I was walking into the Botanical Garden, focused mostly on getting where I wanted to be before the harsh Florida sun was high enough in the sky to sap all color out of my photographs. The entrance is lined with lush plants and this banana tree bud caught my attention. It was just below eye level and cocooned in leaves so, from my perspective, just a portion of the red top poked above the leaf in front.
I am fascinated with how hands of bananas grow but this bud elicited more of a response than just curiosity and amazement. It touched the part of me that wants to be safe and protected, cocooned by something bigger and stronger. This is probably an indication of the extent that the chaos in our government is once again undermining my emotional health. My sense of being vulnerable and insecure also probably comes from the subtle and increased aggression of Russia against democratic countries, including our own. They have waged war against us and our allies, in a way that doesn’t use guns and bombs but is just as destructive. It is similar to domestic violence that is psychological instead of physical. We know something is happening to break our mind and spirit and health, but there are no bruises or broken bones or burns or bullet holes to use as evidence, as proof for those who are skeptical or want to deny that it is happening.
That is what drew me in, my own emotional response from my primitive stress response of fight or flight. I wanted to flee into that softly lit, protective environment. But there was also a cognitive response, one that is more of a fight response, a call to action. My mental reaction was that every developing child, every developing creature, deserves and needs this type of protective environment for optimal well-being – physical, spiritual, mental and emotional.
Statistical data comparing us against other democratic, developed countries has historically shown that we, as a country, really don’t care for our children. We score poorly on so many measures of factors that are known to be good for children, such as infant death rate, number of children who go to bed hungry, preventive health measures like vaccinations, number of deaths from accidents among children aged one to seventeen, indicators of opportunity to gain a quality education (like having more than 10 books in at home). Reading the UNICEF 2007 report on child poverty fills me with a sense of shame that our country, with one of the highest GNP, falls at the bottom of so many charts of indicators of child well-being. In the best of times our society seems to put wealth and prosperity for the privileged few and lower taxes ahead of the well-being of all our children and in the last year it seems like programs that have worked to level the playing field for children and families are being dismantled through funding cuts.
That is where my mind went as I photographed, processed and started writing this blog, but I still find this blossom with developing fruit fills me with hope. For me it is symbolic of what we will be able to accomplish if the #Never Again movement started by the young people of Parkland High School continues to grow. I hope the “adults in the room” will hear their plea for safety, especially safe places in which to learn. How wonderful it would be if policy makers at all levels put the needs of Every Child ahead of self-interest and greed, ahead of the interests of the 10% who don’t need any more of anything.