The afternoon I found myself drawing a fine reproduction, in scarlet pencil, of a small splatter of ketchup: easier than facing the shrieks of desolation that would have met an attempt to wipe it up & leave no record of its beauty. Or the dread of walking out on a rainy morning, and knowing that six blocks would take half an hour, because every drowning worm on the way must be rescued. There might be twenty such, and each must be lifted tenderly: they are easily injured, especially when waterlogged. At two years of age, she suddenly comprehended that all the dinosaurs had died. She grieved for a year.
She grew somehow to be a young teenager. I sent her out one day to pick up the windfall apples in the backyard. She took a bucket readily enough – she was always a willing and obedient child, when she was not in despair for the loss of life and beauty – and set forth. From time to time I looked out the window. For an hour she worked, with great diligence. Every apple had to be inspected, lest a wasp or spider or ant be troubled. If it had such residents, they must be coaxed gently out, and new homes found for them: then common humanity required waiting to see that they were settling in, and to make sure the new place exposed them to no predators. When she finally wandered in, with the bucket one-third full, and the yard still full of windfalls, I thought, “She'll never find work.”
Yesterday morning her phone reminded her, at 6:30, that she had “an observation” at 8:00. She typed up a full lesson plan, arrived on time, improvised brilliantly with a large stuffed horse (unexpectedly presented to the class by a parent) & generally shone for the observer. You would think the worm-rescuer had vanished. Until you see her tenderness with the kids hitting sensory overload, and her uncanny ability to head off tantrums in autistic ones.