Chain Chain Chain
I love that we use the word “links” to describe internet sites cross-referenced on a web page. I wonder who coined the term. It’s a perfect metaphor for the interconnectedness of all knowledge. Each thing to know is a link in the chain; each link I click on binds a new idea to those I have already encountered.
I’ve always loved to play the game of conversational backtracking, where you try to retrace your steps to see how on earth you started out talking about, say, the Olympics and ten minutes later found yourself deep in a discussion about iodized salt. Sometimes, after a busy day with the kids, I try to make a list of the links we encountered in that day’s discovery chain. I can never remember all of them. And the chain isn’t a straight line; it sprawls out in a dozen directions—but all of them are linked.
Like yesterday’s breakfast conversation. It began with poetry, as breakfast usually does. This led to a rambling discussion which encompassed:
—Our favorite poets
—Emily Dickinson in particular (Jane’s favorite)
—Our favorite books about Emily Dickinson:
Poetry For Young People, edited by Frances Brolin
Emily by Michael Bedard, beautifully illustrated by Barbara Cooney
The Mouse of Amherst by Elizabeth Spires—an absolute gem of a book!
—Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, Illustrated Edition by T. S. Eliot (because Grandma J. gave it to Rose for Christmas along with The Mouse of Amherst, and therefore the two are forever linked in Beanie’s mind)
—Back to our favorite poets: Rose announces that hers is “the guy who wrote that poem about the fairy queen. Edmund somebody.”
Me: “Do you mean Spenser? The Faerie Queene?” (Knowing full well she has never read it and frankly surprised she’s even heard of it.)
Rose: “Yes, that’s the one. It’s in that ‘Green Grass’ book. It says Edmund Spenser wrote ‘Roses are red, violets are blue,’ and that’s my favorite poem.”
—Brief digression into the unsurpassable humor (by 6- and 9-year-old standards) to be found in the pages of And the Green Grass Grew All Around, a collection of folk songs and silly rhymes.
—Back to Faerie Queene—do we have it? Yes, parts, at least, in my old college Norton Anthology. We read a few stanzas describing Britomart, the heroine.
—This reminds Beanie of K-Mart. Possible side-discussion squelched by older sisters.
—Britomart is compared to Minerva. Who knows the Greek name for Minerva? Jane knows but graciously allows Rose to answer, in consideration of Rose’s current passion for Greek myths.
—Instead of answering, Rose re-asserts her claim on all things related to Ancient Greece.
—Cue argument: Jane wants to learn Greek, like Rose is doing. Rose doesn’t want her to–she likes being the only student of Ancient Greek in the house.
—This sparks a debate about whether it is whether it is possible to “own” a subject.
—Argument grows heated and (despite being quite an interesting idea to explore) is summarily quashed by mom. Back to Minerva, aka Athena. Now Rose wants to hear a story about Athena.
—Serendipitously, a used copy of Padraic Colum’s The Children’s Homer arrived in the mail yesterday. I pull it off the shelf and begin to read.
—When the name Helen is mentioned, Beanie interjects: Helen! My saint! No, dear, not that Helen. Not St. Helen of the Cross; Helen of Troy. Story is put on hold while Jane and Rose explain the Trojan War to Beanie. She asks for more cereal. Priorities. We return to Colum’s Homer and read the first two chapters of the Odyssey.
—Rose remembers we haven’t yet read a picture book she checked out of the library: Count Your Way Through Greece.
—Another book in the library basket catches Beanie’s eye: Candace Ransome’s When the Whippoorwill Calls, which was recently recommended by someone over at the Real Learning message boards. We read it. Lovely, lovely book. Takes place in the Blue Ridge mountains (huge gasps from both ends of the couch—those are OUR mountains!) during the time when the government was buying up land to form Shenandoah National Park.
—After the story, we look at a map of the Park online and discuss its proximity to our town.
—Then we listen to a whippoorwill song at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website.
And that brings us to about ten in the morning.