Everything to Learn

March 27, 2007 @ 2:46 pm | Filed under: Books, Family, Nature Study

Scott to me, in the car: "Pretty flowers over there. What are they?"

Me: "I don’t know. I don’t know any of this west coast flora yet."

Scott, incredulous: "You don’t??? But that’s your job!"

This is what happens when you are the kind of person who obnoxiously calls out the name of every tree and shrub growing along the roadside for twelve years of marriage and five years of courtship. You build up a reputation, and then when you move away from your zone of expertise, your credibility falls to pieces.

I don’t know any of the plants here. Yet.

The kids and I are on the case. We have found some helpful websites for Southern California plant identification, especially this one, which lets you narrow down by terrain and leaf type, with photos to confirm your ID. We have a rather large photo file of our own by now, but we can’t label any of them yet.

I love this. I will probably keep talking about the bittersweetness of moving for a long time, because it permeates everything right now; every new blossom I spy here reminds me of my beloved garden "back home." But I love the adventure inherent in ignorance, too. I know nothing; therefore I have everything to learn. This is exhilarating. I am the tabula rasa; bring on the chalk!

I have been told by several friends that I will love the books of Elizabeth Goudge. I have not read any of them,* not even The Little White Horse, which is one of Jane’s favorite novels. I own a couple, and I look forward to reading them—so much so that I keep delaying the moment of beginning. I am happy to have before me a whole body of work which will, by all accounts, delight me. Of course it would be beyond foolish to delay the realization of those delights forever; and I won’t. One day, I’ll reach out a hand to that shelf. Maybe this week. Maybe next year. I don’t know.

I did the same thing with To Kill a Mockingbird. Somehow it never made it onto the syllabus of any class I took in high school or college. By grad school, I’d heard enough heartfelt raves to know this was a novel I was going to love, connect with deeply, carry with me forever. I spent years on the verge of reading it. I didn’t delay consciously; I just didn’t read it. Until one day, about three years ago, I did. And the book was everything I wanted it to be and more. Oh, to resort to cliche about such a work! But there it is. I loved it completely, every syllable. I saw in Scout the image of the daughters I hope to be raising: observant, deep-thinking, comfortably impish, compassionate, bright. (Just not the motherless part, please.) I wondered if I would have done anything different if I’d read it earlier. How would the book have changed me? How might it have shaped me, or influenced my choices? How might it be doing so now?

This post is all over the place. So are my children. Quiet time is over and they are turning wild. If I keep writing, we’ll be living Lord of the Flies instead of To Kill a Mockingbird. I’d better get them outside into this world full of things I don’t know yet.


*I was wrong!


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Comments

7 Responses | | Comments Feed

  1. Oh, I really love Elizabeth Goudge! Like Jane, I first read The Little White Horse as a kid and fell in love with it. I still think it’s one of the most beautiful children’s novels ever written. Then I started finding her adult novels in thrift stores, and got hooked on them too. It’s just a shame so many of her books are out of print.

  2. My jaw actually dropped when I read that you haven’t read Elizabeth Goudge. lol The Little White Horse is wonderful, yes, but so is Linnets and Valerians, her other children’s novel — has Jane read it? Is it on your list? It is a must-read. Wonderful in and of itself, but as well it is the book which fueled my 12 year old self’s fantasies about homeschooling my future children: the Uncle Ambrose of the novel teaches his four nieces and nephews at home and I wanted my future life to look similar (minus, of course, the motherless aspect!).

  3. Oh! I forgot she wrote Linnets and Valerians! I stand corrected—I HAVE read Elizabeth Goudge. LOL! I thoroughly enjoyed that book and often think of Uncle Ambrose drawing the kids into a classical education with his stories about Greece…

    Thanks for reminding me, Beth!

  4. LOL, there is no such thing as the Lord of the Flies in your house (unless the flies are being studied and then set free).

    Great post.

  5. Glad to be of service! 🙂

  6. I LOVE Elizabeth Goudge!! Pilgrim’s Inn is one of my very favorite books ever.

    It’s funny how many wonderful things can escape notice for so long. Thanks to you, I’ve now read Understood Betsy and the Betsy-Tacy books. I would have eaten those up as a child, and so I’m thrilled to be able to share them now with my own little people.

  7. I’m from northern California and spent many happy days announcing the names of the local flora to my family. I’ve been out of state for two years and am still struggling to remember just a few of the common plants here. A gardening friend came to visit last week and kept asking about different plants, and had to admit I didn’t know. If you haven’t already picked up the Sunset Western Garden Guide, you’ll be needing that as you start a new garden…