Friday, September 11, 2009

As time she flies

Brief update: I'm done with grad school, Franco and I live together in a gorgeous century old apartment overlooking downtown San Diego, I have a job working as a speech therapist in a hospital, I'm 29, and. . .

More to come! Life has changed immensely in the last six or so months, and I'm looking forward to sharing the magic and craziness that comes with each new day.

Find some sunshine today. You deserve it!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Digging in the archives: A story from Peru

the cobblestone street that i walk down early in the mornings to get to my spanish school is just barely wide enough for a daewoo to squeeze itself down. there are sidewalks about the width of a large shoe on both sides, and my morning walk is comprised of a strange sort of tetris-type advancement, with the faster pedestrians passing slower walkers frequently by stepping around them into the street, and everything coming to a standstill each time a car or taxi passes by. if you are unfortunate enough to get caught next to someone as a microbus or somewhat larger car speeds down the tiny lane, it`s quite possible that you could lose something important, such as an arm. it`s best to pay attention.

i usually walk pretty fast. it`s a habit borne of madison`s large campus distances, and one i have had trouble trying to break. it`s commented upon constantly by people i walk with, both here and at home, and a particularly caustic (yet hilarious and non-blog-friendly) comment made by an old brit friend of mine in flores gave me pause, literally, and ever since i try to stroll instead of run when i have the time.

this morning i was walking slow, as i had plenty of time to get to school. i was a little late yesterday and wanted to make sure i got there with plenty of time. so rather than play the chicken game with the other early-morning commuters, i just slowed my roll and sauntered along.

the buildings on the street are all white, and at least two stories tall. every twenty feet or so there is a door, usually bright blue, that opens to reveal an internet cafe, a garden tucked away in someone`s private yard, a bakery, or a tienda overflowing with over-processed, sugar-filled treats, alcohol, water and bad-looking fruit. the basic necessities of any corner store. there is a shit-tzu with a ponytail on top of it`s little head standing gaurd at one of these tiendas.

this morning there was a very short, very old, stooped man with a small hump on his back walking in front of me on the sidewalk. he stood at no more than five feet, and walked slowly while intently watching the space on the sidewalk directly in front of his next placed foot. he wore black slacks with narrow pinstripes, and a navy jacket with wide ones. the cuffs of the ill-fitting jacket were soiled with various stains, and the pant cuffs were dirty from the ground, dragging too long past his scuffed dress shoes.

his hair was washed and neatly combed, and despite the dirt upon his clothes, he carried himself with grace. his hands were clasped behind his back, the first two fingers of his right hand held firmly in his left. his fingernails were yellowed and tough and bearing the ridges that old people often have on their nails, and very clean. his pinky nail on the right hand was long and tapered to a point.

for whatever reason, this man commanded all of my attention as i walked along slowly behind him, and the image remains in my mind, even after describing it here. there is often no explanation for what strikes my attention or interrupts my internal dialogue, but the man on the cobblestone street did that for me this morning. i followed him for a few blocks and then wished him a good morning as i passed. he did not respond to my greeting nor look up from the sidewalk in front of him, but continued to plod on to wherever he was headed.

Friday, February 13, 2009

This story emerges from the depths of my memory with each detail still clinging to it easy like geckos walking on a ceiling. There is no effort involved in drawing the picture inside my mind; each smell and waterdrop that caught the crystalline rays filtering through the canopy of green is still as it was: intact and waiting to be brought back to life with these words. But this is not the beginning, and that is where I would like to start.

When I was twenty I studied abroad in Ghana, West Africa. People often asked me, “why Ghana?” It seemed to confuse a lot of folks that one would choose to live in desolate, hot, “dangerous” Africa when there were perfectly acceptable places to study abroad such as London, Madrid or Munich. But I chose Ghana. I wanted to be flung as far outside of my comfort zone as possible. I wanted to see the world from an entirely different perspective. I wanted to see things that no-one else saw.

