Tidepool day

I am watching Ducky hurl himself across rocks. He is trying to beat an incoming tide while on a quest to identify the large mass of scurrying creatures that are fleeing in his wake. I’m not sure if this behavior would be approved by naturalists of old, and I’m enjoying the mental image of men in full Victorian garb trying to keep up with my jeans-clad son.

There are sea stars the size of dinner plates in rich hues of maroon and orange. The former ones are hard to see nestled beneath their brightly colored siblings. The anemones here are also larger than life: touch-tank specimens have nothing on them. Their long stalks jut out from the rocks like tree trunks with leaves made of sticky, fern green tentacles. Sinuous strands cling gently to our explorative fingers when we reach into the cool saltwater. We are seeking connection amongst these elegant ambassadors of the sea.

I hear a yell and suddenly my boy is off like a shot, carrying our large hiking pole above his head like a spear. He is running to impale whatever beast has been sent from the depths of his extensive imagination. I wonder if other kids his age still play these kinds of games.

Times like these I have none of the doubts that often assail me about what we are doing. Homeschooling is so clearly the answer for a kid like this. How could I ever think otherwise?

I can no longer picture him sitting in a classroom, being beat down for his enthusiasm, told to “sit down, keep quiet, and learn.” I know that’s no good for him and am no longer sure that’s good for most children. This feels odd to admit because I used to be anti-homeschooling.

Ask the me of last year and I would have said it was completely ineffective way to educate. That it was populated by a community made of the privileged. I pictured nothing but anti-vaxxers, born again Christians, and confused hippies.

I loved being involved in our school. While not a full-on PTA, fundraising, show-up-to-every-event-volunteering parent, I did do my fair share and loved the community I had sort of found. It was a tenebrous experience for me due to the fact that many of the more involved parents were SAHM’s and I was a very busy single mother with then as yet undiagnosed disabilities.

Those disabilities affected my son from both directions. Affecting my ability to parent along with my genetics which handed him a stew-pot of mental health challenges.

The sky is turning coral with streaks of gold and dolphins play in the surf while Ducky tackles seaweed underfoot wearing slippery shoes. My alphabet-soup-of-labels child is safe within his “nature cocoon”- a space that nurtures him as well as I do. Perhaps better.

I am getting cold but don’t want to pull him back to camp, where the dog, campfire and dinner await. I want to watch him bounce about, his arms waving frantically when he calls me over to see the next great discovery.

This is homeschooling. The thought comes from nowhere, ephemeral and strange. Up until now I have only been identifying the classic work as school. English and math, grammar and Spanish. These are “school” in my mind.  Moments of running and playing on the beach might stretch into the area of “field trips” to me, but somehow not School. This, in spite of my constant complaint about how kids his age need to move more. That sitting in a classroom lined up like assembly line wasn’t going to teach them anything but how to conform. That they need to go outdoors, run, navigate pocket knives and trees, and bugs.

How did I let myself remain so divergent? I have no idea how I wasn’t able to see both side and suspect it has something to do with my overwhelming literalism. I am often hamstrung by that.

It’s time to go back to camp. I need to stoke the fire, wrestle the huge iron grate over it, go fetch water from the pipe, and attempt to make Mac’n’cheese. It’s pretty much all Ducky will eat these days which suits me fine. Our footprints in the sand are the only ones present and we comment on that while we make our way back. We hear a sound and freeze watching a rabbit hop into view, the brave little bunny refusing to move until the last of a fresh green snack is done.

The campsite is deserted. After cooking we settle in with nature books identifying birds, shells, and plants found during the day. The full moon rises over us, waves crash nearby, our fire is crackling and popping.

I take a deep breath and look around.

This is our school.

Day 60- The South

“So, how do you feel about the way things are going these days?”

