If what you love to do most is learn, then your work can always be play.
And if the book you make is about childhood, what better way to learn and work than to play with children? That’s what Stuart and I have been doing this week.
Here are our two teachers and playmates. Meet Miss Julia, now age nine months and sporting two brand-new upper teeth.
And Mr. Owen, who helped me write my book. He’s almost 2.5 years now. We went to the park near Owen and Julia’s new house, and we got a bonus: a real live construction project with shovels and excavators. That was after we had walked past a dump truck, a Bobcat, and a garbage truck. Heaven! Owen is so dazzled by his good luck and all of his favorite toys made large that he had to wear his Spiderman sunglasses:
If you’ve been following this blog since 2011, you know that we spent that year living in Brooklyn, taking care of grandson Owen. I kept a diary of that year called GrannyNannyDiaries. I’ve thought a lot about my favorite poets and writers as I’ve observed Owen, and now Julia, first live in rapt attention, then become aware of the world, and finally aware of the self. I wrote a blog post about Wordsworth, Nabokov, and Kathleen Norris and Owen here. My memoir of a Mennonite childhood, Blush, benefited so much from immersion in my grandchildren’s world — the city — fifty years after my own childhood on the farm.
Yesterday the writer I thought of was Mary Oliver and her poem “Wild Geese,” one of my favorites. First, here’s Owen in the park again, this time enjoying, and finally, joining, the geese, becoming one with “the family of things.”
by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
My grandchildren call to me from a deep place of origins and return. I think I hear one of them now! Better run.
My New Beginning? I’ll be using the children’s nap time to study metadata. It’s Greek to me now, but it is their world. I’ll try to keep up as long as I can.
What’s your New Beginning? As we pass the 29-day mark, we have over 500 entries. Log yours here and you may be the lucky winner of a night’s stay in “the coolest small town in America,” Lititz, Pennsylvania. In the next post, I’ll give you an overview of what 500 heart’s desires and brave beginnings look like on the other side of the entry form.
Our number today fits the theme of playing and working. What could be more like play than a writer who uses the comic book form? Here’s a street number all the way from France, and a story from my friend Fran Digel to explain.
Fran lives in Angoulême, France, which celebrated this past January the 40th anniversary of its International Comics Festival.
She explains the look of the number above: “A few years ago, the city started changing the numbers on the houses, giving them a ‘comics books’ look. What is particularly interesting is that over here in Europe, probably more than in the United States, the comics books market is very developed. The authors/drawers/writers create a very wide range of stories, in a very wide variety of styles. They go from children books of course to historical narratives, from mystery books to adventure stories, from graphic novels to… memoirs! One of the most famous and acclaimed comics memoir author actually lives here, in Angoulême. He pretty much launched the style over 20 years ago. A very tortured series, called ‘Journal’, in four volumes, which cover ten years of his life. I hope, I know, your memoir is not as tortured. I still thought this would be a nice French wink to your book coming out in… 29 days! Hope you like this Angoulême 29!”