Monday, July 23, 2012

“Hey, what’s that bug?” - Children in the Garden

Aiyana WheelbarrelIn the past month, my days have been filled with the awe and sensation that young children naturally bring into every new situation.  
Having a child playing in the garden offers a refreshing perspective. Since young children are fascinated with life and death, the garden sets the stage for exploring those events in action. Scores of moths were rescued from the wading pool. Sunflower seeds were planted in a clear container to provide a window to the underground activity of plant life. Daily observations were noted in the sunflower journal to keep record of the seeds progress. Since the hot and dry June days triggered the spring flowers to produce their seeds, the hollyhock seeds was enthusiastically harvested, bagged and labeled by my granddaughter.

2012 Sunflower Journal
Pages from Aiyana’s sunflower journal

Dominick Aiyana Wheelbarrel
Dominick & Aiyana
A few weeks later, we had another young guest for a week. Because I was told that Dominick loves bugs, I knew that I should caution him about handling unknown creatures. Arizona offers several stinging and biting creatures that are not found in his neck of the woods.

It rained on Día de San Juan, which traditionally means we are going to have a good rain season this year. With the rain, the monsoon season unleashes a battalion of insects. The beetles were just making their debut and they drew the most excitement from Dominick. Before long, our daily routine included looking for new insects. I tried to identify them and learn what it was that attracted them to my garden. I collected the images of the insects they discovered and compiled them into a book for the children to take home as a souvenir. Since my interest has been piqued, I have continued documenting the insects. The slideshow shows some of the creatures I was able to capture with the camera. If you are interested reading more about one of the insects you can hit the pause button and select “show info” at the upper right menu.


During their visit, teaching them to respect living creatures became a personal challenge for me. For example, I expressed disappointment when Dominick deliberately stomped on a stinkbug (Pinacate beetle) after being told to let it be. Later that day, I realized that I’m a hypocrite when I deliberately pinch the flea beetles from the eggplant leaves. In my mind, I justify my actions because I want to defend the eggplant (that will produce something I would like to eat) from a predator. I don’t think my justification is all that more sophisticated than young Dominick testing his power to be able to squash a bug. Although, I educated the kids about the different helpful and destructive insects in the garden, I privately question the ethics of selecting certain insects to be terminated. Oh well, at least the subject of sex wasn’t brought up.

In the midst of all of this activity, my partner and I celebrated our 5th year together. It just so happens that the lovely hand painted bug shirt by Poe Dismuke fits perfectly with the theme of this post.

Just to show that we honor the inner child, here is a home video of our participation in the annual Rolling Arts Transport Society (B. R. A. T. S.) artist derby.

If you want broader overall experience of this event check out Al Loneprotestor’s movie.

Now that I have highlighted my most recent experience with young children (or acting like one), I would like to remind everyone, especially the global leaders: ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN. In Robert Fulghum words:

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school. These are the things I learned:
  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don't hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don't take things that aren't yours.
  • Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.

Finally, two more favorite quotes:

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child”.

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them”.
Written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Translated by Katherine Woods.

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