Young adults, little people, etc.

On occasion I write about those I call Starter People; the ones wandering, sometimes obliviously and sometimes with great clarity, between childhood and adulthood. I know them from my own and I know them from my professional life with them. The last couple days, I’ve been hugging mine every chance I get.

Did you ever doubt that the media defines us? If that sad young man hadn’t blown his brain out, they would be showing a CAT scan of it on Inside Edition with seven experts talking about the abnormalities of his frontal lobe. As it is, they just sit there and speculate endlessly. "There was something wrong with his brain" was this morning’s sound bite. Do you think? I can’t stand it, all that exploitation of people’s pain and misery and longing for fifteen minutes, especially when they are these precious young people.

The pity of it is that this stage of life is the first time they are trying out what they have practiced so many times before. They are reminiscent of tiny tots, finally secure in the knowledge that there is a home where people love them and that the world is a safe enough place, and so they can run freely across the playground. They are similar, except now, at 19 and 20, they are doing it for real, as they head out the door into the world, to begin life on their own.  College, especially, represents a comfortable place to start that life- at least we would like to think so.  So sad.

I’ve been staying busy in my own world (okay, I admit it, it’s a playground). Over the weekend we had Big Weather with high winds and heavy rains. An oak, well over a hundred years, fell on the next block; it was easily 3 feet in diameter. I was surprised at the number of palms that toppled over, too. We didn’t lose anything major but it did cause us to think about trimming up the deadwood in our older trees. Our little house here enjoys a good canopy as well as the company of the Hannibals and I don’t want to lose any of that. The Hannibals are doing well, amidst great carnage. The youngsters are out hunting on their own now and over the weekend Mrs. Hannibal had two in the middle of the street ripping apart something with feathers. I didn’t have my telephoto and I didn’t really want to see anyway.

Monday afternoon I took small plastic animals and insects, shoe boxes, glue sticks and branches, leaves, flowers and moss over to the shelter for a lesson on animal camouflage. We talked about why animals need to hide, predators and prey, and I read a good little book about it. Then all the children made their own camouflage boxes and it was all good fun, a nice break for these children who don’t get a lot of breaks from hardship and stress. My favorite boy STILL had dried snot streaks running across his face in every direction, sort of like war paint. He’s six and yet I don’t understand most of what he says, but his older sister acts as a translator for him. "He wants blue paper." "He doesn’t want a tiger, he wants a bear." "He wants Shanda’s glue stick." She gets all this from, "Whag do nah." In theory, English is his first language but I suspect an organized program of speech therapy is not yet a part of his schedule. Maybe soon.

The hapless toad was a big hit. He had settled in nicely and was a fast learner; he had figured out that the sound of the lid moving usually meant "crickets!" and he’d hop out from under cover to eat as many as I would give him. It’s hard to know exactly how many crickets a small toad needs but after a couple days I started to distrust his natural instincts- he was starting to look like Jabba the Hutt, even though I had named him Martin Luther. The visit to the shelter was clearly not the high point of his life as the kids kept turning his little box around and shaking it to get a better view.  My little buddy kept up a steady stream of unintelligible discussion with Toad, snotty nose pressed to glass. When it’s time to leave the children all give and get hugs from us; he only wanted to hug the toad. His parting word on Monday I understood: "Home?"

Once I got back here and finished dousing myself with Purell, I set Martin Luther’s box on it’s side, without lid, in the garden. It took him only a few moments to appraise his new opportunity and out he hopped, "Free at last, free at last! I Thank God I’m free at last!"Escape3


This morning, I had several e-mails from Chicago: the zoo, a friend asking if we wanted tickets for Prairie Home Companion with them, another trying to coordinate our subscriptions to Lyric Opera, book club. They were reminders that my season here in Florida is winding down, just as I have settled into a good sense of community and neighborhood. Goodwomen
I’ve met a nice circle of women with shared interests and find that there is overlap between the women who go to yoga, the women who work at the family shelter, the women who are docents at the museums, the women who belong to the garden club and the neighborhood historical preservation group. On Monday a reporter from the paper came over to interview us about our restoration of this house and eventually the conversation devolved into all the ways we were connected through friends and acquaintances. Rich said later he was amazed but not surprised that I keep finding people and places. I said that I’m surprised because basically I’m sort of a loner and a fairly private person. I’m in the middle of writing a post about trying to figure out how to embrace the solitary aspects of my self and also whether I want to go back into practice, but I’m pretty bogged down with it, hand in hand with insight and decision making. I’ll get back to you on that.
Thank you again to everyone who did Good Planets. I got a couple of too late entries (Linda, I will post your photos soon with proper notations) and notes saying, "Oh, I wish I had known!" Second chance this month comes on April 28, with an April 27 deadline for submission. So, plan ahead and start sending them as soon as you want with "Good Planets" in the subject line. That way they all go to a smart mailbox I set up. I will be packing up this place and simultaneously trying not to alert the cats that there is another Chevy Ark expedition pending, so the earlier you get me those photos the better. I decided to attach the vaguest of themes to the next Good Planets (unless I get word from headquarters that that is not how we do it) and that theme is "water." That means you have over 71% of this good planet to photograph.

Finally, a picture from a lovely garden we toured last week. A very small but peaceful space.Gardentour

13 responses to “Young adults, little people, etc.

  1. Oh my goodness, is that my friend Susan third from the front, with the glasses on top of her head, talking very seriously, in the next-to-the-last photo? If it isn’t, it should be!

    We had big winds on Sunday and Monday too. I heard a big crash outside, and I still can’t find what caused it.

  2. I always fnid it interesting when I see people from my yoga classes dressed in real clothing.

    I’m still trying to decide whether I have anything significant to post about Virginia Tech.