People also often ask, “what was Africa like?” and I’m never able to answer. My first response is that I have no idea what Africa is like. . .it’s a huge continent of which I saw only the tiniest teeniest bittiest fraction. To explain the time I spent in Ghana and the things that I learned about myself and the world would take far longer that you’ll want to sit. So instead I want to share one moment – experience, sight, adventure - that sticks so saliently inside this mind from which so much else slips surreptitiously away.

About three months into my semester in Ghana, I decided to take a little road trip by myself. Although I was technically there to study, I spent most of my time exploring the country and attending the bare minimum of classes to get a passing grade (70% and above constituted an A). I had a difficult time convincing myself to go sit in a classroom when there was a wild, open, enthralling country to discover. Who knew if I would ever get a chance to return? And even if I did, everything is always so different the second time around. Nothing remains the same, and nostalgia has a way of tainting even the most sacred of memories.

This road trip was to take me back to Wli in the Volta region where I had previously traveled with two other exchange students. To get there I had to catch a five-hour tro-tro (Ghana’s version of buses: VW mini-buses brought back from the dead, crammed with an unfortunate number of seats and running on diesel) to Ho then another three-hour fun-ride to HoHoe (ho-hway), and stay the night in HoHoe for fear of traveling by myself at night, which fell every single night at exactly six pm. This full day of travel was replete with the memories of intensely uncomfortable seats, the smell of goats drifting down from the top of the bus to which they were fastened with rough twine, raw peanuts, an avocado and unidentifiable fish parts for lunch, and enough breath-taking views to render one speechless for the entirety of the ride.

The Volta region hugs the southeastern part of Ghana and abuts Togo next-door. The people there are the Ewe, and are a historically more gentle and humble tribe than the majority clan of Akan, who are known for their gold and kings and warriors. As you enter the Volta region, the dust and dry gives way to lush moss-green tropics: trees pregnant and dripping with fruits, rivers slicing through the vibrant hues, clouds and moisture in the air beckoning and smelling of the mountains. A heady richness of earth and life jumps at you and a deeper breath is drawn. Life seems softer there.

I felt something magical the first time I visited Wli, the “waterfall village” in the northern Volta region. We had stayed one night and hired a local boy to take us through the thick foliage and up the mountain to the pristine waterfall hiding in the forest amongst impossible white flowers and ferns as thick as the water rushing past. We didn’t stay up there very long that first time, and I felt that I had missed something; that I had passed through far too quickly to truly feel the place. And so I returned.

I caught a bush-taxi from HoHoe first thing in the morning and arrived in Wli in the mid-afternoon. Although the distances are not incredibly great, it took a lot of time to get around in Ghana. Patience was a commodity necessary in great heaps.

In Wli I found the same nice family with a room for rent and used one of my five Ewe words to thank them for the lunch of banku (fermented raw corn dough), swimmers (fried tiny fish) and hot sauce before I packed up my camera and water for a hike to the lower falls before sunset. To get there I had to walk about half a mile to where the dirt road met the forest and then take the footbridge over the stream and walk into the jungle. There were children washing clothes and gathering water from the stream, and I was greeted with the usual curious teasing and laughter brought forth by my strange and foreign white skin, and was asked to try to balance my jug of water on my head as I passed. We shared many universal smiles as I failed miserably at the task, and left them with plenty to tell their families about when they returned home with their chores complete.

The rainforest in Ghana is different than most places in that there are very few poisonous or deadly creatures. There is a smattering of king cobras, but other than that the critters are more or less innocuous, which helped me to gather courage as I walked, alone, further into the depths of the thick trees and mosses. To be honest, I wasn’t really concerned about the wildlife much. What I was thinking about were the Little People who lived deep in the forest. Or what Ghanaians referred to as the Little People. Just about everyone I met in Ghana believed in them. When someone traveled to another village and did not return, or simply disappeared, it was assumed that the Little People got him. Similar to our stories of the Sasquatch, no one has ever seen one and lived to tell about it, yet everyone believes. And they are believed to live in the thicker parts of the forest, simply waiting around to snatch up lonely wanderers.

