“Those little stars that seemed to speckle a not too dreadfully distant blue ceiling were farther away than he could make himself think, try as he might. Those little stars must be enormous. The whole earth must be a tiny pebble in comparison. A spinning pebble, and he, on it, the astronomer, looking at flaming gigantic worlds so far away that they seemed no more than sparkling grains of dust. He felt for a moment less than nothing, and then, suddenly, size did not seem to matter. Distant and huge the stars might be, but he, standing here with chattering teeth on the dark hillside, could see them and name them and even foretell what next there were going to do. ‘The January Sky.’ And there they were, Taurus, Aldebaran, the Pleiades, obedient as slaves…He felt an odd wish to shout at them in triumph, but remembered in time that this would not be scientific.”
—from Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome
We went for a drive this morning to look at rocks and low mountains—Beanie is studying geology, which means everyone is—and happened upon an egg farm with ostriches and ducks and a cage of finches and of course dozens of hens. Beanie and Rilla went to look at the finches, and I went inside the little shop and bought some honey from their hives. The woman in charge—wiry, gray-haired, serious-faced—was a taciturn sort, not what you’d call effusive but great of heart, for as I was unbuckling Huck from his carseat so he could get a look at the birds, the shopkeeper appeared behind me and said, “Come on, I’ll take you to meet Elvis.”
Elvis! A pot-bellied pig, it turned out, black and bristly, with a shock of upstanding hair, a veritable pompadour. Truly a King among pigs. The shopkeeper produced some crusts of bread for the children to feed him. Nearby, two large, muddy, pink, Wilburish pigs watched with envy.
“Those are pig pigs,” said the egg lady. “Bacon pigs.”
She invited Huck to come back and play with “Thomas”—her grandson? great-nephew?—whose toys were heaped outside the shop; he was at Montessori, she told us. We headed home, Beanie calling out rock types as we wound through the boulder-strewn hills. Our mountains here look unfinished, the hillsides littered with car-sized stones. For lunch the little ones ate peanut butter and honey sandwiches. “I’ve never seen such beautiful honey,” said Rose, holding up the jar to the light. “It’s almost red, it glows.”
We read our chapter of Winter Holiday—Dick and Dorothea met the Martians today—and then everyone scattered for games. We’ve got our weather back: low seventies, bright, breezy. In the afternoon, the older girls took a long walk to the library where they had some Patricia Wrede books waiting. I think that’s right; they’ll correct me tomorrow if I’ve got it wrong.
Steinbeck’s Turtle With the Old Humorous Face