Sunday, April 27, 2008

out of half a dream

NEAR the end of April,
On the verge of May –
And O my heart, the woods were dusk
At the close of day.
Half a word was spoken
Out of half a dream,
And God looked in my soul and saw
A dawn rise and gleam.

This is the first stanza of a poem called Near the End of April by someone called William Stanley Braithwaite who turns out to be an interesting person. I googled and found this bio

Poet, literary critic, editor, and anthologist, William Stanley Braithwaite was a distinguished fellow of American letters. Braithwaite was born in Boston and largely educated at home. His father was a native of British Guiana and his light-skinned mother was the daughter of a mulatto ex-slave. His passion for literature was fostered in the years he spent as an apprentice for the publisher, Ginn & Company. Braithwaite published his first volume of poetry, Lyrics of Life and Love, in 1904, followed four years later by The House of Falling Leaves…

and his list of honors and achievements go on and on. So he was “homeschooled” if you can use that term, and quite an autodidact too, it appears.

I am really enjoying this way of getting in touch with some poets I hadn’t heard of before by way of taking lines from their work for titles. Sometimes I feel a qualm about this. Sometimes the titles look a little strange when I see them perched on top of a quite prosaic and largely unrelated blog entry but on the other hand, they give me a thrill every time I see them and with poems, I find, more than almost anything else except life with toddlers, I have to become acquainted with them gently. I am a fast reader but you can’t read a poem fast. You have to slow down, just like you do with a small child, and meet them on their own terms and expect to be surprised somehow.

Today was largely taken up with watching the football draft. I’m not sure how I found myself sitting down with my teenagers to watch this event, because usually I don’t even like watching movies, let alone commentators with bad hair taking their painfully slow time to announce picks for teams I barely know of players I haven’t heard of at all. And interspersed with offensive commercials, yet. But I did sit down with them, and it was fun.

I think I’ve linked to Sandra Dodd’s Parallel Play — Leaning on a Truck before. But every once in a while it comes to my mind again. We are a family of introverts and most of us are masculine; the ratio is 7:2. Furthermore we live in a mountain community where even the extroverts are a bit taciturn and have pretty wide personal space zones.

Watching a football draft leads to all kinds of conversation that simply wouldn’t happen if you said something like “so how was your day?” (”Okay” is the obvious ending point to that conversation) or “What do you think about such and such?” (the answer is “I don’t know.”) In my family the laconic answers aren’t a resistant type of behavior; they stem from the mental-retrieval issue that comes up in my own life very often.

There are all kinds of ways to lean on a truck and I am trying to spend more effort simply being around the children, being part of what is going on. When you hang out beside a truck that the owner is proud of he will tell you a lot about it and you will learn more about him in the process, too, and there will be a new strand in your relationship. Sandra says:

Women talk face to face, they say, but men lean side by side on a truck. Another version of leaning on a truck is fishing: facing the same way, doing the same thing. Traditionally these days parents and children move in different spheres and do different things, but unschooling families mix ages and activities.

What can be the model of parent/child interaction? Well there’s the time-honored “riding in the car,” a great time and place for humor, news, and deep conversation. With a tape player, you get music, stories, and grand lyrics about the history of the world and faraway places. But people can’t live in the car. Washing dishes is a great time to sing or tell stories, but even after the biggest holiday dinner, the dishwashing ends. Raking leaves is a great project to lend itself to talking while doing.

Football drafts work too.

I wanted to put that down to remember it.