I was contemplating how many little people I could take on by myself if it came down to it, and marveling at the enormous centipedes and flesh-eating ants that meandered across my path as I closed the distance to the waterfall.

I arrived and looked up with hand to brow, shading the intense glare of the sun as it broke through a hole in the canopy to light my face. The top of the fall was high enough that I could not determine where it began. The volume was magnificent and made a roaring noise in my ears that brought about a sense of peace that I feel only when I am close to moving water. I climbed a large boulder slippery with moss and sat to drink in the wonder around me. I closed my eyes and imagined myself as a microscopic dot in the middle of the woods far away from the closest village in a huge unknown country thousands of miles from all I knew in the world. The deliciousness of this feeling is what keeps me going and seeking and walking to still newer places. It is like nothing else in the world. I felt gigantic and like the tiniest thing in the world all at once.

I took this time to take a few photos of the waterfall with the intention that I would put the pictures together later to get an idea of how huge it was. As I took the last shot, my little camera shut down and went into automatic rewind: no film left. Oh well, I remember thinking to myself. It’s almost dark anyways.

So as I sat there turning over the great questions of the world inside of my mind, my reverie was interrupted by the shouting voice of a young boy, over there beyond the escaping waters. Thinking that he must be calling to me, concerned I was in the jungle alone so close to sundown, I jumped from my perch and hurried over to explain that I was just fine.

Lawrence, as his name turned out the be, was shocked to see me and explained in his broken English that he had, in fact, been shouting up to his friend up on the cliffside. Turns out that Lawrence and his friend were bat hunting. He showed me the large hollow slugs that were filled with shrapnel and explained that they cost a lot, so it’s important that they kill at least fifteen bats with just one of them. I was trying to figure out how this worked as he tried to point out his friend far up the waterfall wall. I wasn’t able to make out the tiny moving speck, and Lawrence ushered me under a small tree just as a shot reverberated through the canyon, and my jaw dropped as I was treated to the most magnificent sight: the air became thick and literally darkened with the activity of fruit bats the size of an overweight house cat. There were thousands upon of thousands of them.

By the time I recovered from my shock and looked to say something to Lawrence, I noticed that he was already busy at work gathering his prey. He had jumped into the base of the waterfall and was gathering dead or wounded animals that had fallen from the sky. He somehow noticed a wounded bat crawling along a narrow ledge about twenty feet above his head and spent the next fifteen minutes throwing rocks at it to bring it down. Fifteen minutes of effort for a bat. These boys were fourteen years old, and this was what they did to make money. Once Laurence knocked the bat down he gripped in firmly by its wings and gave its head a solid whack on the rocks to assure its death. He repeated this with several other of the bats and then, stuffing them in his pockets and gripping their wings in his teeth, he swam back across the pool to emerge dripping from water, bat blood running in tiny rivulets down his chest and legs.

As Lawrence came over to me he took the bats from his mouth into his hand and wore a triumphant grin. He had gathered eleven bats and was expecting at least another five or so from his friend: today there would be profit. He made jokes about which parts I would like to eat and showed me the magnificent bones of the wings and their perfect rounded claws, and how dog-like their faces were.

Lawrence’s friend emerged silent from the forest like an ancient hunter, with the one significant difference between them being the shotgun slung haphazardly across his shoulder. Shirtless and well muscled, his blue-black skin glistened with the sweat and effort of climbing; his worn shorts low-slung and filthy were the color of newborn fawn. He had gathered eight bats on his treacherous climb from above, and the boys chattered excitedly in Ewe about their success; the last few hunts had not yielded so much.

Chagrined that I didn’t have any film left in my camera, what with this amazing scenario having just played itself out before my eyes, I promised myself to remember this scene. The picture of these two young, strong, beautiful Ghanaian boys, Ewe boys, trying to eke a living out of their lot in life in any way possible. Standing with smiles wide open to the world in front of the cooling mist of the waterfall, framed by the green and white of the flowers and trees, holding the dead bodies of all those small animals that meant so very much, that could give so much back.

