February 14, 2019,
We had boots on ALL the kids!
2nd grade, new walk,
along the Horner river path.
We had our tiny little journals,
Small enough to fit into their pockets.
We had a great crew of parents to help.
It was 40 degrees out!
No problem with cold.
In the classroom.
We waited and waited through infinite delays,
Until the kids sweated through their clothes and were
SO ready to get out into the Wild.
So we went.
And within the first minutes,
The kids found the first slush-puddles
And blasted into them like bulldozers,
Or ice breakers,
They were wearing boots,
Not fireman’s boots.
And icy water soaked their pants and snow pants,
Their coats and gloves, their cute little books,
infiltrated into their boots,
Their socks, and feet.
They didn’t care.
They were pumped up and ready to go.
And explained, …
All to no avail.
By the time we got to Horner
The kids were drenched.
But, it was 40 degrees, hey!
By our readings.
But soon it was 38, then 36,
And the wind picked up, and it was very, very cold.
Most kids didn’t notice.
They wandered the trails,
Some trailing tattered journals.
They climbed trees,
Higher and higher,
Of wind and cold, icy branches,
On the way home we were truly pirates singing our pirate song
But when kids kept scooping soggy snow into balls
and dunking them into slimy water,
They clutched the icy dripping blobs to their chests,
Or heaved them into puddles,
They paid no heed to their “Captain”
They would do what they willed!
We got back to school soaked and frozen.
Grateful that no one perished,
Grateful that the teacher herded the last of the sheep into the shelter of school.
It registered with the kids,
That their toes were “frozen”
Boots full of water.
I gave out a couple dozen emergency pairs of socks,
Dry and warm.
Teacher said that socks littered the room in the morning,
Soggy, fetid, kind of gross.
These kids taught me a lesson.
They are bold.
They are unafraid.
They want to GO.
My job is to teach them…
That they are human,
Live in a real world,
And need to traverse it with care.
It was 40 degrees,
I realized that I had failed to warn them,
To prepare them,
For this particular, weird, condition.
38 degrees and dangerous.
I saw the danger in the faces of the parent volunteers,
Awed, and cold,
And freaked at the capacity of the little ones to endanger themselves,
Like running into a street,
Or into an unfamliar lake.
By the next day the temperature had dropped to the low teens with wind chill below zero.
I woke cursing.
Having to struggle through the decision about our trip to Sauganash.
It was 5:30.
By 10:00 the temp was supposed to rise into the 20’s
(okay, with a sub-zero wind chill)
I held my voice,
At school I met the teacher and I said “GO” and she deflated like a helium balloon in the polar vortex.
I made my case,
One point of which was that,
On this particular day,
It would be good to stick to schedule,
And get out into Wild Nature,
With fresh snow,
It was a hard call.
With promises of warm bus shelter,
Close to our activity center.
We went out into a wild place freshly coated with the brightest of snow,
The freshest of tracks,
The most bracing air,
The most brilliant Sun.
This was Medicine.
The temperature was 20 degrees.
The snow was dry and feathery.
The ground was firm and frozen.
The kids were bruins,
Small polar bears,
Comfortable with the snow,
The tools, the work.
Their faces beaded with sweat,
With the great and abiding joy of important work.
We received the gift of a place newly set,
New clothes of the most perfect white snow.
An invitation to be part of a newly laid table,
A new day,
Hope and hopefulness. We did that!
Visit the Waters Ecology Program Website for current/historical writings, films, photos, and interviews.
Water Ecology Program Website
Friends of the Chicago River
Forest Preserves of Cook County
North Park Village Nature Center