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Children in La Plaza (from NY Chronicles 2001)

Children Planting Marigolds in La Plaza, May 20001

I just came from La Plaza where I planted marigolds with kids from the day care Sheltering Arms. First we looked for the frog at the fish pond, but the frog could not be found. The children in a growing loud chorus called, “Ribbit! Ribbit! Ribbit!” with their peering faces reflected over the waterlily surface. The wise frog thought it best to stay hidden. The children cannot believe when the fish food is poured and a golden carp comes floating up out of the gloom, then look! There’s a black fish, a minnow! And it’s not a cartoon or a book, but life itself rising up. I planted with five kids at a time while their classmates played off in the distance. I told them, “When we dig up the dirt, that helps the earth to breathe. The earth is alive just like we are. When the earthworms make tunnels through the ground that helps the earth breathe oxygen. Don”t ever hurt or be afraid of worms. Worms are really good.” Before we plant, I have them pour water into the holes and show them the white hairlike roots of the unpotted marigold. “We have mouths to eat and drink. The plant has roots.” One boy, up on his stuff, informs me that the marigold’s leaf will get energy from the sun. He really knows what he’s talking about and I say, “Yes, that’s very good. The leaf breathes just like us.” I hold the dangling marigold in the hole while each child puts a shovel full of dirt around finally to pat it down with their flat quick hands. Young shoots of peppermint already grow over the garden’s brick edge. I pinch off a leaf and show it to them. “Do you know what this is?” I put it in my mouth as they, unbelieving, watch. “Yum, it’s peppermint. People eat this to make their breath fresh. Does anyone want to chew some?” They don’t, except one girl who, unable to contain her curious self, shoots her hand up. I hand her a leaf that she, without hesitation, gleefully eats. Immediately two of her mates want some. I give them each a leaf and tell those still holding back that if they want, I’ll give them a leaf to smell, but not to eat, if they don’t want. They all do want to smell and, as soon as they do, open their mouths. In the leaves go. All smiles.

Three Mosaics by children in La Plaza

Earthworm and Snail

Life in La Plaza

The Fish Pond

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