  3. I am sad about the whole VA Tech thing. I couldn’t stop watching CNN yesterday — there is an urge to know and to understand. I hadn’t talked to my children about it but when we were watching AI, it was mentioned. They asked what happened. Explaining it was painful — one hates to remind them that the world is not a safe and friendly place. We told them that a man had gone crazy and killed a bunch of people. I was fascinated that they both asked, “Was he drunk?” “No,” we replied, “he was crazy. Something didn’t work right in his brain.” They accepted that without further discussion. But, I keep wondering if it will come again in coming days.

    I love hearing your reports of your work with the shelter kids. Wonderful, wonderful stuff. I totally understand your urge to bathe in Purell after. I do the same thing and regularly take Disinfecting Wipes to my classroom surfaces. Sigh.

  4. I wish our culture knew how to deal with things like Va Tech without resorting to sensationalism and circus atmosphere. We don’t seem to understand proportionality and space; privacy and public spectacles. Such violence is a terrible thing, will we finally get smart gun control? Unlikely. No lesson is learned, not when we treat these things like every other thing. I bet Don Imus wishes he had blundered one week later. He would still be employed because we can’t do more than one sensation at a time.

    Those kids are lucky to have met you. Who knows how many lives are saved when a kid sees a toad and a beautiful wild world of possibility opens up.

    Note from headquarters: Water is a great theme.

  5. I think what disturbs me the most about the VT episode is how little I feel about it. I recognize logically, rationally, that this is tragic, sad, scary, infuriating. But emotionally, I feel very little connection to it, to the students, their frightened parents. This is despite having a college campus mere steps from my door and a great many college-aged friends whom I care for deeply.

    I don’t know how to explain my response, or lack thereof. I don’t quite understand it or know what to make of it.

  6. Oh, for crying out loud. Two people shot 90 miles away in Columbia. It all just got a lot closer.

  7. The only thing about all the news (ad nauseum) about VA is that we don’t have so much talk about the war in Iraq. That’s a silver lining to an otherwise very dirty cloud, in my opinion. I wish they’d just let the poor families rest and bury their loved ones first.

    Love the Hannibal photo and the toad is beautiful. I could just see your little snot-nosed six year old pressed against the aquarium glass. You may be the only person who cares about him, except his sister, Vicki. I am glad he has you.

  8. I have no words, lately, for this. It’s too much to absorb, really.

    I’m sewing, instead of writing. YOU should be lounging soon. 😀

  9. I have been having a hard time with this VT tragedy, so I have avoided the news as much as possible.On many levels, it is too close to home, even though Virginia is far away from WA. It is strange how many like-minded people gravitate toward the same pursuits. I see lots of people I know in coffee shops! I am selfishly glad to not have been there in Big Weather. I don’t enjoy it, especially when I’m traveling.

  10. The best news coverage I saw was on the BBC news.

    CNN was worse than usual. “Lou, what do you think might be going through the minds of these young victims’ parents?” ARE YOU KIDDING ME??

  11. It’s been a sad week. I knew several students who attended VA Tech so it sort of hit home with me. Yesterday, only two days after the shootings, a high school 1/2 mile away from my office, experienced a “copy cat” case. A 16 year old boy pointed a gun at two students on the school parking lot. The police caught him at a gas station and instead of giving up the gun he held it to his head and fired. He died later at the hospital. 8 schools in two counties were in lock down.

    Enough of that. Vicki you are so busy I don’t know how you have time to post! Sounds as if you are having a terrific time and I so enjoyed the story of the snot-faced little boy. As usual, you photos are truly great!

  12. I called Nyssa as soon as I heard and at least another four times. Her first thoughts were different than I expected. She said she was very thankful that she had gone to high school out of state and had transferred in to William and Mary. She said the majority of Virginia students stay in in the state for college and that they seem emotionally closer to each other than those in Mississippi. She had friends and residents on her floor with boyfriends, sisters, brothers, cousins, girlfriends and people from their high school class that were at Virginia Tech and anxiety was high on W&M campus as well. She was glad that she didn’t know anyone who attended VT, but felt guilty at the same time.

    The president at W&M immediately sent an e-mail to the students, and counselors were set up for those needing information about students at VT. W&M is a much smaller campus, but Nyssa noticed and increased campus police presence immediately. She wanted to come home both to feel more at ease and to see her uncle again (she had just been her the weekend), but I knew they would be calling on the RA’s to step up and they did. I did tell her that if anything like this was reported from any OTHER Virginia campus, I would be a bit paranoid and she would get in her car and come home.

    Even with all the trauma and carnage, it amazes me how invincible our “starter people” feel. Nyssa said, “This wouldn’t happen at W&M. The kids here are such over achievers they wouldn’t think about killing each other, just themselves.” Spring semester at W&M, the RAs are drilled in suicide prevention techniques, they host fun dorm programs to help blow off steam and now, even more so.

    When did we let this insanity creep into their childhoods? Is it all connected…. pressure to grow up too soon, degrading rap music, horrific video gaming, distorting reality of television, fading moral values, politically correct child rearing, no boundaries set for kids, no consequences for bad behavior, “can’t squash self esteem by allowing for failure”? I don’t know.

    I do know that I hate the media screaming “gun control” and “law suits” and “what the administration should have done”. They weren’t there, I wasn’t there. I have thought about what might have been if they had shut the campus down earlier. How do you shut a small city down? If the shooter went back to the dorm and was locked down inside… can you imagine what rage he would have unleashed on his roommates and others in the dorm? It wouldn’t have changed the outcome… only the victims.

  13. The connectivity of women never ceases to fascinate me.

    Good job on the friends beneath the arbor photo… tricky exposure.

    It was a bit windy for a while, but you are a resident of the windy city after all.

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