5 minutes and counting

That’s all I have before I turn into a pumpkin. Five minutes.

 Five minutes to tell you that today I had the privilege of tagging along on my son’s field trip to a huge park for a nature walk, along with a visit to the Rowing Center (more on that later). After lunch, the teachers had the kids walk around a small lake to observe and reflect. The morning fog had lifted and made way for a beautiful blue sky with fluffy, cotton candy clouds. After a time of reflection, the students opened their nature journals and, using their paints, started their nature masterpieces. All was fairly peaceful, as peaceful as it can be for 32 fifth graders when commotion erupted on the far side of the lake. Suddenly someone screamed something I couldn’t quite hear, and I watched as the kids gathered together. Then I heard my son yell, “Snake.”

“A snake is eating a frog.”

I sat nestled between two rocks, where I was trying to finish a poem I started several weeks ago. I figured by the time I made it over there, the snake would have swallowed that frog whole and I would deflate from the letdown of missing the big drama. But they kept standing there. Thirty two fifth graders witnessing a real live version of Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures right in front of their curious little faces.

 The suspense was killing me so I fell in line behind two rows of children ooohing and ahhhing. I tried to videotape the snake’s scrumptious feast, but my camera didn’t focus well. The sound it recorded, however, is worth a million megapixels alone.

“Run for your lives.”

“That is so disgusting, but I can’t stop watching.”

“Why am I watching?”

“The same reason we’re all watching, which is because (slight pause)… I don’t know.”

More screams as the snake pushes the frog out of the water and into the air.

“Are we going to get in trouble since we’re obviously not going to finish our paintings?”

“I think it’s alive. I saw it breathing.”

“I think that must be the snake sucking out it’s insides. I read that somewhere.”

“Ooooh. You are sick.”

“I’m not the one sucking out frog guts.”

“I think it’s poisonous. We better watch out. Are you sure we’re not going to get in trouble?”

And then it was time to go. Journals, paints, water bottles and 32 fifth graders loaded the bus, each with their own version of that frog and snake. And I drove off in my car with the sunroof open, the wind blowing across my face, and  – adding more to my delight – my favorite band on the radio. I thanked God for all of it. I particularly thanked God for the teachers who won’t punish 32 fifth graders for incomplete nature paintings, but instead let a bunch of squirrely 10- and 11-year-olds bask in the misfortune of one very large frog, and one not-so-poisonous snake.

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