Archive for March 17th, 2005

Guest Blogger: My Husband Scott

March 17, 2005 @ 10:06 am | Filed under: ,

Scott wrote this for his own blog today, but I enjoyed it so much I’m hijacking it for mine. Credit where credit is due, of course: if you want to read it in its natural habitat, visit his site.

Disclaimer: As with any website linked to from here, the opinions expressed therein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect my own.

Note: Scott and I both use aliases for our children on our blogs. His are slightly different from mine; his “Max” is my “Jane,” our nine-and-a-half-year-old. Max was one of her baby nicknames, because she growled like a little Wild Thing. Jane is the title character of her favorite non-Redwall book, L.M. Montgomery’s Jane of Lantern Hill.

My Philosopher

by The Bean’s father

So it’s Thursday, which means it’s The Bean’s music class. She’s one of only three students and just loves the class—no big surprise there. Being the kind of oh so on top of everything parents that we are, we remembered that she was supposed to make a sculpture to bring into class today. No sweat—we’ve had a week to work on it and the class isn’t for nearly an hour yet. We can whip something fantastic up. Piece o’ cake.

And so with twenty minutes ‘til class, the girls sit down with some Sculpey clay and begin working. The Rose makes a Hershey’s Kiss. Max makes…I don’t even know what, but it’s mighty impressive. The Bean decides on an animal of some sort. I suggest an alligator, figuring there aren’t many animals as recognizable and yet easy to pound together in less than half an hour. But no. She wants an elephant. She doesn’t shoot small.

Being less than worthless in these matters, I retire to the office for my (first) cup o’ morning joe and to read the New York Times editorials and get irate—what better way to start your day? I come upstairs in time to take The Bean to her class, and Top Management’s just popping the sculpture into the toaster oven to fire it.

Their creation is a thing of magnificence: light brown body, dark brown ears and tail, bright orange feet, fiery red eyes and the crowning achievement, lime green tusks, presumably in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. One suspects the Lord above looked down and wondered why He hadn’t thought of this color scheme when making the originals in the first place.

We scurry around getting shoes on and coats ready and I look up to see Top Management with an expression of utter panic and horror on her face. Alarmed, I rush over but she quickly shushes me and turns around. Peering over her shoulder, I see she’s cradling the elephant, which has been burnt by our apparently infernally powerful toaster oven.

It’s not fatal for the poor beast: his ears are pretty toasty, but they were already a dark enough brown that it’s not terribly noticeable. Ah, but those wondrous green tusks aren’t looking so chipper anymore: the tops of each are a decidedly smoky brown. If one were honest, one might even say they were approaching a blackish kind of color. Like, say, black.

Ever resourceful, Top Management sends The Bean to go get a hairbrush for her weekly brushing of hair, and quickly slaps some fresh green clay atop the defiled tusks. Presto! Good as new. Not exactly rock hard, but hey, there’s a rock-hard interior hidden beneath those externally squishy tusks. Don’t mess with ‘em.

All this makes us late for class. We rush in, take off her coat and sneakers, toss her backpack and run over to where the teacher and the other two students are sitting in a circle. The Bean notices that they’ve each got their sculptures so she gasps, “Oh!” and runs back to get hers and add it to the collection. Obviously her fellow scholars have already explained their creations because the teacher asks The Bean to tell them about her sculpture.

This seems to throw The Bean a bit. She just stares down at the thing in her hands for a few seconds and I’m suddenly worried that she’s noticing it’s a tad singed.

But no. She finally says, very simply, “It’s an elephant.”

She pauses, then adds, “It’s got a bwown body, and bwown ears and a bwown tail and a bwown twunk, but the ears and tail are a DIFFEWENT bwown, and wed eyes and look! It’s got owange feet!”

The other children seem to be appropriately appreciative of the orange feet.

“And,” The Bean says meaningfully, “It’s got gween tusks.”

One of the kids nodded at that—clearly a fellow connoisseur—while the other said quietly, “Whoa.”

I stood about fifteen feet away, off to the side. All the other parents had left already—we come back for the last ten minutes of class—so I was only waiting for her to notice me so I could say goodbye. But she never turned. The teacher smiled at me happily—she adores The Bean—and I figured that was my cue to exit.

As I was leaving it occurred to me that my little girl had done what I always try to do and usually fail. She managed to see both the Big Picture and the vital details. She pulled back for the forest first: it’s an elephant. And yet she was still was able to focus in on each individual tree: it’s got wed eyes and owange feet and gween tusks. No bunch of blind philosophers, my Bean.

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Today is the Feast of St. Patrick

March 17, 2005 @ 9:43 am | Filed under:

I love the ancient prayer known as the Breastplate of St. Patrick. Here is an excerpt:

I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The brightness of the Sun,
The whiteness of Snow,
The splendor of Fire,
The speed of Lightning,
The swiftness of the Wind,
The depth of the Sea,
The stability of the Earth,
The firmness of Rocks.

I bind to myself today
God’s Power to pilot me,
God’s Might to uphold me,
God’s Wisdom to guide me,
God’s Eye to look before me,
God’s Ear to hear me,
God’s Word to speak for me,
God’s Hand to guard me,
God’s Way to lie before me,
God’s Shield to shelter me,
God’s Host to secure me.

I will never forget the chill that went up my spine the first time I, as an adult, came across this prayer. It called up an immediate echo from one of my favorite books as a teenager: Madeleine L’Engle’s A Swiftly Tilting Planet. The first stanza, above, is the substance of the “rune” quoted by Calvin’s mother and later used by Charles Wallace. I haven’t read the novel in some twenty years, but I can still remember part of that powerful poem: “In this fateful hour/ I call upon all heaven with its power,/ The sun with its brightness,/The snow with its whiteness,/The lightning with its rapid wrath,/The fire with all the strength it hath…” I can almost recall the rest. At the end there is, I think, “the rocks with their starkness;/ All this I place,/ with God’s almighty help and grace,/ Between myself and the powers of darkness.”

I am sixteen again, shivering at the majesty and faith in those words.