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!"
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.
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.