I was grateful for the company on the walk back to the village, as night in Ghana fell fast like a curtain and jungles have a way of coming alive in the darkness, innocuous or not. We parted ways when the forest emptied onto the street, and I made my way to sleep on my mattress in the home of a welcoming stranger.

I can close my eyes still, so many years later, and see them standing there laughing into the fading sunlit forest the exact color of their teeth embedded in my mind forever more.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Learning curve

It's my last semester in grad school. I'm interning at a hospital; one of the last of the major steps on my path to becoming a speech pathologist. Hardly three weeks in and I feel as though the onslaught of daily interaction with "real life" has taught me far more about myself than all my days in the classroom strung together. I was expecting to be so busy the days would pass in a blur. I was expecting to be challenged and to have my knowledge tested at every turn. I was even expecting to be overwhelmed by all the newness and the high expectations I had for this experience and for myself.

What I was not expecting was to feel so acutely the facts of the suffering around me; the sickness and despondency. I was not expecting the sadness of either the reluctant acceptance or bitter denial of a life forever changed by a stroke, heart attack, accident, fall, cancer, near-drowning, pneumonia, fire. . . nor the slow and painless slipping into dementia, the pains of which are so keenly felt not by the sufferer, but rather those who love him or her.

It's overwhelming at times to be surrounded by so many sick humans and bad luck and shortsighted hope. I wasn't expecting to feel that way, and I think that- more than anything else in my life- has taught me about the kind of person I am constantly becoming.

It's up to me to either hold fast to that empathy or let it fizzle away into the ether of callousness and immunity. One must have to employ some kind of shield against the constant despair, right? It's just amazing the lives that some people suffer through, and the open ears and minds of those who take the time to listen to their confusion and fear. A dear friend of mine is on her way to getting her master's degree in social work. She sees people at her internship who have no place to live, are suffering from schizophrenia and diabetes and depression and addiction, and who have no family to go home to; no doctor to ask them about their ailments.

I know you're not supposed to "take work home" with you, whatever that means, but I thus far have failed brutally in that department. How can you shake off the faces and the voices and the stories of all those hordes of people who need help and hope and kind words? There is a definite balance to be struck, and I'm in the nascent phases of that learning curve.

You know, despite the intensity of it all, I am truly loving the experience so far. There is so much to learn and every new patient affords me the opportunity to be a little more real, a little better at my job, a little more confident and competent.

I am still very much an optimist and see the rays of light all around me in the rehab center and hospital. The therapeutic staff who work tirelessly to get all the patients to as functional of a level as possible. The families who love and support and give up sleep and time and paychecks to care for their loved ones. The caregiver who isn't being paid but stays bedside all the time anyways because the family has all but abandoned their demented and dying mother. The strides and leaps and bounds of improvement that so many make from wheelchair to walking. The people who learn how to talk and to eat after so much was so inexplicably and suddenly stolen from them.

A wild world. I'm a neophyte so pardon me if I seem melodramatic. I know there are hundred upon thousands of people who work in the health care industry, and in far less favorable settings. And I have to take off my metaphorical hat to all of them, in honor of their thick skins, and soft hearts, and magnificent brains. What a world. My training ground for learning the true meanings of loss, and grief, and acceptance.

Friday, February 6, 2009


I love that word. Tenacity. Tenacious. To be tenacious is to be steadfast and motivated and to see a thing through to the end. An enviable quality. Not one shared by every member of the human species, that is for certain. Some creatures are naturally made tenacious, however. Such as the ant. Never oh ever did I meet a creature quite so tenacious as the common kitchen ant.

As someone who is not now nor has ever been afraid of the kind of critters that send most people screaming and running (i.e., spiders, millipedes, snakes, mice), something about ants always creeped me out. I think maybe it's because my mom loved old horror movies and so I saw (read: was subjected to) the movie Them at a pretty impressionable age. I'm not sure if that movie- which is all about gigantic ants taking over the planet and eating people- is entirely to blame for my distaste for ants, but it definitely contributed. I think what really freaks me out about ants is the sheer number of them. Any time you see one or two, you know that somewhere close is a colony of millions. Just try and tell me that's not freaky.

