The Insanely Precious, Ordinary Moments of a Life

Friday, February 10, 2012

Redwood

If I say that I believe in a God, it is only because
her true name is unknowable,
though she has been called many things.

She is intoxicating, seductive.
Her voice is like the rasping music of a Gramaphone,
her face resembles our solar system
in motion, only faster-
too fast to see clearly.

When, in my anguish I ask, how?
How can children be allowed to starve,
wars to swallow whole families,
species to be wiped out and lost forever?
I hear her sultry voice saying-

Honey,
look at the Redwood,
see how it stands for hundreds of years, then lays down 
for hundreds of years more.
You can call it a Dead Tree, but it's rich red body
supports life for generations after it falls.

This moment is on me,
but it is not yours.
You can use this body,
but you cannot keep it.

You got hands and feet,
you got hearts that can feel one anther's pain. 
You don't belong to me, 
you all belong to each other.
And far as I can see, it's up to you 
to make a life you can all live with.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

on Being and Doing

A conversation over lunch today touched on many of the  ideas that have been rattling around in my mind lately.

Often, parenting in our culture emphasizes doing- helping your child cruise through developmental milestones, nurturing a higher IQ, pushing them to get that academic edge over others.  Not only are we pushing ideas of achievement-oriented success,  and zero growth = failure; but we are also teaching our children to be constantly comparing themselves to others.  Testing, scoring, grading, analyzing data, comparing.  Infant growth percentiles are based not on symptoms of poor health, but solely upon how one child compares to another, statistically.  If you're not average, you're abnormal.  Something is wrong with you.  Learning disabilities are based on this same idea.  If a child learns to read later than other children, if they can't complete a math times tables test or cannot sit still and listen, something is WRONG with them.  But what, really is the problem?  Do all children really need to learn in exactly the same way, at the same time as others?   It is the systems of society that cannot accommodate these wide ranges of human characteristics.  If the child cannot read at the same level of classmates, they will probably struggle to keep up with the preset curriculum for their grade.  They will certainly need interventions.

I think they need us to let them be.  Humans are naturally curious, especially children.  Children are always learning- through play. It works like this- if something is not stimulating, we get bored and lose interest.  We self-regulate.

And so,  I have these questions:
Is it really necessary to interfere with and micromanage children's learning?
Is it really necessary to get them "on track" for being just like everyone else?
How will this homogeneity further our species?
Would it not serve us to have a range of specialties we have honed through self-selection, based on our own interests and skills?
Would our satisfaction with life not be higher if we were allowed to explore life on our own terms?
Can we be trusted to learn what we need to learn to survive, to grow, to be inspired, to wonder, to make progress?

Perhaps, if we can step back and allow ourselves and our children to follow their own curiosity and to support what is alive in them, we can find our way out of this joyless pursuit of empty successes, bottom-line focused systems,  disassociation with our best selves, and of chronic dissatisfaction. 

I believe that right now, at 9 months of life, my son knows exactly how to BE.  My job is to try, as well as I am able, to protect that precious and primitive state.  I want to encourage him to listen to that which is alive in him, and to never, never trade it in for outside recognition and social approval.  When he inevitably learns that he will be have to earn his merit badges, I will encourage him to earn them on his own terms.  Or perhaps we will give the achievement trophies away at Yard Sales, because our Mantlepiece will be filled with a rotating collection of colorful rocks and fossils, imperfectly perfect works of art, binoculars and magnifying glasses, skateboards and tambourines and aquariums.  An ode to life and everything in it that is-truly- worth doing.




Thursday, February 2, 2012

Oranges




My nine month old son loves oranges.  Minneola, Mandarin, Satsuma, all of the above.  Today was that rare sunny, almost warm February day and we needed to have a picnic.  Bridger got his first grass stains on his pants . He was filled with exhilaration, he serenely explored the earth with his fingernails and his mouth.  As I was setting up our blanket and making a little pile of Cheerios, he spotted the orange I had brought for him and flipped out.  I could barely get baby bite-size pieces to him fast enough as he climbed up my arms and grasped for it, making his excited sounds which remind me of someone hyperventilating.  And every time I put a little piece of orange in his mouth, he grinned at me- that big, four toothed sign of unabashed delight.  Beautiful Exuberance. It's astounding how your children's joy- and sorrow- knocks the air out of you.

In high school Creative Writing class, an exchange student from Germany read a poem about oranges once.  "Take life like an orange-" she read her poem aloud slowly, enunciating each word with tenderness and a slight accent shaping her words, making them sound like something entirely new.  The poem was about eating an orange that burst and dribbled juice all over your face and hands as you ate it.  It was about being enraptured with life.  Rapture, something I remember being so effortless when I was young.  Running was so thrilling you had to squeal and maybe even throw your head back as you moved, not nearly as fast as you thought you were moving, every moment at risk of tripping because your steps were not cautious.  And so we fall, and we gradually trade rapture for caution.  Which may not be a terrible thing, as our parents no longer stand just within reach, our source of safety and survival. It is due to their diligence and care that we were able to lose ourselves in that joy, throw caution to the wind.  Now I am the mother.  Now I trade my thrills in for diligence, for my son.  But his joy is enough, so much more than enough, for both of us.

The past nine months I have stumbled through parenthood haphazardly, dazed, half-asleep.  Today was sweet. Today was delicious.  Today I wanted nothing more than what was right in front of me.  I was enraptured.  Maybe it is possible to have both.