Sunday, November 11, 2012

Early Moon

The weather here has been simply divine. I've been itching to ditch lessons and bury my hands in the dirt, but I first had to convince Dorothy that taking a break would be a good thing. Piano practice and scripture memory still have their place each morning, but other than to run in for a platter of food and a stack of Dixie cups, after chores, piano, and memory our days have been spent blissfully out of doors. My father and I have planted about 20 pepper plants (7 different varieties), about 100 green bean seeds, 10 cantaloupe seeds, cucumbers, johnny jump ups, nasturtium, zinnias, and cosmos. We've overseen the taking down of the oak tree in the front lawn. Work will begin on landscaping the front when my dad and I can finally agree on a plan. But for now the front yard looks like a wasteland. Dorothy and I also started a fairy garden in the back yard under the live oak, planting ferns, moss, and English ivy. I also rescued several pink wood sorrel (weed) plants from the yard, transplanting them to our fairy garden. We've also made bird feeders, welcoming to our yard blackbirds, mockingbirds, robins, blue jays, chipping sparrows, and doves. By the way, did you know that the only difference between the pigeon and the dove is the name? Dorothy has been asking for a month now how to tell the difference between them, and I finally remembered her question while I was at the computer and looked it up. Pigeon is derived from a french word, and dove is an English word. Other than that? No difference.

I've also been thinking ahead through the years, purchasing books cheap for Ambleside years that seem so far away. I found an intriguing little book called Early Moon by Carl Sandburg, and instantly I remembered Sandburg's name from one of the Ambleside years and snatched it up. I read the introduction entitled Short Talk On Poetry and immediately fell in love with a new writer. Read what he has to say in this little book of poetry for children:

What is poetry? Is the answer hidden somewhere? Is it one of those answers locked in a box and nobody has the key? There are such questions and answers.

Once a man reading a newspaper clipped a poem written by a small boy in a school in New York City. The lines read:

There stands the elephant.
Bold and strong --
There he stands chewing his food.
We are strengthless against his strength.

And the man has kept this poem for many years. He has a feeling the boy did a good, honest piece of writing. The boy stood wondering and thinking before the biggest four-legged animal on earth today. And the boy put his wonder and thought, his personal human secret, a touch of man's fear in the wilderness, into the nineteen words of the poem. He asked, "what does the elephant do to me when I look at him? What is my impression of the elephant?" Then he answered his own questions.

and again a paragraph later:

Once there was a wee, curly-headed boy tugged at a cornstalk, tugged till he pulled the cornstalk up all by himself and told about it to his father, who said, "I guess you're getting to be a pretty strong boy now." The little one answered, "I guess I am. The whole earth had a hold of the other end of the cornstalk and was pulling against me." Should we say this boy had imagination and what he told his father was so keep and alive it could be called poetry?

How else would one expect a poet to define poetry, but with poetry. I have become a firm believer that the best non-fiction books are written by authors who live and breathe the given subject. Why read a text book about poetry when you can read Carl Sandburg on poetry? Why read a history text book when you can read a book of history by a historian who can also write well? Why study math from dry workbooks when you can learn about math from books written by gifted mathematicians?

Some of my favorite All of my favorite non-fiction works were written by writers of fiction and/or poetry. I once read through all of Barbara Kingsolver's fictional works, and while waiting for her next book release, I made my way through her non-fiction. Beautiful writing. And Larry McMurtry, a Texan author, has written some non-fiction Texana that surpasses all of his fictional works. Jackie French, a children's book author famous here in the States for her Diary of a Wombat, also wrote a non-fiction book, lesser known here in the States, called How to Scratch a Wombat. The first chapter, chronicling her journey to authorhood is one of the finest pieces of non-fiction for children I've read. And come to think of it, Diary is itself a work of non-fiction, a little tidbit I learned from Scratch.

What are your thoughts? What are some of your favorite non-fiction works? And at what point do you believe fiction blurs into non-fiction and vice versa, a topic I haven't even touched on, but has been in my mind of late? And back to the beginning of this post, seen any interesting birds, lately? Or bugs? Or wombats?

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