Freaky-deaky or no, ants are amazing creatures. Tenacious to their gooey little thoracic cores. Recently I watched the magic that is a colony of ants pursuing their endless quest for dried-up food crumbs and deceased flies to bestow as gifts upon the matriarch of their hill.

This took place in Jamaica, circa early 2009. I was heading into our tiny little kitchen by the sea to start cooking dinner. To keep myself nice and dengue fever-free, I lit up a mosquito coil and hung it in the mouth of a Red Stripe bottle on the floor. I inspected the walls and counters for ants, and discovered a military line of tiny ones culminating in a small cluster around and under an unidentifiable chunk of food waste about an inch long. The ants consisted of carriers and two lines of ants right next to each-other, traveling in opposite directions.

It soon became clear that the ants heading toward home were somehow communicating to the ants heading out that the prize had been found; head back to the crib, y'all. Within a minute, there were no ants heading away from home anymore as the whole cast and crew made for the queen. Home was accessed by most of the messenger ants through a small crack between the wall and the door jamb, close to the floor. Franco and I watched as the ants carried that chunk all the way across the counter, and down the wall to their little hole. That in itself was a feat; it was fascinating watching them maneuver the food over the edge of the counter and against all gravitationsal odds as they carried their prize down the wall. But they were far from finished. . .

Alas, the chunk did not fit. The ants attempted about five different entry angles before they gave up and moved on to entrance number two. All the while, there were scout ants running ahead to check out possible routes in for the hunka chunk of deliciousness. The carrier ants brought the hunk all the way down to the ground, across the door jamb, and up to another hole in the wall. Again, they couldn't get it to fit. Again with the different angles. Again, denied.

This repeated many more times over the next half-hour or so. The ants would carry the chunk back and forth between the two entrances, trying for a little while, and then . . .seemingly having forgotten that the other hole wasn't big enough either, they would head over to imminent rejection. Tenacity is not necessarily always paired with problem-solving or intelligence, I suppose. I kept wondering the following:

why didn't they chew up the chunk into smaller pieces?

why didn't they pick up other, smaller chunks that would have fit?

i wondered if their queen was a real picky bitch.

But not to be underestimated, the ants eventually made their way home with chunk in possession and fully formed. I missed the magical moment of entrance because I had walked away to get myself a beer. Apparently I'm not quite as tenacious as those little creepy crumb collectors.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

If I were an Entrepreneur. . .

First, like any good story writer, I must give you the background story:

The East coast of the US and various areas in the middle parts of America are a full month into being pummeled by the throes of Father Winter's frigid wrath. What this can translate into, for the uninitiated, is sub-zero (that's Fahrenheit) temperatures, white-out driving conditions, and half-inch-thick ice covering everything from cars door locks to telephone wires to red-ripe fruit still hanging on to branch-tips with the tenacity of a small and vicious dog's clinging to an unwanted visitor's trouser cuff. Unfortunately, the powers that be do not cancel the world and it's incessant needs during such treacherous outdoor conditions. They can't really, for in certain parts of this vast and complicated country, such heinous weather lasts for months at a time, and allowing people to use the truly valid excuse of completely unsafe driving conditions as a reason to stay home from work could hypothetically ground all productivity, and even worse - all consumption - to a definitive halt. Yikes. How very un-American.

To battle this need for continued rat racing and good consuming, areas that are accustomed to such intense (and deplorable) weather conditions have management techniques in place. Plow trucks, salt trucks and sand trucks are among the most commonly used methods to battle the icy conditions that cause countless vehicle pile-ups and excruciatingly long commutes for those rueful rats racing to and fro all the livelong day. But there's one massive problem with those problem solvers. And that is. . .if the temperature drops much below freezing, (that's 32 degrees Fahrenheit), they are completely useless. That's right. When ice is falling from the sky, pummeling everything in sight, rendering electricity outages across miles of cityscape and leading to many an old-lady breaking her hip, those salt trucks are no good. No good at all.

