GROWNUPS WALK with their heads held high, looking far away, looking at the sky. Children walk with their eyes on the ground, not only because they are much closer to it, but because it's a great deal more interesting than the world of knees and trouser legs and the hinder parts of civilization. It's a matter of concern, as well, to one whose legs are not the great long striding things upon which grownups, cranelike, easily negotiate irregularities. Curbs can be half a child's height. Where a tree thrusts the sidewalk into an inclined plane, or a hedge sticks out at face level, or some considerate soul has raked up a pile of leaves to be walked straight through rather than around, or there are puddles to be stomped in, the smaller inhabitants of the Earth find it best to look mostly down, lest harm come or they miss something amazing.
The detritus of civilization naturally ends up on the ground. So far from being annoying, it is a path littered with treasure for the newcomer. It is as though an almost perfect arrangement had been struck between those whose trash it is-who don't look down and who are far above it-and those whose pleasure it is-who always look down and are right in it-pockets bulging with items negotiable among those of their own kind. Anything new or unintelligible or strange is interesting. The busted ball-point pen with a spring still in it or a possibly useful part of some kind of machine can be turned to good purpose for something or provide a catalyst for speculation and wonder.
Other things are on the road by way of introduction to the cycle of life and death so fascinating to those who have only recently emerged out of nonexistence, those to whom the squashed and sun-dried frog speaks sermons on mortality, and the car-struck cat-stiff as a board, dirty blackened mouth frozen in a rictus of agony-tells of the fine and indefinable border between alive and not alive. You don't find such things around the house. Should Death be a visitor when adults are near, the cat-mauled bird or failing puppy is hustled out of sight with silly explanations. Far better to ponder the lesson at leisure and alone.
April 10, 1994
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