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.
“A generation ago, there was no general conspiracy among writers to protect children.”
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