November 26, 2007

Comments by Moderator Tom Schaefer

The Good Fairy's Blessing

If I had influence with the good fairy..., I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote to boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.
Rachel Carson in The Sense of Wonder

Those of you who have been with this discussion of The Sense of Wonder since the beginning, have heard me and a few others in our blogosphere relish our position as grandparents. Maybe it's a night walk on a stormy beach with the young person wrapped and carried in a blanket or just a simple amble through a fall forest trying to catch leaves before they hit the ground. In any case, taking time to be mindful with a young person out among the presence of Nature's people (borrowing an Emily Dickinson expression) engenders the stuff of "adult caretaker" joy.

Still, amid these good, memorable times, is the nagging fear of danger and injury. What if something does go "bump" on a night hike or a kid falls down a hill gashing his head? One of my grandsons told me when he was nine that he didn't ride his bike any more because when I took him for a short ride when he was five, he crashed into a mailbox. He wanted nothing more to do with bikes and it was my fault. His reticence to ride has been replaced with a greater ease these days, but the issue remains: what of kids getting hurt while on a journey of discovery?

My interest today in childhood injuries emanates from an event that took place at our house twice during Thanksgiving week. With school out, child care fell to non-working and non-shopping grandparents, as I'm sure was the case in many households across This Great Land of Ours. The seven-year-old grandson, who spends many such days with us, was intent on getting into our mildly wild back yard to continue the work we had started months before: splitting firewood out of a fallen oak. And he wanted to swing the ax.

Do you remember being seven? My memories are mighty dim, but hanging out with Noah brings some back into clarity. When you're seven, you are in the first grade learning to read. He reads us picture books. And he recognizes words on signs that he could not cipher a year ago. And he's proud. He can do it. This week, too, I heard him say how much stronger he is -- now -- than when he was six. His universe is expanding and he is transforming with it.

I suppose this post is really about empowerment. How does an adult nurture natural confidence in a child? That surely was Carson's hope not only for her grand nephew Roger, but for all children when she spoke of the "good fairy" blessing them with "a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout a life." She wished for all children a deep sense of richness in the truth and beauty of Nature that could become the "unfailing antidote to boredom and disenchantments of later years." When time hands a child -- or grown-up child -- a divorce, or job loss, or death of a loved one, it was Carson's hope that Nature could provide a sense of comfort and connectedness that was genuine and grounded in the communal human experience.

So, how do we empower kids in a dangerous world? We'd love to hear your stories.

Oh. And BTW, Noah swung a fine ax at our little Wild Grace II homestead. He added a couple of pieces to the pile. And he didn't get hurt. He didn't even seem very tuckered out. That's more than I can say for grandpa.

Tom Schaefer

November Reading Schedule

The Sea Around Us Field Notes Blog continues through December


stephen said...

How to empower kids in a dangerous world?

I know a second grader who was once given skis, a group lesson or two that included snowplowing, and a loose rein to explore some beginner and intermediate slopes in a beautiful range that included Mt. Damavand. This small skier would sometimes gaze at the clouds and the higher peaks with awe, before returning to the enjoyable task of finding the right speed. Do not doubt that there were watchful eyes below, and check-in moments. Of course the day arrives when there is an accident: an older skier's sharp pole tip, a gash just above the boot, good first aid - though primative. Between the first aid in the mountains and the second aid on the plateau below (a shot), the small skier was in need of some reassurance, which came in the form of two peace corp volunteers in the car who turned to folk songs. One of those youthful volunteers would go on to become the head of Health and Human Services (Donna Shalaha).

This little story aside, I do like Rachel Carson's sense of faith.

"There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, that spring comes after winter."

Anonymous said...

How long does it take to post a comment? I sent one on 11/26 and again on 11/27, but it hasn't posted. Am I doing something wrong? I signed in as other. I left a commented several months ago under anonymous which was posted.

Anonymous said...

I guess anonymous works. Here is the comment I had previously sent incorrectly and didn't post.

I'm performing as Rachel Carson in a Chautauqua Festival June 13 - 20 in Greenville, SC. "America: The Land, what will our children inherit?" Although Rachel cannot comment on the current DDT/Malaria controversy, I would like the audience to have a non-partisan time line of the events. In light of trying hard not to disseminate dis-information, could anyone comment on the following information:

Malaria – DDT

Administrator's note: Due to the length of this comment, the malaria timeline cited in this comment is posted on a separate page. Click hereto view the entire post. [Editor's Note: Information sources used by anonymous commenter are unspecified]

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