One summer day, when the weather was perfect, I took my boys to Gully Park. We walked down to the stream that runs through the park to find it bustling with people. I sat to the side of the stream on the outstretched roots my favorite Osage orange tree.
Two women stood on the bank while their children played. One woman had a fancy camera and I suddenly remembered that I had left my camera in the car. I almost went back to get it, but because the baby needed to nurse, I stayed. As I sat and nursed my baby, the woman with the camera took pictures of her children.
The woman told each child, one at a time, to sit on the opposite side of the riverbank so she could take their picture. Every child was told to smile. There were no candid photographs. When she took pictures of the young ones she shouted at them to look and smile. She even told them ridiculous lies to get them to look at her like, "Look, Elmo is on my head!" The pictures were not genuine. She told each child to do things like put their feet in the water or poise as if climbing the bank to make them appear like they were playing. After the pictures were taken she told the child to go back to the swings and slide, where it was safe. I imagine she would go home and load the pictures on Facebook, complete with cute captions like "The boys had a great day playing in the creek..." and "She just loved the water on her toes!"
The entire time the first woman was taking pictures of her many children, the other mother hovered around her only child. Her little boy, who was about three years old, wanted to throw rocks in the water and explore the stream. But every time the boy picked up a rock his mother said, "Oh no, put that down Parker. That rock is SO dirt! Wash your hands off in the water!" Even when the small boy picked a stone out of the water, she told him to wash his hands in the water. Why she would think that the water which was washing the rock was cleaner than the rock itself, I just don't know.
The children seemed excited to play in the water but at the same time they seemed clueless. They were not sure what to do but I could tell they wanted to do something. I found the whole scene to be disgusting. And I am sure they found me disgusting. I let my oldest son wander and splash in the water unassisted, getting muddy and wet. Meanwhile, I sat in the dirt, leaning against a tree, with my breast in my baby's mouth, shamelessly. I was glad I didn't have my camera. Going to the river is not about retrieving pictures for social media credit. It is about connecting with nature, letting loose, and just having fun.
I watched the mothers usher their children away from the stream and towards the government approved playground equipment. For the rest of the afternoon I played with the boys is the water. We all got SO (delightfully) dirty!
- Roslyn Imrie
- I am a mother, a teacher, and a nature lover. I grew up on a mountain we called Owls' Knob in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The first seven years of my life were spent living in a log cabin, far from a store or streetlight, without electricity or running water and after twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live on a hill by a small lake and work at a public garden. These are stories about nature written from a women deeply influenced by place.