P is eager to get to school, impatient with my conversations along the way. She needs to get to her new friend, needs to play with her as soon as possible. I get a quick goodbye kiss, then she runs to drop her backpack in her cubby, skips over to her friend who is being pushed on the swing. Soon P appears beside me, her face crumpled. She leans into me, whispers “She doesn’t want to play with me”. I hold her on my lap, watch tears slide down her smooth cheeks, am helpless in the face of so much heartbreak, such explicit rejection.
High in the burned out trunk of a eucalyptus tree above the labyrinth where I meditate each morning, there is a small brown stuffed monkey. Its lofty seat makes me laugh, puzzled. I call it the Prayer Monkey, nod hello to it when I arrive at that quiet place, hope some day I learn what it waits to teach me.
We walk to a small pond in the middle of the forest.Green lily pads like fat hearts rest on its glassy surface. Purple lilies, tall and surprising, reach straight to the sky, leave drops of colour on the water mirror. M and I sit in the shade on an old kikoi, watch the Jacanas strut in the shallows, their throats preposterously white. Just before we leave we recognize a Little Grebe with its long crimson neck diving into the water and we cheer at our good luck, our first Little Grebe, our place in this hidden society.
J and P come to the supper table covered in red dirt and sand dust. They are breathing heavily, disheveled and hungry. “We’ve just had a war.” They reach for the pot of rice and recount the afternoon’s battle with the middle school boys at the playground. “We used bows and arrows. We won.” They grin over their plates with pride.
There is a plastic food container with a lid in the fridge, filled with a purple-brown liquid that I can’t identify. Before I taste it I remember P, the day before, gathering petals from our flowers, picking small needles of rosemary, asking for a bowl. I smile at her beautiful soup, nestled comfortably among the vegetables.