“Our Christmas cactus has predictably bloomed each December for three decades and some years when it has been colder for longer, as is the case this year, it often blooms more than once a year. Our Christmas cactus is alive and growing 365 days of the year, most of which it is rarely seen by me but only looked at.”
In his drawing of the cactus, he includes a quote which sent me immediately dashing for my commonplace book (which is to say, this blog).
“While drawing grasses I learn nothing ‘about’ grass, but wake to the wonder of this grass and its growing, to the wonder that there is grass at all.”
That. Yes. Exactly. Or at least, I suppose I would say I learn something about grass when I’m drawing it, I learn something about everything I look at closely. But that kind of learning is implied in the quote. I get what he means by ‘about.’ And yes, the waking to the wonder of a thing by observing it quietly, moving your pen along its paths, or by writing a poem about it (“This grasshopper, I mean—/ the one who has flung herself out of the grass,/ the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—/ who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes…”)*; even, I daresay, by blogging about it—the combined act of observing, pondering, and then expressing, in word or line—these endeavors shift your relationship with the humble object; they awaken you to the wonder the thing actually is.
The drawing lessons taught her to really look at people, and when she did, she saw beauty everywhere.
I know I’m going all over the place here, but in my mind these things are all connected: this way of really looking, really seeing, noticing what is interesting and important and even beautiful about things many people whisk by without noticing. And what I can do for my children is refuse to fill up their lives with things they must patiently endure until a better moment comes. I can savor the moments as they happen, and give them the time and space to find what’s interesting and beautiful in every face the world shows them.
As I was writing that last sentence, Beanie appeared in front of me with a big smile and a present: a bracelet made of safety pins linked together, each pin shining with green and blue beads. “It’s for you, Mommy,” she breathed, so proud and excited. “Jane showed me how.” How patiently (the good kind of patience) she must have worked to slide all those beads in place.
I never noticed before what a work of art a safety pin is!
I’ve written so many times on this blog about how my approach to education is to keep the focus on the process, not the product. The lesson is renewed for me every time I take pencil in hand and try to capture the lines of a thing on my page. In the end, it doesn’t matter at all how my drawing ‘turns out.’ The magic is in the doing.
Taken at the Japanese Friendship Garden, Balboa Park. No filter on that sky! Just pure San Diego blue.
I started to write a list of all the things that have kept me too busy to blog in the past week, and just contemplating such a mammoth catalog of events was exhausting—forget writing about it. Suffice to say it’s a good busy?
But I ought to jot down the highlights before they blur away into the past.
1. The last first loose tooth. ::sniffle::
2. After being rained out several Mondays in a row (to our vast astonishment, for we had all but forgotten such a thing as rain exists), we finally got to take Beanie on a promised trip to Balboa Park—just Bean, Scott, and me—for a museum ramble and lunch at the Japanese Tea House. Utterly delightful day. Rose stayed home and baked cookies with the littles, so there was contentment all round. We meant to visit the Mingei but I forgot to check its hours and yep, Monday’s the day it’s closed. Not a problem—not at Balboa Park. We walked across the way to the Museum of Man, which we hadn’t visited since our first year here. (A visit that sparked what is probably my favorite post I’ve ever written on this blog.)
3. Saturday’s Reading Week event at the New Children’s Museum was loads of fun. Wound up reading a total of five books (four of them mine, plus a Peter Rabbit board book that one little girl begged for most earnestly, and who can resist that?) to two groups of children. What a gorgeous space. And the Learn2Earn folks, who organized the author visits, were awesome. Enjoyed chatting with them. Dav Pilkey of Captain Underpants fame had a slot earlier in the day.
I have several more events scheduled this month. I’ll be ready for some low tide in April! Though not perhaps on the homeschooling front. We’re having too much fun with Big History Project (Bean & Rose) and American Tall Tales (Huck & Rilla).
I dunno, do you guys think I’m wearing my wings too low?
(Not included in the video: the two minutes of Rilla bouncing up and down in her overwhelming glee at meeting Danny, one of her heroes, via Skype just before we began the recording. She was absolutely starstruck. )
I’m always amused when the Coursera “recommended for you” email arrives and I get to see who their algorithm thinks I am this time. Coursera-Melissa has wonderfully eclectic tastes, doesn’t she?
I must say that Australian literature class looks mighty enticing. I’m sure the Planet Earth course came up because of the several climate change classes I’ve taken. Proooobably not going to squeeze any Econ into my schedule, though. And as for learning C#, I’ll leave that to my daughter the computer science major.
If you’re looking for a lit class, I can highly recommend “Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction” with UVa prof Bruce Holsinger. I took that one last year and found it top-notch. Holsinger is an engaging lecturer and he brought in a lot of interesting writers for Q&A interviews.
I’m afraid to click around on the site too much right now, since I have a crazy amount of stuff on my plate this spring and I’m not likely to have much extra reading time. Still…I find the course lectures are most excellent listening material while I’m cleaning or (lately) sketching. Couldn’t hurt just to sign up for the Aussie lit class, could it? A little something to listen to while I’m scrubbing the bathroom floor?