Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The inside of a tree

When Tigo was in Kindergarten, I would go help out in his classroom on a regular basis during work groups. The class divided into small groups and each would go to a table and work on a different assignment. One day when I was there, the class was learning about the seasons of the year. The assignment that I was to help the kids with, began with a piece of paper divided into 4 sections. Each section with a silhouette of a deciduous apple tree and its empty branches. Simple enough, the kids were to each write the name of the season below and then proceed to color the tree in to what it might look like during that season.

Now, Tigo is my son. I believe that we are all biased about our own children in one way or another. And if we, as parents are not, we should be or something is wrong. I am totally biased about my kids and think they are brilliant and creative and they continually surprise me. And frustrate me. And confuse me.

When Tigo came to the table that I was stationed at, I told his group what the assignment was. Some of the kids needed help spelling the names of the seasons. I prompted them for ideas on what the trees might look like during those seasons. But we were in Virginia then, and it's pretty darn hard for anyone, even a kindergartner to not know the seasons of the year. Virginia is case book scenario for 4 seasons.

But Tigo was different.

At first, I thought it was because of me being there. I was his mom, so he had to act a little different with me around. But as he proceeded, I knew it wasn't just him being difficult with me. He was really seeing something, in his own mind that was really hard for me to stiffle, but it also didn't follow the norm for the assignment.

Tigo began to draw the what the tree looked like on the inside during each season. As he colored away the interior of each tree, he describe out loud what it was he was coloring and why. "In winter when the tree gets cold and loses it's leaves. The sap inside the tree works hard to stay warm. It turns yellow and brown." "In the summer there are so many colors, it's so excited to be alive."
I don't remember all of what he was saying. I do remember a lot of confusion on my part. That back and forth in my mind of trying to figure out if he was just trying to change the assignment or was he really believing what he was saying. Or did he know something that I didn't. Could he feel something that I couldn't.

We block so much out as adults. There are rules to follow and things that need to be addressed. Bills to be paid, society desires to be filled. Wanting to fit in. Does this education really have room for variance like this? Can a large classroom function with deviation from the norm? But if everything is a deviation from the norm is anything really even taught at all? We stray away as we get older from the truthful thoughts and the purity we are born with.

Heck, maybe he was pulling it out of his ass to be difficult with his mom. But I'd like to believe that not just my amazing son, but all the amazing children out there have something to share with us that we have forgotten. I remember a camp counselor that I had growing up. He would always say "Now that's a good kid." And he would say that about almost, if not every, child that he met.

So where does that insight go? How does it slip away? With my three kids ages 5, 8, & 10, they are all at different levels of innocence and self awareness. I love watching them grow and change. Unfortunately, as this happens something slips away and it is harder and harder to hold onto what it looks like on the inside of a tree. Or the inside of a child.

So anyhow, for Spring Break this year, which came earlier than we are accustomed, we roadtripped it from our current haunts in central New Mexico through Northern Arizona. The road travel is a lot easier to stomach in the wide open west, than it is on the East Coast.  We made our first destination to the Petrified National Forest, just across the state line and did a little exploring. The scenery was amazing. Truly, truly a painted desert landscape. The layers of geology which I do not know but can, anyone can, with out a doubt know that magic was working, to create it. Or created by the hand of God.

The Petrified Forest has a main road that travels about 20-some miles through the landscape with pull offs and small trails for exploring. The deeper into the park you get, one wonders where the forest actually is as it's not obvious for some time. Slowly fragments of the trees that once grew on the now barren landscape begin to appear. Upon closer investigation these scattered tree stumps, as they seem show an amazing beauty.

Through the petrification process a rainbow of colors is preserved in the wood that once grew tall. My dingy camera does no service to beauty and the colors found. But right away when I saw the rainbow with in the tree I thought of the morning I spent in Kinder with Tigo, three years ago.

That's what he saw, I thought. That is what he meant. He saw the colors in the trees that were growing.

I reminded him of that day and the pictures he drew. He only vaguely remember and kind of laughed. I still don't know. Did he make it up or did he know. I want to believe that he knew and felt the trees. But that also means that he may be forgeting. How do we hold onto the innocence and sixth sense of knowledge that we may all have and may slowly hide under our layers and layers of bark?

Yes, of course I saved the picture.
(though seeing the real picture holds my memory better than the scan of it)

Petrified Forest