Thursday, February 10, 2011

Are We There Yet?

This morning, kept inside by the brutally cold weather, I read the book I'm in Charge of Celebrations by Byrd Baylor/Peter Parnall with my kindergarten students. (Interesting... I obviously recognize the importance of using children's literature, and I love reading myself... but I only see each of my classes once a week, for 60 or 90 minutes. And I want to get the small people outside (also the Naomi outside). And I'm not a reading teacher. So I don't use that much children's literature in my classes... maybe 10 books per year over all the grades. And a really high percentage of them are Baylor/Parnall books. I have used at least 4 so far this year. Their style -- both writing and drawing, just really appeals to me.) Do you all like my nested parentheses? I write like I think... which is, apparently, randomly.

Anyhow. If you're not familiar with the book, it's about a girl who creates her own holidays based on the spectacular things she gets to witness in nature. Written long before Last Child in the Woods, the narrator points out more than once that if she were inside, instead of going outside in her free time, she would have missed all those things, and she must be the luckiest person...

After reading the book, each student creates their own "nature celebration" -- some really memorable thing that they experienced in nature that they "plan to remember the rest of [their] life," as the book says. Kids come up with all sorts of things... from Snow Drift Day that just happened last week to Rock Collecting Day that clearly occurred in the summer sometime (based on the illustration), things they saw in their back yard (Opossum Day) to things they saw on vacation somewhere distant (Giant Wave Day).

A few kids always get stuck (they're kindergarteners, after all) and need to be coached to think of things to celebrate, and today, that conversation nearly transported me. "Do you remember a time when you saw the first spring flower, maybe? Or got really close to an animal?"

And, all of a sudden, in my head... it's last spring, First Dragonfly Day. A favorite day of mine because I love dragonflies so, and miss watching them terribly during the winter months. In a stuffy classroom on a frigid day, I can feel the warmth on my face. I squint my eyes to protect them from the sun sparkling on the pond water. And I watch the green darner swoop, turning and gliding, close to me and then away again. I lose it in the cattails, search, find it again as it darts about. It is huge (for an insect, I mean) and colorful. Time stops in that moment... whatever I was doing, wherever I was going, doesn't matter anymore.

Too often I'm focused on getting things done, checked off, moving on to the next thing, making each class work and getting my schedule to work with 25 other teachers' schedules. I celebrate that while I can be a very focused person, I can also get sidetracked from my focus by a soaring odonate... a flock of chickadees whistling through the still winter air... a fortunate argiope wrapping up a rather unlucky grasshopper... a perfect squirrel track... and a million other extraordinary everyday things that I am lucky enough to run into.

That's the optimistic take-home lesson. The less positive version? I have loved this snowfall. A week later, the world still seems magical and new and fresh and exciting, especially after 2 months of mostly snow-free coldness. But I, despite my upper-Midwest history including 5 Minnesota winters, am not as big a fan of winter as I feel like I should be... or as I used to be... or as I used to pretend, even to myself, that I was.

I hate having to wear multiple layers each day, and feeling constrained and puffy. I don't enjoy being boiling hot in indoor spaces that are heated to feel like summer. (Granted, this happens with over-air conditioning in the summer, but it's a lot easier to carry a long sleeved shirt to put on indoors than to get my long underwear off from under my clothing.) I am inconvenienced by having to spend 10 minutes getting ready to go outside. I feel oppressed by waking up in the dark and eating dinner in the dark. And I just miss the delicate veins of leaves, the pools of color in flower petals, the soaring dragonflies.

I definitely feel the need for at least some winter. I lived for a year in southern Georgia where it never froze and there was green algae growing all over my car, which didn't live in a garage and which I didn't wash (very often. There was this one time, when I went to a carwash, but one of our cats had decided to nap in the warmth of my car, unbeknown to me... and he freaked out like I have never seen a cat freak out before or since, and did some damage to the interior of my car and probably his shaky cat sanity. But that's another story for another time). Anyhow... The palmetto bugs -- which is just a code for native roach -- got huge and crawled everywhere. And in general, nature seemed inhospitable in the more temperate climate... there were all manner of poisonous, biting, stinging things that can't survive a cold winter, and that seemed to never die and nested in very inconvenient places. Here I am referring mostly to the large black spiders that kept crawling out of the air vents in my car. So I want a good killing frost. (Or alternately, a car-free life.) More than that, even. I like how a good long snow cover erases my failures to trim back the garden. Winter wipes away the old and allows for spring to feel like renewal...

But people, I am ready for spring.

No comments:

Post a Comment