Renee is digging a hole. We are sitting on the forest floor, right at the front door of my studio. I am transplanting wild geraniums from the side of my house to this bare ground. Renee is sitting less than ten feet away, at the foot of a tall oak.
“I am digging a toilet,” she announces with great conviction in its usefulness. “A hole for pee and a hole for poo.”
There is a pause. I have many plants to put in the ground, and Renee is not getting my full attention. She gets up and stands behind me.
“When you have to pee you go in this hole and when you have to poo you go in that hole OK Mommy?”
“Oh, yes dear. Thank you for digging me a toilet.”
Then she says, “I have to go poo.”
What a time for her to need to go poo—for now she will surely want to go poo in the little hole she just dug, which happens to be right by my studio door, not to mention the complete bother of helping her poo in a tiny hole and there being no toilet paper.
“Why don’t you go poo down at the house, sweetie?” I ask with little hope.
“No. I need to poo in the toilet.” She is not talking ceramics here. I am beginning to get a little irritated.
“It was only a fart, Mommy,” she explains. “A big fart.” She returns to her digging.
Moments later she’s discovered, dug up, or disturbed—I’m not sure which—some strange and intriguing insect. She picks it up, then drops it with a cute yelp.
“Did it bite you?” I ask, looking up to see her peering into one of her little holes.
“Noooo.” Her gaze in transfixed by the insect. “Come look at it, Mommy, it’s squirming. Come see it!”
I get up to see what she’s found—I thought it would be one of the quick orange centipedes that often dart about the forest floor when disturbed, but no, it’s far more interesting. It’s a huge caterpillarish creature with tree bark designs and sticky feet. It is not fuzzy. And it is flipping about from side to side in some sort of defense mechanism.
“Wow, Renee, you picked that up. You are a brave girl.”
She agrees, then queries me about what exactly it is that she picked up.
“It’s a caterpillar for some big forest moth.” I pick it up, too, but I’ve got gloves on. It grips the fabric of the gloves. Renee does not like this.
“Let’s put it back in the hole and cover it up,’ she suggests as she grabs a chunk of rock to do the job. I grab a few oak leaves and offer a less damning alternative. “Let’s give it a blanket of oak leaves,” I say. She agrees to this.
We linger only a little while longer. I finish my work, she puts more leaves on top of the twisty tree bark caterpillar. When we head down the hill, she turns back to get a small toy on the steps, shouting, “Good-bye, Caterpillar! I’m going home!”
Later she and McKinley are running about in black capes. She’s got the ritzy furry one and he’s got the grandma-made Batman cape that rustles when he runs. They clamber up on my lap and cover me with kisses, and just as quick they jump off and away, winging into the shadows of their imagination, their laughter soaring through the air.