The following response is a contribution from a student at Youth Initiative High School in Viroqua, Wisconsin.
My big brother always stomped on ants despite my frequent declarations that insects have the same value on Earth as him. Completely disregarding my surprisingly intellectual six-year-old insight on the meaning of life, he continued his obnoxious galumphing around the yard, still stomping on arthropods and ripping dandelions out of the ground.
You see, when I was young, everything felt like sunshine. The anticipation of knocking on my best friend’s door across my muddy gravel driveway was inexplicably the longest two minutes of my entire life. In those two minutes, I would think up something so unimaginably enticing that she would just have to come and create with me. We would execute hours of pretending to be flora and fauna, dragons, the swords that slayed them, and mothers and fathers. We pretended so well, in fact, that we thought even our closest allies had been conned. Various fairy creations were our specialty, but being each other’s best friend was the utmost respectable talent the both of us had.
I remember a time when dandelions felt like the closest sisters I had, and that the sunflower in my yard was aware of the growing contest between us. But as time passed, the cactus my mother kept in the living room reminded me to be cautious of the beauty in the world, and I felt my intimacy with nature secede into a relationship with differences and oppositions. The dandelions were decoration for our kitchen, the valleys and grooves on my hands became veins and tendons, and my best friend’s and my eyes went from being the color of soil and ocean to genetic coding and DNA differences. Even I found myself sealing the doors for insects and unwanted vermin with beeswax. How ironic, shutting out things with the very substance we rely on them for. As I grew further from primitivity, I understood my growth as being closer to humanity.
I was taught to cover the dirt under my fingernails with nail polish and to rinse the grass off my feet before going inside. I was under the taught impression that these “things” were unimportant and they belonged “somewhere they could be dirty all by themselves.” I was taught that I am inherently different from the things around me, especially the things I cannot control. If that is so, I am and will be, inevitably different from everyone else. I ask myself, how can we relate to each other if we define ourselves by our opposition? I define myself by opposing to the way we have constructed our sense of humanity. Before we become aware, we accept and love the things we cannot change. Maybe we are becoming aware of the opposite of what we are intended to. My difference is that I prefer to see the dirt under my fingernails as grounding, tendons as valleys, and my eyes as the soil. My awareness is the difference.