Elephants, palm trees…and us

Adult elephant mentor

Adult elephant mentor

This “comment” on Steve Shoemaker’s poem “What did you ask in school today?” deserves a posting of its own.

“Gordon, thanks for this from Steve S. This reminds me of a few things I’ve thought about lately. The images evoked when a parent says the above is that it is an example of how we nurture the young by helping them understand how to connect to their world in deeper ways than by just asking “what did you learn today”.

“The large Palm tree that stands wilted in front of the TreeHouse youth shelter on the highway 41 curve here in Chaska is a reminder that when we attend to our youth with the ideas in this poem we have a “live tree” vs. a dead tree”. In like manner when no attention is given to the affective behaviors the poem describes we have a “wilted” group of young people. The TreeHouse facility leaves the tree in place all winter after the Fall freeze to help our community remember it takes a village to raise our children. They will plant a live Palm again this Spring to help us see the results of their endeavors over the long winter to bring back to health the youth in their program.

The other thought that I was reminded of by Steve’s poem is about a National Geographic documentary last week that described the rebellion of young Elephants worldwide. Yes, strange as that sounds Elephants are killing trainers, strangers et al in epidemic numbers. Why? The program went in depth to explain that because we have destroyed so much Elephant habitat, and in the process we have also destroyed the adult males by culling the herds to ostensibly prevent the destruction of crops. The result is there are no older males to raise the young males resulting in the lack of control of violent behaviors among the young males. When young males are placed in herds with older males the murderous behaviors disappear as the seniors exert that influence. We’ve known for a long time how smart Elephants are but this goes way beyond that. There can be no doubt our children are at least as sensitive to our attention.”

NOTE: Gary Severson is a historian, researcher, and writer who recently completed his teaching career at Kennedy High School in Bloomington, Minnesota. Gary lives here in Chaska where he attends Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church and leads an adult course on our common indigenous spirituality. Those who have the privilege of knowing Gary enjoy the repeated pleasure of this kind of thoughtful reflection – Gary’s own views from the edge.

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