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A simpler time on the swingset

Whether it's made from a rope looped around a tree or a slab of rubber chained to a metal bar, a swing is just the thing to take summer into fall.

I was reminded of how much I enjoy swinging while taking a walk through Tapley Park Sunday evening. The shiny new swing set surrounded with a pebbly foundation tempted me for a ride. I hopped on and in a few seconds was soaring through the air. The chain was cool, but I soon got warmed up. It's amazing how the simple gesture of leaning back with your legs extended can quickly get you airborne.

The late summer breeze going whoosh as I swung forward with a quieter swoosh as I swung back was the only sound other than the tinkle of the chain on metal.

Swinging was a much noisier affair when my siblings and I would descend upon parks in the summer. We raced for the good swings that hadn't been wound around the top bar or had the chains adjusted so they were crooked. And you certainly didn't want to get stuck in the toddler swings that looked like a big, black diaper.

We played games such as "divorce" with friends. When side-by-side swingers were swinging in unison they got "married." When their swinging rhythm started to drift apart they divided up the house, then the kids and when there wasn't any semblance of harmony left they were "divorced." It was a strange game to be sure, but we had fun getting "married" and "divorced," particularly when we visited the swings at Sunnybrook Park.

Swinging wasn't only fun, it could be practical, too. A few minutes of swinging at a park by the beach helped dry you off after swimming.

Swinging summer days didn't just take place on the playground. We always had some sort of swing at home. Our swing setup evolved from a Tarzan-style rope swing in a tree into a blue swing set with flat plastic seats into an honest-to-goodness playground quality set with flexible rubber seats. It was secured into the ground so we could swing as high as we wanted to without any danger of tipping it over.

When summer days at home ended I continued swinging during recess at school. It could turn into a competitive sport, though. Swinging the highest in the shortest amount of time and jumping the farthest off the swing became important measures of swinging success. We would also encourage each other to do stunts like swinging with our eyes closed, which can be disorienting and makes you feel nauseous.

Swinging wasn't only a social pastime it could be a nice activity for some solitary contemplation. Swinging on your stomach was a good opportunity to examine the rocks underneath you or your shadow in the sand.

As a teenager I went through a phase where I would swing for almost an hour every night. The swing set behind the museum in Fergus Falls was an ideal place to think and clear my head.

Perhaps one of the greatest appeals of swinging is the sheer delight of relying on such meager equipment to seemingly defy gravity. You're flying on a pendulum, but you stay snug in your seat.

I don't plan on making a habit of trips to the swing set, but even as an adult, or perhaps especially as an adult, it's nice to get your feet off the ground every once in a while. Those kids heading to the swing sets at school next week can't have all the fun. They've had a whole summer free to enjoy a ride in the sky.