A woman who ran a school for young children in east Oakland once asked for my help. "Since you are an artist, maybe you could paint some pictures of the solar system for us to have in class" When I was a small child the brightest moment in my education was when the teacher would pull down another map from the fat roll hanging above the blackboard. It brought whole worlds into our small room. I knew by those maps that Africa and South America had once been attached. It would take science thirty years to catch up with my revelation. This school had no visual materials so I agreed to become a one time science illustrator.
When I delivered the 4x8 foot panels depicting the planets and their orbits (out of scale since galactic things don't fit on manufactured panels) the educator was excited and grateful. She explained how difficult it was to describe the world to the children who have spent their entire lives living on crowded city streets. "I took the children on a field trip to see the Ocean. They couldn't believe what the world outside their neighborhood looked like. They were confused by what they saw. I asked one of them to tell me what he thought the world was made of. He said, 'concrete'." When she tried to find out what he meant by that he explained that concrete was under everything. The dirt between the sidewalk and the curb was contained in a concrete box and the Ocean was like a swimming pool with concrete sides and bottom: the beach was a sandbox.
A few months later I told a Japanese friend this story and he said it reminded him of someone he knew in Japan who gave his 5 year old son a pet locust to play with. It is common in Japan to take this 4 or 5 inch long insect and cut its wings so that it cannot fly and can then become a pet. His son tortured the creature until it finally died then brought it to his father and said "We need to get new batteries for my pet" My friend responded to these two stories in the only way he could. He wrote a poem.


Linda Fleming
Benicia, California
November 10, 2008