A smelly latrine, flat ground. "This is it?" some kid asks. He does a 360. Stunned disbelief.
"We drove all this way to get here? There's nothing!"
It's 7 PM, still 110 degrees, with a cracking wind. No place to sit, no water: awful.
Sullenly, "My parents would hate this..." Jubilantly, " My parents would hate this!"
The first epiphany, and worth a lot.
We poke around. Little rocks underfoot, pink, mauve. Whip-fast lizards. They discover tiny yellow cactus flowers. A hawk sailing overhead. The sky turns coral and turquoise. A star winks on. Silence.
Surprise beauty grabs us.
Suddenly --- it's way past dinner time: 9 PM and no food yet.
The burgers are still frozen, the buns soggy. Someone kicks sand into the guacamole. But it's up to them to produce a meal. This, too, is secretly thrilling. It's important work, we are ravenous, no store anywhere. The challenge ignites them, a sight to behold.
Their first days are miserable, the learning curve steep. But kids abandon whining, learn to manage: cover up in the sun, sip liquids constantly. So the bread dried out, the Gatorade tastes bad. They are making things happen. By day three --- exhilaration.
Decisions have huge consequences here. But they are learning competence.
This is what it's like to begin to matter in the adult world.
With a Perspective, this is Marilyn Englander.
Marilyn Englander is an educator and writer living in Marin.