Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Best definition of the universe I've heard yet

My daughter's first grade class is assembling a book on geography. Each child was assigned a geographical concept to look up in the dictionary. Then they write the word on their page with the definition and draw a picture of it. A few kids were assigned two pages, so all the concepts would be covered. Leah got "prairie," and then she got "universe."


She diligently looked it up in our illustrated children's dictionary, (there was no illustration on this one, by the way) and copied down the definition in her best handwriting.

The whole of everything that exists, including the earth, moon, sun, all the planets, and all the stars.

I talked a little about how no one knows how big the universe is, and many people think it's expanding. All that we can see with even the most powerful telescopes is still just the tiniest fraction of the universe. As she began to draw, she stopped and pondered for a while. Then she said this.

Mom, I think the universe is God's mind. The universe keeps getting bigger because God's mind keeps getting bigger. I think when someone dies, she's still in the universe, because she's still in God's mind.

Blew. Me. Away.

Friday, April 24, 2009

This one's for my fellow English majors

"The purpose of a liberal education is to make one's mind a pleasant place to spend one's leisure."

Joseph Joubert

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

hailstones for everyone

My daughter and I were riding our bikes home today, and the sky opened up and dumped down hail. It was so unexpected and so violent in the slanting way the ice pellets struck our skin that it was almost funny.

Well, the six-year-old didn't think so. She was furious, crying and completely miserable. I kept yelling up to her (over the pounding of ice pellets) just keep going, honey! We're almost home!

We did get home, put on dry clothes and ate a couple homemade snickerdoodles, and watercolored together (see new banner). We both had that feeling that we had just acquired a good story.

But, unfortunately, we didn't do any of those things before I felt compelled to deliver a motherly speech about being a good sport about circumstances no one can control. It was uncomfortable, I lectured, but it didn't actually hurt you. You were acting like it was your own personal hailstorm.

And right in the middle of that speech I understood that I was giving it to myself. We've had all this uncertainty lately, regarding work, and I've been stewing about it. Like I was the only one who could feel the ice pellets. But while it's uncomfortable, it's not actually hurting me.

And I'm going to have a good story when this is over.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


My computer still has a virus which has completely shut it down.

I'm still in the middle of a great deal of major uncertainty (I'll explain, friends, as soon as I can.)


I just stood on our back deck, and the white blossoms from the two big trees in our backyard rained down on me. It is a green and blue and pale yellow spring day, with a bonus gentle breeze.

What else matters?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

gesundheit, computer

Friends, my computer has caught a nasty virus. It's not pretty. Please check back soon for more Poetry & Biscuits. Thanks.

Friday, April 10, 2009

everything there is to know about Russia

The wise-way-beyond-her-years Stephani, who is raising three young boys in Texas and telling about it in her wonderful blog Blue Yonder, recently posted this idea (which she says is inspired by Lori's Camp Creek Blog, which truly is the original font of inspiration).

It's a simple idea, but somehow I needed it pointed out to me. When your child asks you a question you can't answer, write it down.

I've been leaning on this tired phrase: "oh, that's an interesting question. We should look that up."

I was called out on that. "Mom," my son said. "You say we'll look it up but we never do."

"What was it you asked about?" I asked.

"I don't remember anymore," he sighed.

I've carried a tiny notebook and pen in my purse forever. It says email Emily or return library books Monday--stuff like that. Sometimes it catches snips of poems or essay ideas. Often it's turned over to Leah for drawings or tic-tac-toe games in a waiting moment. Why didn't I ever think to hand it to Jacob? I don't know.

So, after reading Stephani's post, I reached into my purse for this notebook and tossed it to Jacob in the backseat. "Write it down," I said, "because I really want to know that too and we'll look it up together." His reaction was all I could hope for.

Here is a partial list of my son's research topics in the last few days, written in his own words and his own tidy, purposeful handwriting.

How tall is Mt. Everest in INCHES?

What is the gas milage of a Smart Car?

Where was President Garfield when he was killed?

What do fire extinguishers let out?

Everything there is to know about Russia.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Random acts of public happiness

I found this video via my friend Joan, who was the voice of kindness and reason on my dorm floor my sophomore year of college.

This video gets better as it goes. I just love it.

I'm reminded of a wonderful woman I met years ago when I lived in England. (Steve? Are you reading this? She was a friend of yours. I don't recall her name.) She had started a volunteer group which, in twos or threes, boarded trains on London's Underground. They would begin to sing a singable, knowable tune, and invite anyone who wished to join in. They wanted to make a dent in the anonymity of urban life. They wanted to connect. Sometimes they would sing their song and then quietly exit at the next station. But sometimes, she reported, they'd get a whole car singing. I always meant to join them, but I never made it.

There is this video, too, which is good fun, but it doesn't quite have that element of boundless joy, does it?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

there is poetry in Cleveland

Here is my proof.

April 2nd, Willoughby Municipal Park, Cleveland, on Lake Erie.

(I photoshopped out a picnic table and two trash cans. Forgive me.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

why they are masters

Every day I make an effort to go toward what I don’t understand. This wandering leads to the accidental learning that continually shapes my life.
— Yo-Yo Ma

Ancora imparo.
[I am still learning.]
-- Michaelangelo, age 87

snow + bloom

Perhaps I'm taking the silver lining thing a bit too far, but I find reassurance that sometimes, even Earth herself muddles things up. Today, long after she released the blooms in my neighborhood--oops, she flurried some snow.

(Can you see it swirling in this photo?)

It's strange. Surreal. Beautiful. And it allows me to take it a little easier on myself when I go to the store expressly for eggs and bread, and I come home with eggs (and tofu and chocolate and strawberries) but no bread. I'm in good company in my absent-mindedness.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Gertrude sums it up

"I do want to get rich, but I never want to do what there is to do to get rich."

Gertrude Stein, from Everybody's Autobiography

Sunday, April 5, 2009

language in translation

I've been thinking a lot about the German language, flipping through traveler's phrase books and the hefty, sober Oxford-Duden Dictionary (concise version of). I love German. It's a realist's language. Not that I'm a realist, but I admire those who are.

English in translation

I told them English
is my mother tongue,
but every day, every word
I translate
from the unformed,
the fleeting, the impassioned,
the true.
Even that
I translate
from the primoridal dark
and the dappled green shadows
of my forebears' memories.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Comparing early childhood education concepts

For a long time, I've been mentally working on a comparison study of the many schools of thought on early childhood education.

And I just came across this blog and this series of posts. Wonderful. I wish I had had this information at my fingertips when my own children were preschool-aged.

Click around--such informative posts, and doesn't she have an eye for the beautiful detail?