So, what to do? What to do? Well, several cities have proposed an interesting new solution in recent years. That being. . .beet juice. You heard me right. Plain-old sticky-sweet sugar-beet juice. Reports would have you believe that it works like a god-sent miracle, melting even the thickest of ice off streets and highways with a quickness not seen since the senior Earnhardt dominated the NASCAR scene. So why isn't it used all over the frozen land? Why do massive swaths of American landscape remain locked under fractions of inches of treacherous solid water while the salt trucks sit idly in their service vehicle parking lots? Because beet juice is a little bit stinky, a tad bit sticky, and worst of all. . . a deep, dark, staining red.

People can't stand that the juice dyes the tires of their cars. And the sidewalks of their streets. And the soles of their shoes. It's red, it's vegetable juice, and it goes nowhere very very slowly. So this is where my entrepreneurial spirit (which I didn't previously know I had) bucks up and gets very excited. I have the perfect solution ,and it will make me scads of money (uhmm, and I'll be helping lots of people be safe and stuff which is really good, too. cough).

Have you ever read the series of children's books written by James Howe? If you haven't, I highly suggest you get on that, and quick. At any rate, the stories are all very cheeky and pseudo-scary, and center around a strange little rabbit named Bunnicula. The vampire rabbit. With clever titles like, "The Celery Stalks at Midnight," Howe details the antics of this juice-sucking vampiro-bunny as he hops from garden to garden, depriving the root vegetables in each row of their distinct colors and striking fear into the hearts of every subterranean tuber.

Well, if you don't see the obvious connection here than you're apparently not quite awake. This is what makes this idea so deliciously brilliant. First step is, I procure some nice fertile, open land and plant some beet seeds. Next, I hunt down Bunnicula (he's not hard to find when one follows the country's only trail of colorless rutabaga) and win him over with my personality, cheesy jokes, and stockpile of veggie juice. He'll be as juiced up as an alcoholic at an Irish-Catholic Christmas party. Then, I breed him to create a whole army of vampire bunnies. I will name them things like Incubunnyus and Lehoppystat, and we will all be friends. I will keep them sated with bulk v8 supplies procured from CostCo as I hatch part three of the plan: tend those beets on my beet farm and start weaning the fanged little furry fiends off their myriad juices and get their juice-lust honed in on the money-pot. . .sweet, sweet beet juice.

Once their thirst for the thick red nectar is insatiable, and their fangs drip and glisten in the moonlight with their desire for a fresh kill, I will release my army of vampire bunnies into the rows of juicy beets. I won't watch the carnage; my cruelty only goes so far. But once they have had their way with the heart-shaped roots, I will reap what I have sewn; I will harvest the red-juice-depleted vegetables, and press them for their remaining sweet nectar. This red-free beet juice will descend like a savior on the winter-embattled citizens of the land, bringing them freedom and traction and paths to productivity/consumption they never before imagined during the coldest of seasons.

And that is my plan. And I know it's ridiculous. And I don't care :)

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Life Lessons of a Squished Bee

I recently witnessed a magical moment. It all started at a burrito shop a shoeless hippie's throw from where the sand meets the water meets the sky. The California burrito sitting in front of me oozed with something frightening looking, very unhealthy, and ungodly delicious. Neon signs begged passer-by to stop into the tattoo shop above where I sat- one of perhaps only twelve tattoo parlors on the four-block stretch of the Ocean Beach street.

