Of course they were upon me before I knew it, and there was no escaping. The children poured through the glass doors and into the rain forest, a river of bobbing heads as fluid as liquid, brimming with energetic smiles and amazement. In fact, they were so amazed as to be speechless (to my relief), and suddenly the "yo' mama" jokes were forgotten and a certain reverence took hold over the awe-struck children.
I could identify with them. After all, it was my childhood field trips to the conservatories at the San Diego Zoo that awakened me to nature's power, giving me the sense of wonder that I hold dear to this very day. Sometimes nature sneaks it's way into your heart insidiously with the humility of a slug munching on leaves, and at other times, it just slaps you in the face.
That said, some of those kids were getting slapped in the face by mother nature. Well, actually one kid really did get slapped for whining, but that's another story.
Confession time. I'm terrified of kids. Maybe it's because they can just look you in the eye and tell you what's on their mind with no restraint or inhibitions, with an honesty and fearlessness that I envy. They can say things so bluntly, simplifying the thorniest dilemmas and situations with a clarity startles me. Or maybe it's because I know that I'll have a child of my own someday. Once I get to know a kid and we get to talking, my anxiety fades and I relax.
After seeing the whole class overcome by the beauty of nature, I felt tears well up as I recalled my own rainforest field trip. It was then that I could relax around the kids and take some photos. As I crouched down to get some shots of orchids and palm trees, the kids made it a point to stop and smile or wave to the camera.
I remembered the neon green camera that I carried in a neon pink fannypack along with my toy lizards and treefrogs. I remembered taking blurry photos at the San Diego Zoo and getting left behind by the class while got lost in landscapes of green. Matching the unnatural fluorescence of my bright camera, tree frogs sat perched in the cups of bromeliads and trilled their little voices like a thumb over a pocket comb. I had a pocket comb in the fanny pack too, by the way, so this wasn't mere speculation! Every time I left the San Diego Zoo, I became even more obsessed with nature than before.
"This place smells like pee pee!" was heard across the conservatory, muffled by the hanging aerial roots of a cissus vine. Kids can really say the darndest things.
|The aerial roots of a Cissus sicyoides vine hang from the rafters|
|Mist creates a great environment for the rainforest plants, as well as an air of mystery!|
|The teacher explains how plants work.|
|You just have to love that cissus sicyoides vine.|