Sunday, October 08, 2006

Reaping what is sown

On Friday this week, the traditional Harvest Moon appeared: so named because the timing of the moonrise early in the evening, before sunset, actually lengthens the work day for those working in the fields to gather the fall harvest in the Northern hemisphere. And this year’s moon was stunning. The clear skies and mild temperatures made it possible to wander out after dark with Ben and moon gaze. “Moon” was one of Ben’s first identified objects, and remains an enthusiastic word for him. There’s a spectacular moon flower outside Peachtree School, and each morning until our first frost last week, Ben would drag me across the street and to the stunning white flowers and say, “Moon, Mamma!”

This morning we spent an hour on the couch, me sipping coffee and reading the Times, and Ben watching Thomas on TV and trying to interfere with my reading. Beside me in the to read pile was the Business section, with an above-the-fold story on Rosa Parks memorabilia. Through my distracted haze, I heard him saying, “Mamma’s hair,” and lowered the paper to see him pointing at picture of Rosa’s silver hair piled in a braid on top of her head. Leave it to Ben to spot race-bridging commonalities.

When he jolted me with his observation, I was reading a piece about the destructive human interaction with elephants. Our disruption of their powerful familial bonds by enslaving, jailing, killing, poaching and encroaching has led to a breakdown of elephant society. Adolescent males of the species are traumatized by the loss of elders to show them the way; rudderless and rampaging, they have killed alarmingly increasing numbers of humans and are known to rape other species. Young females are reproducing without developing elephantine attachment to the larger group and without the extended support network of mothers, grandmothers and aunties.

In a perfect world, young elephants spend their first eight years no further than 15 feet away from their mothers, learning how to attach to the larger group and be elephants. The introduction of elephant elders, male and female, back into the destabilized groups of immature and orphaned adolescents can stabilize them in a year. In some sanctuary areas, human caretakers serve as allomothers: matriarchs to work with orphaned elephant youngsters to develop attachment and cohesion with the larger group. Rosa Parks and elephant matriarchs and saving the world.

Today Ben and I traveled to northern Washtenaw County to the Three Cedars Farm, a touristy but somewhat tasteful pumpkin and hayride place. We petted the goats and looked at the pumpkins and odd gourds, and we wandered off the hayride into the pumpkin patch. Ben did not want to pick a pumpkin. Instead, he went up to each kid his own size, and asked to hold hands. Some kids walked for a while hand in hand with him.

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