into the woods

There are few things in the news that upset me more than stories of missing children, murdered and found cast aside, their robbed bodies discovered in open fields and in dark places . It upsets me now, and it upset me even before the kiddo came into my life. I’ve come up against the strange cold, hard side of human nature and have been damaged by it myself. Still, I can’t fathom what it takes for a human to do that kind of damage to a child, and eliminate life and innocence as though it were a disposable toy, some dirty secret that must be smothered and hidden away.

Christopher Michael Barrios is the just the most recent story among too many stories, told and untold. And of course, there is the conviction of John Couey for the murder of Jessica Lunsford that was recently all over the news. I went to school in Utica, New York when Sarah Anne Wood disappeared while riding her bike in nearby town. I saw the signs with her picture on them plastered everywhere, like little prayers flapping in the wind.

She’d just been riding on her bike during her summer vacation. Something I’d done during my own breaks. When I was that age, I was out, unattended and unsupervised, all day, until it got dark. It wasn’t any safer then, either. Things happened. I won’t go into them. I did have a place I’d felt safe, a place some would consider scary, but not for me.

Behind a small Mennonite school across the street from my house, a school I’d attended in kindergarten, beyond its tennis courts laden with fallen black walnuts, lay an expanse of woods. Soft and hushed, as a secret is, from the pine needles that carpeted the earth, to the evergreen’s shaded darkness-in-the-daytime shroud that enveloped me the minute I walked into their cover. It was the perfect place to hide and the perfect place to play; to make believe. I very seldom felt afraid there. When I heard a noise, it was a noise that belonged there, something natural; common. I made up camps. I took Mrs. Beasley with me. I collected things, little things. There was an ancient dump that we took my mother to eventually to dig for old bottles that are part of her collection now.

I can’t imagine a childhood like that for my own daughter; alone and unattended. For us, it was circumstances of overstretched resources and energy as a result of two parents working full time during different shifts. I don’t think lawmakers and Mr. President know enough of the kind of life and experience at-risk kids have when they cut funding for community aid like after school centers or summer programs for kids. The kind of things that happen to kids unattended and unsupervised can breed criminals…that’s obvious. But what about those that don’t become criminals; those that run the risk of being damaged enough that they can’t hold a job, or a home as they survive into adulthood?

My siblings and I often compare notes on child rearing. We all know that life isn’t fair, but that doesn’t stop us from also trying to compensate in our own ways. It’s not a guarantee, and unfortunately not a given, but I do believe that every child is entitled to a childhood, to be a child and feel safe.

I can’t control everything; I’ve long given up on that. But I want the kiddo to know the spirit of the natural world, and the woods. We have that when we visit her babci and djadji, who take us, and their dogs, for long walks into their unfettered lots of forest behind the house. We pick mushrooms….Babci is an expert mushroom identifier. We study the frog eggs, which should be appearing very soon, along the edges of the pond. They look rather dark and mucky in the water, but hold a clump of goopy, jellied eggs up to the light for a moment, and they are stunning masses of pin dotted life evolving and waiting to emerge.

Two of my favorite bloggers, A Bird in the Hand and Little Birds, who happen to be sisters, are doing work for an upcoming show at Kati Kim’s Doe. It’s titled Lovely, Dark and Deep and features the odd, charming, and mysterious beauty of the woods in three dimensional soft sculpture and in two dimensional collaged pieces. Both Lisa and Stephanie document their progress and additions in both of the blogs. Check them out.

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3 Responses to “into the woods”


  1. 1 Bets March 17, 2007 at 6:06 am

    I grew up going to camp with a girl who was abducted and killed, lost for 4 years and finally found. Remarkably, her case never went cold and they convicted her killer 6 years later. Our Dad’s were on the Indiana University Alumni Board together and my sister was the same age as her.

    I can barely stand life when I allow myself to think about how m a n y children suffer at such horrific levels.

    It is so sad that my daughter won’t grow up spending her summers on her bike and going to my grandparents farm like I did. What am I going to replace those experiences with?

    Jill Behrman. That was her name. She was 19 but is permanently fixed around the age of 10 for me, running around Camp Brosius on Elkhart Lake in Wisconsin.

  2. 2 petitmuse March 18, 2007 at 4:23 am

    I try not to think about it too much. But having a child does intensify those issues.

  3. 3 HAROLD April 11, 2007 at 11:52 am

    CHRISTOPHER BARRIOS DID NOT DESERVE TO BE
    ABUSED THEN THROWN AWAY LIKE GARBAGE
    WHAT CAN WE AS CITIZENS/ PARENTS DO TO STOP THIS
    WE NEED TOUGHER LAWS FOR MONSTERS LIKE
    THESE
    I HEARD SOMEONE COMPLAINING THAT ITS UNFAIR
    TO A SEX OFFENDER THAT HE/SHE CAN’T
    EAT AT A RESTUARANT WITH A PLAYGROUND

    THIS BOY WAS SEXUALLY ABUSED REPEADEDLY BY TWO GROWN MEN THEN THEY CHOKED HIM TO DEATH
    A SIX YEAR OLD
    GO TO HIS MEMORIAL PAGES
    LOOK AT HIS FACE
    THIS CANNOT EVER HAPPEN AGAIN
    IT’S JUST SO UNFAIR IT MAKES ME ANGRY
    AND VERY SAD, I CANNOT SLEEP
    WE NEED A MARCH ON WASHINGTON
    WE MUST FIGHT FOR OUR CHILDREN
    KEEPING THEM PENNED UP IN THE HOUSE
    IS NOT FAIR EITHER. THINK ABOUT THIS, THE MAN WHO KIDNAPPED JESSICA LUNSFORD STOLE HER OUT OF HER BEDROOM, YOU COULD BE ON THE PLAYGROUND SUPERVISING YOUR KIDS AND TURN TO GET A DRINK OF WATER AND YOUR CHILD IS GONE
    WE HAVE TO GET THESE CREEPS OFF THE STREETS
    THEN CHILDREN CAN PLAY OUTSIDE AGAIN
    WE DON’T NEED VIGILANTE JUSTICE,
    THAT WON’T SOLVE THE PROBLEM
    WE NEED STIFFER LAWS
    LOCK THESE PEOPLE UP AND THROW AWAY THE KEYS
    REST IN PEACE LITTLE CHRISTOPHER
    YOU DID NOT DIE IN VAIN
    http://michaelbarrios.memory-of.com/
    http://christopher-barrios.last-memories.com


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