Egyptian Tsunami

Egpytian Tsunami.jpg

"Joe!" one of my students shouted, "I just remembered a past life from, like, a million years ago."

"Wow," I answered, enjoying the enthusiasm we all felt in that moment. The events of the past twenty minutes had been a roller coaster of excitement, and I didn't want to squelch this dawning creativity with any eye-rolling about past lives.

"We were in Egypt...and there was, I don't know, a Tsunami..."

"Okay, that is interesting," I said honestly, loving the incongruity of that image. "Let's go inside and draw pictures."

"I don't want to draw that," said another student, "I want to draw the tarantulas."

"Yeah, I agree. I don't know..." It was hard to talk as we tumbled inside and out. We were so giddy. "We can draw whatever we want to draw," I said, followed by shouts of approval.

When we got inside, I poured some tea while the kids got out paper and pencils.

"Maybe it was Shady!" one child said, "...sending a message!" Shady, our old dog, had died the night before. The kids from both Silke's group and mine had said goodbye, and in the afternoon I had dug a large hole in the backyard.

"Yeah…maybe?” I said curiously, getting out chalk for the board. "Okay, who remembers what happened first?"

"The tarantula!"

"Right. We were sitting by the tarantula, watching to see if its mate would come out of her hole and eat him."

"They have to mate first."

"Right. Mate first. Then eat. Got it."

"Then the hail came!"

I drew a picture of the tarantula on the board, then spelled it out in large letters. The kids were already working on their own drawings, a combination of the entire thirty minutes.

"We ran from the hail,” I said, drawing a raincloud, “all the way up the path, then the driveway, and got inside. We took off our shoes, and dried off..."

"You made tea!"

"Yep...tea..." I took a sip. Egyptian Licorice. Mild and sweet.

"Then there was lightning...!"

"Yeah, that was wild. Does anyone remember exactly what happened?"

"It was really loud."

"Right. So loud, in fact, that we decided to go outside to see if we could find where it landed.” The kids were fast at work on their drawings, shaking with excitement.

“Yeah, but…”

“I saw it!”

“Right,” I said, answering one of my students (if you haven’t noticed, I’m trying to do a better job of protecting their privacy, so I’m not using names). “You saw lightning in the classroom.”

“On the ceiling!”

“On the ceiling,” I repeated.

“But maybe I didn’t…”

“But maybe you didn’t…”

I was once outside near a metal gate during a thunderstorm. Someone happened to be taking a photo, for reasons I can’t recall. A bolt of lightning flashed. We oohed and ahhed. Later, as they reviewed the camera, which took a series of photos in milliseconds, we could see that an arc of electricity had snapped off the gate. We couldn’t have been ten feet away, but none of us had seen it in real time. The bolt seemed to be a mile away. But the photo was unmistakable. Inevitably, I guess, a surge of electricity throws up an electromagnetic field in its wake, and it’s possible the metal gate conducted that invisible field and gave off some of its own sparks. Might something similar have happened in our classroom? Who knows, but the boom was about as close as I’ve ever heard it, and that’s why we ran outside (after a few minutes), to see if we could eyeball any damage.

“So, we got our shoes on…” I prompted.

“And ran outside!”

“Then what happened?” I asked.

“Chicken alarm!”

“Well, right. But what happened first?”

“There was a hawk on the roof.”

In actuality, the very second I walked outside my eyes caught the flight of a large hawk. “Look!” I shouted, already distracted by my purpose of amazement with something else amazing. Tarantulas. Hail. Lightning. Now we watched as the hawk swooped up and sat like a silent beacon on the roof. Circling overheard were dark gray clouds, intermittent with clear blue sky (it hadn’t actually looked like rain to me, hence our sudden evasion from the hail).

“It had a feather that stuck out kind of funny,” said one child.

“Yeah, it did,” I said, recalling the tuft of fluff that jutted unkempt from the otherwise stately bird. “It was windy,” I said, partly in the bird’s defense.

“Then it flew down to the chickens.”

“Ri…”

“Chicken alarm!”

“Yeah,” I answered, smiling at the phrase. I was nearly done with my drawings on the board. The hawk, which had distracted me entirely from my purpose, then captivated me on the roof, was – duh! – hunting our chickens. It was an epiphany moment for me, pulling together some of what I’m learning from Jon Young’s stimulating book What the Robin Knows – which is that birds of prey and other predators often use the cloak of an already alarmed situation to hunt birds that are otherwise calm and vigilant. I was so dumb-faced at all the excitement that he could have carried me away. But not the chickens.

“You ran!”

“We ran!”

“Yes,” I said, laughing at the recollection. Shaking loose the momentary hypnotization, I ran as fast as I could to the other side of the house, shouting and clapping, the kids in tail. We got there just in time to see the hawk swoop up, empty-handed, over the fence and disappear.

We laughed and gathered ourselves, recalling the excitement of the previous twenty minutes. “What’s with this morning?” one of the kids said. I wondered might happen next. “I don’t know,” I answered. Then I remembered the lightning bolt. “Let’s circle round the house,” I said, pointing forward. We walked, checking all the treetops and roofs in the distance, looking for anything smoldering or exploded. But we didn’t find anything. Hope the tarantula was okay. Eventually, we made it back to the classroom door. We were about to go inside when…

"Joe!" one of my students shouted, "I just remembered a past life from, like, a million years ago."

"Wow," I answered, enjoying the enthusiasm we all felt in that moment. The events of the past twenty minutes had been a roller coaster of excitement, and I didn't want to squelch his dawning creativity with any eye-rolling about past lives.

"We were in Egypt...and there was, I don't know, a Tsunami..."