Tuesday was election day, so I was not quite sure what to expect from the Learners. I imagined that many of them, or at least their families, were quite anxious about what was to come, and I wanted to find ways to provide space for the Learners to process and express their feelings. But while I thought that the day might be a lot, the intentions they wrote suggested that maybe I was a day too early in my worries. The intentions for the day included: write a story, eat, eat, drink, crochet, not have intentions, don’t die, pet dogs, listen to music, dig a hole, film, chill, ink comic, and feel water.

I asked them if they were willing to move away from the drop-off location for the morning meeting and after a back and forth, they decided that they would move to the small field next to an old house. When we got there I introduced the human spectrum activity where we arranged ourselves in groups or on a spectrum according to our similarities and differences. Some of the Learners were not interested in it, and that feeling quickly spread to everyone else. Three of them said they needed to go to the bathroom, even. It was a really great example of when one person expresses or projects a sentiment, how it can shift the attitudes of others. This example holds in small groups such as ours, as well as in presidential elections.

Before we ended the meeting we needed to decide where we would go to spend our day. There were some varied opinions in the group. It came as no surprise that several Learners wanted to go to the lake. But two Learners wanted to move away from the lake for a change. One wanted to head up the hill to a spot that had a great view of the lake and all the hills around us. Another wanted to go to the waterfall. The Learners who wanted to go to the lake said we should just vote on it. At that point I interceded and reminded them that we can come to collective decisions without resorting to votes which would have ignored the needs of the Learners who wanted a break from the lake. So the Learners began to explain their preferences. One did not want to go uphill because their feet were hurting them. Two of them wanted to go to the lake to dig holes in the sand with the shovels one of them brought. One wanted to feel the lake water. One who wanted to go to the waterfall said that they would just go with whatever everyone else wanted, but that they would enjoy going on a hike. And the one who wanted to go up the hill said that they did not appreciate how hot they got the day before by the lake where there was minimal cover from the sun. They decided that it made sense to go to the lake for the day, but that they would commit to going away from the lake on Wednesday. It was a great example of consensus decisions making that acknowledged the needs of each Learner, and left no Learner feeling like their voice did not matter just because they were not in the majority.

The lake is a draw for most Learners

The lake is a draw for most Learners

On the way to the lake we stopped at the bathroom where one of the Learners found a quick moving fuzzy black caterpillar. Then we moved onto the lake where everyone began to settle in. I asked the two oldest Learners to chat with me real quickly where I asked them to reflect on the way they approached participating in the human spectrum activity, and how they have an outsized influence on how younger Learners may choose to participate. I thanked them for listening to me, and then I set out a water bowl for Cuddle Buddies Ingrid and Ivan who were joining us for the first time that cycle.

There were some young children at the park who began chatting with me and we got into a long conversation where I ran with some of their joking and insisted that I was an alien from another planet. It was a fun conversation where we discussed what makes one an alien, to include how if I was an alien, then they were aliens to me! I also rejected their demands that I needed to accept the ways in which humans make sense of the universe which sent their wheels spinning. When the kids left, another Learner approached me and apologized for the way that she responded to the morning meeting. I do not know if she did so because of the way I expressed myself at the meeting, if it was something I said to her in particular, or if she was just reading the room. But I appreciated it. And then everything returned to normal.

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Laying in the sun with Cuddle Buddy Ivan

For the two Learners who were in my cell for the first time this year, Tuesday was also their first time being with the Cuddle Buddies. And one of them really took to Ingrid and Ivan. She came over to get to know the dogs and in the process we got to know each other. Meanwhile, the Learners who wanted to dig did a lot of digging on the beach. We did discuss the importance of wearing shoes if they were going to be digging with the shovels, and I asked them to shovel on their knees if they were not going to wear shoes. I had to remind them of this agreement a few times but it eventually clicked.

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Experimenting with making videos

One of the older Learners did not show up on Tuesday, which left another one of the older Learners looking for something to do. In their boredom, they decided that they would go looking for pecans to harvest and eat. Meanwhile, a Learner who brought a camera stand to make some videos got into conversation with another Learner about creating videos for social media, and soon they were discussing ways they could collaborate on making the videos. One of the Learners then experimented with making time-lapse videos of passing boats, while the other chose to lay in the sun with the dogs. Another Learner spent much of her day continuing to diligently ink the comics that she has been working on for a while, although she took a break to place fake poop next to my bag as a joke.

Is this the beginning of prank season?

Is this the beginning of prank season?

Mid-afternoon, I checked in with the Learners to see if they needed to refill their water bottles. Two of them said they did so we trekked back to the drop-off location with the Cuddle Buddies to top off. When I returned, the older Learner who was picking pecans had a short conversations with me, and then I pulled out my Rubik’s cube to play with it a bit. And before I knew it the day was coming to an end. At the afternoon roundup we did rose-bud-thorn to reflect on our day, and we closed out the meeting with the number game. In the number game we need to count from one to fifteen, with no person saying two numbers in a row, and if two people speak at the same time we have to start over as a group. It is not too difficult if only a few people are playing, but when there are seven people, it is not easy. In our experience the number game is often slow, and never fast. But this time, they flew through it without skipping a beat. We were finished in about ten seconds. We then cleaned up our space and made our way to the pick-up location. There, the rides of two Learners were waiting. But with the other four Learners still sitting around, one of them said they enjoyed how effortlessly we did the number game and asked if we could do it again. We did, with a few restarts, and then an older Learner suggested we play the I-game, where we make a story as a group, one word at a time. It was a really nice counter to the activity at the beginning of the day, and a great way to end the day at Abrome.