Newport street is replete with one-stop tourist havens filled with a whole lot of crap that nobody needs, filthy-cozy dive bars, sweatshop-supplied clothing stores, incense-burning "water pipe" glass stores, and surfboard and bicycle rental shops. As I contemplated my burrito, many locals (also known as Obecians), ambled past barefoot and toting long-boards (street and water versions), smoking cigarettes, or played hacky- sack and handmade drums by the stone wall separating sidewalk from beach. The locals are generally indistinguishable from the transient masses who migrate to San Diego in search of a warmer, better, hipper place in which to carry on their various degrees of chosen or forced nomadic lifestyles and destitution. I dig it in OB because the people watching is ripe, and I could pass a few happy lifetimes sitting back and inventing lives for all those randoms who pass across my view. And the drum beats are nice.

The vast majority of people found in OB are clad in the most casual of clothes, from swimsuits to jeans and t-shirts. Girls don't get all squeezed in and slutted up to go to the bars here. That's what PB is for. OB is the pinnacle of laid-back beach life. It is what it is and it is chill. To the max. Brah.

As I'm sitting trying to figure out how to eat my uber-sloppy burrito, a very well-dressed Mexican family of three walked up to the shop's window to order dinner. The sun was long gone at this point, having dropped dramatically below the horizon several hours earlier. The father was standing in the threshold of the tiny shop, gathering napkins and hot sauce containers for their meal. As an unabashed watcher of all people, I was checking out this handsome man, so wonderfully out of place in his clean navy suit and tie, little slick-haired toddler and red-dressed-and lipsticked wife in tow, awaiting their napkins and food at one of the outdoor picnic tables.

As I was taking in the image of this man and his super-shine shoes, I noticed a fuzzy little bee begin to laboriously make it's way up the heel of his fancy shoe. In the best Spanish I could muster (thank god I remembered the word for bee), I tapped him on the arm and said (I think), "excuse me, there is a bee on your shoe." He looked at me for a moment longer than my comfort zone would have it, then looked down cool as a cucumber and very gently brushed the bee off his shoe, and went to join his family. For reasons I can't explain I almost blushed; I felt as though I had done something wrong, revealed some personal weakness or moral failing to him.

Back to my burrito, which was slowly diminishing. A while later the man's little boy was up and about, burning off some steam while his parents ate. He eventually happened upon the same little bee his father had so gently handled, which had since moved a couple of feet out onto the stone patio, still within harms way of the giant feet making their ways to-and-fro. After contemplating the tiny, flightless, winter-dulled creature for about a minute, the little boy picked up his foot and decidedly gave the bee a good stomp.

His dad was by his side, it seemed, before his foot had even reached the ground. Taking his wrist firmly and pulling him away with a light jerk of his arm, he offered a very firm and repeated, "no! no, no, no!" The little boy was deposited on the bench next to his mother.

Dad returned to the bee as son sat looking more than a little chagrined next to his mother, who seemed to have missed the whole thing. The dad crouched down, pulling up his fancy-pant legs to get down low enough, and tenderly scooped the still-alive (but visibly injured) bee into his hand. He then walked over to a shrub bordering the patio and set the bee oh-so-carefully on a broad leaf. His son watched every inch of the process with eyes and mouth as wide as the sky.

Once the little bee was safely in place, Dad came over and grabbed his son by the wrist again, more gently this time, and lead him over to where he had placed the bee. There he crouched with his little son, explaining to him in low tones about the sanctity of life, and respect for life, and love for creatures, and responsibility, and what it means to be really big and to be gentle and kind to something very small. He spent a long time talking to his son, asking him questions and ensuring that he understood how important it all was. The dad then took the bee off of the leaf and held it out on his outstretched palm for his son to look at, to point out the damaged wing and to explain that the bee would no longer be able to fly, to gather pollen, to go home to his family or hive. He replaced the bee and patted his son on the head as he stood up, saying very clearly, "te amo."

This scene almost brought me to tears. I don't know that I've ever before witnessed such a beautiful example of being a good human, a gentle man, and most importantly, a great father. In a world in which people so often disregard the little things that are so important in the long run, and set poor examples for the young humans in their lives with their harsh actions and immature choices, here was a man taking the time to explain to this precious little person of his the importance of respecting a tiny little bee. Pure Magic.