notsogoodphotography.

‘The cardinal property of the gift is that whatever we have been given is supposed to be given away again.’
Lewis Hyde

We have been given life. Let us choose to live life fully, being an exemplar of all that is good and true and beautiful, sharing the inner life of our soul through our outer life in the world.

We have been given talents and skills.  Let us share the fruits of these with the world – with those who are close that we love, and with the stranger we have never met.

We have been given time.  Let us be generous with our time, giving our full attention to the things we care about rather than shards of attention to many things, most of which we don’t care much for.

As the songwriter Martyn Joseph sings:

Are you down to your last drop of love?
Even so you should give it away.
Let it sail with your dreams to the sun,
And return to you laden with promises.

Grace transforms who we are at the core of our being

‘Gifts are a companion to transformation. A gift may be the actual agent of change, the bearer of new life.  Gifts carry an identity with them, and to accept the gift amounts to incorporating the new identity.  It is as if such a gift passes through the body and leaves us altered.  The gift is not merely the witness of guardian to new life, but the creator.’
Lewis Hyde

Grace is scary because it means change.  To accept a true gift is to accept a new way of being in the world.  If we are feeling devoid of life in our soul, grace fills us with new life and hope.  Hyde writes:

‘Lifelessness leaves the soul when a gift comes towards us.’

In my younger years, I suffered from depression.  I’d lock myself in my room, hiding from the world as a paradoxical cry for attention.  One day my cousin came to visit and I refused to let her in.  My brother, seething with anger at my apparent callousness, broke down my door.  My cousin came into the room and wrapped her arms around me.  At the moment, my brother’s anger and my cousin’s presence were a gift of grace, reviving my depressed and lifeless soul with life and hope.

Giving at life’s events of transformation

Gifts are given at life’s liminal times – christenings, weddings, birthdays, graduations.

Wedding gifts, for example, are the first shared property between a newly-wed couple.  They exemplify a new way of being where all things are shared – material things and concerns of the soul – with another person.  Wedding gifts are an outward sign of a new inner bond.

Grace creates communities

Photo by Hamed Masoumi.

A simple way to understand the meaning of a gift is to contrast gifts with commodities.  Commodities are integral to economy of what is due.  We pay a stranger for them, and then we own them, they belong to us.

Gifts, on the other hand, are integral to the economy of grace.  In giving a gift, we create a relationship with the person we are giving to.  A gift is never fully owned by ourselves, but always contains the memory and soul of the person who gave it to us.  This is particularly true when the gift was nurtured or created by the person giving it.

There are two ways to create community.  One is to choose to exclude certain people.  The other is to create community through the giving of gifts.

Grace breaks down boundaries

Photo by aussiegall.

Gifts break down barriers between people.  This is why we give a bottle of wine or flowers when we are visiting someone for dinner – the gift breaks down the boundary created by our absence.

True grace – the grace of forgiveness – is the most powerful gift of all.  The gift of forgiveness can break down emotional strongholds and fortresses that have stood strong for generations.  Forgiveness is not only a gift to the person being forgiven, but to the person doing the forgiving.  It relieves the tension and bitterness of resentment created by refusing to forgive.

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things


Grace seeks out the empty-handed

Photo by malias.

In market economics, to make money you’ve got to have money.    In the economy of grace, to receive a gift, you must be empty-handed.  Grace seeks out the broken and the lost, in the words of Simon and Garfunkel, the ‘the sat upon, spat upon, ratted on’.

As Lewis Hyde puts it:

‘The gift moves from plenty to emptiness.  It seeks the barren, the arid, the stuck, and the poor.’

Kester Brewin transforms this radical economics into a call to action:

‘The market always seeks a profit, but the gift seeks out the empty-handed.  So let us become empty-handed, happy to receive gifts and pass them on into mystery, refusing to hold onto them for our own blessing.’

Grace arrives when you least expect her

Because the gift seeks out the empty-handed, grace always arrives when we least expect her – sometimes when we know that we need her most, sometimes when we’re sure that we’re doing fine-thank-you-very-much and our lives are ruptured by the change and beauty that a gift brings.

The words of Martyn Joseph resonate again:

Are you down to your last ray of hope?
Well they say that’s the moment things turn around.
Don’t you give up the fight, you can cope,
You can be so amazingingly strong.

Grace seeks out the artist who is empty of inspiration, the hungry who hope each day for a meal.

Living this ’empty-handed’ life means not having everything planned out.  Trying to control life anticipates that there will be no grace.  An empty-handed life of giving and grace is a spontaneous life, a life of humble love.

A life of grace means not knowing all the answers.

Grace looks for the good in other people

To be grace-full is to be an eternal optimist; it is to know that everyone has the potential to create wonderful and beautiful things, and to look for (link to digging for gold) and nurture this potential in all people.

‘Grace,’ wrote U2’s lead singer Bono, ‘finds beauty in everything’

Your one stop reference guide to all things playful.