I usually say when asked, (and believe me with a California plate, I am getting asked,) that I am tired of politics, tired of watching my country flounder and flail while people who have been taught to stay on their side of a fictitious fence sit and throw barbs at one another. Or if I’m pressed for time, “I don’t trust any of ‘em. Politicians are rarely out for the people and are usually out for themselves.”

This approach seems to be working thus far. But I still am aware of many a steely eye looking at me with an unpleasant glint reflecting a thought; “You know I could push you on this further, right?”  It’s only gone past the glance once, I stood my ground and walked away bored and unsettled. A waste of my time especially since I don’t believe in an afterlife; every moment of my life is all the more precious.

So many folk are out there yelling at each other and I’m over here wondering, “Hey, what’s this state like? Anybody got room for us? Want to talk about food? Going to Mars? Read any good books lately? What did you think about this one? Where have you travelled to? Did you like it?

‘Round here it’s all about God and guns. The radio stations consist of at least five varieties of folk singing their hearts out to or about Jesus. Not to mention the billboards selling God. And Guns.  And confederate flags.  I shit you not I have seen shops selling “starts & bars” right next to crosses and bullets. (I’m waiting for the Confederate flag cross-shaped ammo carrier because that would be like winning some sort of “Souther Trifecta” or something.)

I am decidedly ambivalent about guns though I was taken a little aback when the mechanic who was giving us a lift mentioned in conversation, “my gun goes with me everywhere,”  and I realized he was carrying. The very prosaic side I no doubt owe most of my survival to took this in stride. I shrugged in reply to this along with a non-answer along the lines of, “Well, if you feel the need, then that’s what’s going to happen” or some such. Honestly I wasn’t really that bothered. I suppose I should have been, but at that point all I cared about was getting the van moving again, getting a cold drink (it was 111 out) and finding a place to stay that wouldn’t break the bank.

The fuck-it factor was high that day. Has been ever since, really. Because it just keeps happening.

There was a  family we were hanging out in a random motel, kids in the pool, the adults sharing their beers and tips on sustainable living. We were getting along well and then they were very politely asking me if the gun on the nightstand (on top of the BIBLE, no less,) was offensive in any way. Thinking quickly of Ducky playing with their three children outside, I honestly replied, “It doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but it might scare my boy a little.”

Nothing but the truth.

I have been around gun-culture before, back when one could walk into a bar in Arizona and throw one’s gun down on the table to talk about it’s fine points with others present. I have fired weapons, both at backwood fence posts, and at long distance targets on a rifle range.

The only thing Ducky knows about guns is what he sees in the movies and on TV. Not watching the news he only has the vaguest sort of clue that he lives in the only country in the world that regularly has mass shootings. I’m not sure he fully understands why he has grown up with “lock-down” drills. Earthquake drills are what I remember. But then again my mother grew up with a decidedly different “duck & cover” program.

If we move here, I will take him out to a range and show him what we live with. Not because I’m pro or con but because like the overly abundant mosquitoes, they seem to be something we are going to have to learn to live with. I’d rather he not freeze up in terror at his first sighting of one. He will learn the rules and if a family doesn’t seem to know them he will get his ass home.

Alive, hopefully.

There is also truth to the statement I just made to my friend this week, “The people we have met have nearly all been gun-toting, God-fearing, conservative rednecks who would drop everything to help us in an emergency.” But then again I took certain bumper stickers off and don’t say a lot to make waves. I fear what might happen if I did.

On the other hand, it sure is nice to walk around in an area where everyone says Hello with a wave and a smile. From the smallest backwood town, to campground to small gas station stop, I haven’t had anyone glance over or past me. There are friendly waves and smiles from porches and rusted out trucks. And they are genuine. It baffles me how people with hearts so filled with kindness and grace can turn so quickly into angry, desperate folk.

These people confound me.

But I sure do like ‘em.

Hopefully I won’t get shot.

Forever and ever, Amen.

(Says the non-theist, queer, ½ mexican, charity accepting, single mother from California. Heh.)