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branchandroot: one tree in an open field (calm solitary tree)
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© Jürgen Heckel

This pine forest picture reminded me.

Back when I was in 7th grade, I went to a week-long camp, having spent a month or two stumping around the neighborhood with my grade-mates selling overpriced cheese and meat products to raise the money. It was a standard summer type camp, for the most part, but with odd “educational” things pasted on here and there.

One of those things was an extremely peculiar exercise that involved having the whole camp draw cards to see what “animal” we were, and then being turned loose in the patch of forest behind the camp to run around (without maps) variously “mating with” or “preying on/being preyed on” by each other. At the end of the game, we would be scored based on how often we’d “mated,” “fed,” or “died.”

Yeah, looking back I kind of wonder what the organizers were smoking, too.

But that wasn’t the most peculiar part. No, the strangest part was that, after clattering around the deciduous area, rubbing our animal-name cards against each other (our rather embarrassed consensus gesture for mating) or else gingerly negotiating to reveal what animal we were preparatory to either running like fuck or chasing like mad, a lot of us came out into a small pine forest. Like the one pictured above, it was old and established, with straight trunks going up quite a ways before branches reached for the sun, and several inches of old needles turning the ground soft and silent underfoot.

And in that area, we all just… stopped. Stopped “mating” and “preying” and just wandered around in the quiet green and gold light, nodding silently at each other now and then, “rabbits” leaning against old trunks next to “wolves” just… being.

It was a suspended moment, in that bizarre “naturalistic” scenario, when we all just dropped aside our assigned hierarchy, ignored the prompts of the teachers, and sat together.

And today, today when I’ve been crying at my desk on and off all day, when I’ve seen, not the normal one or two, but six emergency vehicles run past the window with sirens on, all of them ambulances, when views of my stories have skyrocketed and all I can do is be glad I can, in some small way, be there for someone… Today, I’m glad I remember this.

A bunch of kids, given permission, even directions, to be their rawest selves to each other, shrugging it all off, sitting together under the shelter of old evergreens, just being.

from Tumblr http://branch-and-root.tumblr.com/post/152969233569
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