Photo by shibainu.


adventure, n. 1. being brave enough to do the things that make your feel alive; 2. everyday life
angels, n. ordinary people
art, n. making something beautiful


bouncy, adj. the word to remember when choosing new chairs, shoes, beds, or carpets
bubbles, vb. ability to float carefree through the world


conversation, n. art involving more than one person.  Often created using words
conflict, n. creativity waiting to happen; the midwife of creativity
creativity, n. being yourself
children, n. playful people
clown, vb. making sensible look silly; turning foolishness to wisdom
celebration, n. playful memory
curiosity, n. 1. remembering to look everywhere for goodness, magic and beauty, even when the world laughs at you for doing so; 2. refusing to accept anything at face value


Photo by D&J Huber.

doodle, vb. 1. the realisation that art can be done by anyone; 2. playful art
delight, vb. the ability to see the wonder in everyday things
dancing, vb. playful movement
danger, n. boredom, blind habit, addiction, workaholism
dream, vb. remembering your true self


everyday, n. opposite of mundane
enchantment, vb. to get lost in wonder


fairy-land, n. 1. the bottom of your garden; 2. anywhere you choose
freedom, n. embracing your limitations as strengths


grace, n. giving and expecting nothing back
gratitude, n. remembering to say thank you


happiness, n. gratitude for being alive
hope, vb. knowing that things always get better
humour, n. knowing that things could always be worse


innocence, n. seeing the light in everyone’s soul


joy, n. the emotion of play
jumping, vb. when standing still is not an option


Photo by striatic.
knitting, vb. weaving together the threads of your life into a beautiful, colourful, unique and playful pattern


listening, vb. grace-full conversation
life, n. one big clowning adventure of artful doodles, magical enchantment, everyday delight, sleepy wonder and risky conflict
laughter, n. the noise of a person fully alive


magic, n. reality


nonsense, n. 1. money; 2. power; 3. violence; 4. common sense


optimism, n. 1. see ‘hope’; 2. see ‘humour’


playfulness, n. a state of being.  Describes what an ideal world would be abundant with
peace, n. the soul of playfulness


Photo by Alorza.

quiet, n. where playful ideas are formed


radiant, n. the countenance of playfulness.  Cannot be acquired through make-up or plastic surgery.
randomness, n. playful order


sleep, n. the most creative place in all the world
social justice, n. the aim of playfulness
sacred space, n. anywhere playful acts are committed
sparkles, n. those little bits of magic that make life special.  Noticed and given away by exceptional people
sunshine, n. the source of sparkles, smiles, stories, dreams and angels
smiles, n. 1. little things that make a big difference; 2. things that make someone else’s day
spontaneity, n. playful planning


tension, n. see conflict


ubuntu, vb. embracing others, helping others to be playful, to live out their dreams and be fully alive


vivacity, vb. waking up after a good night’s sleep
vitality, n. the knowledge that playfulness need have no correlation with being young.  Usually found in older people.


wonder, vb. a sense of awe at the beauty of each human being and the world we live in
work, vb. fulfilling your potential.  Sometimes known as life


excitement, n. early morning feeling at the possibilities that lie ahead
exhilaration, n. felt when fears are confronted, dreams are followed, and adventures are lived


yummy, n. playful food


zippy, adj. speedy without rushing
zany, adj. has something important to say
zigzag, n. playful direction
zing, n. the curiosity, desire and bravery needed to start a creative act

Photo by Anonymous Account.

Do you believe in fairies?

Photo by David Masters.

Standing in my yard at the back of my city house in Manchester is a garden gnome. In the midst of endless grey skies and dull red buildings, the gnome is a rupture of colour, a moment of brightness to my day when I notice him amidst the plants. He also reminds me to keep my eyes open for fairies and magical moments.

Do you remember the feeling at Christmas, knowing that Santa Claus was going to visit? I used to wish it could be Christmas everyday so that I could experience that magical feeling. On Christmas Eve I still struggle to sleep, the excitement for the next day keeping me awake.

Did you ever experience the magic of theme parks? The thrill of the roller coaster, a day seemed to last forever, and you wished it would never end.

Yet now I can see through this ‘magic’ of theme parks and Christmas. I can see that companies cynically exploit what should be a time of genuine magic and enchantment to make money. Although there is still a glimmer of hope within me, I have become disenchanted.

Looking around it seems as though much of the world has become disenchanted. Do you know anyone who visits the bottom of their garden looking for fairies? (You’re very lucky if you do!) We have seen through tricks of the magicians; we know that it is all fake, constructed by some sleight of hand.

Yet I, for one, still want to believe. I think secretly, we do believe.

Magic in Science

I recently read somewhere that ‘germs’ are like the new evil spirits. We can’t see them, yet we tell stories about them, aren’t really quite sure what they are, and imbue them with powers that they don’t really have. We use medical language (viruses, cancerous, bugs) to refer to things that we aren’t really sure why they happen, but we know are bad.

That’s interesting to me because magic and healing have always been closely linked. And so now, we’re taking words from science, and using them in a magical sense, albeit mostly in a negative way.

This gives me hope. Maybe magic will never leave us. We will always be looking for enchantment, for moments of beauty and wonder that strike us when we least expect it.

There are times in my life when I’m not looking for answers: I’m looking for a mystery, for an adventure to be swept up in. I’m looking for magic, for sparkles, for some fairy dust to sprinkle through my hair and make me fly away to an enchanted land.

Magic in Today’s World

Photo by Yves Lorson.

The Cinema
Somewhere else I read that going to the movies is the magic of today. Robert Segal writes this:

The cinema blocks out the outside world and substitutes a world of its own. The more effective the film, the more the audience forget where they are and imagine themselves in the time and place on the screen. Things are permitted in films that never happen in the ‘real world.’ In films, anything is possible.

One type of magic that I’ve noticed being talked about a lot recently is synchronicity. This is the idea that once you start to follow your dreams, things outside your control happen to you that help your dreams come true.

The City
Finally, for me, the city is a place of magic. One of my favourite authors who writes about the magic of the city is Leonie Sandercock. She writes this:

If we look at cities as centres of spontaneous creativity and festival, then we come closer to an appreciation of the presence of spirit around us. Our deepest feelings about city and community are expressed on special occasions such and carnivals and festivals. Our highest levels of creativity are seen in art galleries or heard in symphony halls. But the nourishing of the spirit, or soul, also needs daily space and has everyday expressions: two women on a park bench ‘gossiping’; a group of students in a coffee shop discussing plans for a protest; an old Chinese man practising his tai chi on the beach or in a park; amateur musicians busking in front of cafes and museums; an old woman tending her garden; kids skateboarding among the asphalt landscaping of sterile bank plazas…

Your Magically Enchanted Mission

Photo by Randy Son Of Robert.

Whether you live in a town, a city, or the countryside, carry a sprinkle of fairy dust with you in your pocket tomorrow.

And don’t forget to look for fairies at the bottom of your garden. Remember to be quiet and move slowly; fairies are very shy.

Photo by *L*u*z*a*.

Bring out your inner pirate in the search for buried treasure.

One of my favourite toys as I was growing up was my brother’s pirate Lego. He had pirate ships with working cannons, numerous islands with secret caves and trap doors, parrots, monkeys, muskets, wooden legs, and most of important of all: buried treasure.

We would spend many a happy hour pitching the ‘baddy’ pirates against the ‘goody’ English navy. Needless to say, the pirates always won, and came away with more treasure that they had plundered in battle.

When bored at school, I also used to pass the time in daydreams, drawing pirate maps on scraps on paper: treasure islands with swamps, jungles, and mountains, and an X to mark the spot.

I have grown up to be a bit of a pirate. I love looking for treasure albeit no longer on treasure islands. Where then do I find my treasure today?

In other people

Every person you meet has a story to tell, the dreams that have come true, their dreams that have died, the fears that plague them, the rhythms of inner joy and peace or hatred and loss that mark their face. Each has treasure within their soul to share if only we would have the courage and take the time to stop and listen.

It is often the people that we spend the most time with, or that we love the most, that we forget to keep searching for the treasure within them.

Sometimes finding treasure in others means braving some stormy seas or searching through dark caves: getting to know another person’s true self is rarely an easy journey.

Photo by angela7dreams.

In myself

When I take the time to pause and think, to truly engage the world around me with my inner being, I am always left in wonder in the creativity and playfulness that resounds from within me.

Of course, there are times when I stop and listen to my soul, and all I can hear are my fears. However, if I did not stop and listen to my fears I would not be able to face them and move on.

In cyberspace

So many blogs promise great treasure – ‘the true X that marks the spot is here’ they all shout, vying for our attention. It is true that many blogs are great treasure troves – far too many for a single person to explore.

Despite this, many blogs make false promises, offer false dreams, or give easy answers that can prevent us from truly living.

There is so much treasure online that it can be overwhelming. It is tempting to merely skim the outskirts of all the beauty, and never engage with it properly, missing out on all that it could bring to our lives.

Find the blogs that echo with your soul, join in with the conversation there, and your life will be all the more beautiful for it.


So often, especially for the majority of us who live in urban space, it is possible to live day to day without a passing glance at the natural world. Yet even in cities, nature surrounds us.

My girlfriend Siona loves looking for the ruptures of nature in the inner city. Recently she has taken great delight in watching a snail sneak through the city streets, spotting a woodpecker in the park, and making jewellery with daisies.

Being creative

Photo by tao zhyn.

As a university student I have found it helpful to understand my studying as the search for buried treasure. It is an adventure with many dead-ends and false leads, but also celebration when the gem is found that is perfect for my latest essay.

Your thoughts

Have you ever made a discovery that was like digging up buried treasure? The story of a loved one, or a new recipe, or a second hand book that no-one’s heard of, but that changed who you are?


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