Lovely, dark and deep

Actually, the woods my daughters and I walked through yesterday were anything but dark. The sun was so bright I could hardly even see this robin in the trees above, much less determine what kind of bird it was.

When we reached this point in the trail, my youngest exclaimed, “I want to go into that tree tunnel!”

We paused beside a stream…

and thought…

…and the girls waded…

…and we listened. We “came into the presence of still water,” as Wendell Berry says:

I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

The rest of “The Peace of Wild Things” is here.

When we started out, I despaired of seeing any critters because of the noise my two small companions made (and the often louder noise I made with my piercing “SHHH!!”). But the quietness of the woods seemed to seep inwards and we all came under the spell. We heard a woodpecker drumming and calling, songbirds letting loose as they got used to our being there, chipmunks scurrying in the undergrowth. I’m not sure how long we were there, but it was long enough to satisfy. Truly.

Then we went home.

Poetry Friday is at Jama Rattigan’s Alphabet Soup today. Enjoy the poetry feast over there!

Math Read-Alouds

Carol wrote recently about String, Straight-Edge, and Shadow: The Story of Geometry and the idea of a story about a mathematical concept seemed like a great idea. We’re mostly book geeks around here, not “mathemagicians.” So I set to searching for some books aimed at my younger daughter, and found several appealing picture books.

A Remainder of One is about a troop of marching ants who keep dividing into columns that leave one ant out. Finally he has a brilliant mathematical revelation, and the 25 ants divide into 5 columns of 5. Voila! It’s a cute book written in rhyme, and it introduces the subject of division with and without remainders.

How will they get to the food the fastest? One line takes forever. Two lines isn’t much better. Not till the littlest ant figures out that ten lines moves the whole group quickly do they really start to make time. This is also written in rhyme and created by the same author-illustrator team.

Amanda Bean counts everything, and she won’t be persuaded that multiplication is faster — not until she has a dream that taxes her counting skills to the limit by giving her too much to count and too little time to count it. Both girls enjoyed this whacky tale.

This book  might work well if you’re doing factorials in math. We weren’t, so Older Daughter, reading it in the back seat on the way home from the library, informed me that it started out as an interesting story and then turned into math. After I read it myself, I decided not to try it with Younger Daughter, but I may read it with Older Daughter again. It starts out developing the idea quite concretely, then becomes a little more abstract.

I had no idea there were so many such books out there; these are just the ones I could get through our library system. They provide some examples and ways of talking about math in a more entertaining format than our math text.

You can click on the button to see what others are reading this week at Read Aloud Thursday, hosted at Hope Is the Word.

Birds, Horses, and Joy

I am reading Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society mentioned it, and I remembered I had a copy. But I can’t seem to gain much traction reading anything these days. I’d rather be outside.

Yesterday was my oldest’s horse lesson. Some of these pics are included (at the moment) in the sidebar slideshow. But here are a few more.

Learning to ride such magnificent creatures is fun. But my youngest seems to feel that it’s equally fun to learn about cats…

…and to gallop joyfully around the finally-dry corrall on two legs rather than four.

I’ve never noticed before this year how much spring and fall resemble one another. But the state of mind is different.

I’ve been snapping photos of birds for my bird log. I’m trying to capture as many of the birds of this place as I can with my camera — the animal-lover’s version of hunting, I reckon. I’ve set up a “Birds” page where I can keep track of them all and share them here. (*Edited to add: I’m rethinking the page, but still going with the photo project.)

Not a great photo, but it shows them sharing a seed beak to beak. Aww...

So there you have it — not much to say. I’m all eyes these days. I often think of writing as an act of worship; returning my words to the living Word. But eyes can worship too. Ann Voskamp says we “pay tribute to God by paying attention.” I am grateful for these sights that nourish my soul. After such a long, leaden, sleeping winter world, the return of color and life seems to be trickling back into my spirit through the camera and the eye.

The Metamorphosis

This strange little novella is a staple of college literature classes. But I didn’t read it till I was studying for my graduate exams. It intrigued me, and for some reason I thought of it again recently and decided to read it again.

It begins this way:

One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in his bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug. He lay on his armour-hard back and saw, as he lifted his head up a little, his brown, arched abdomen divided up into rigid bow-like sections. From this height the blanket, just about ready to slide off completely, could hardly stay in place. His numerous legs, pitifully thin in comparison to the rest of his circumference, flickered helplessly before his eyes.

So that’s the basic situation. How does Gregor handle it? How does his family respond? How does it all turn out? These are the questions raised as the story unfolds.

It’s been “interpreted” psychoanalytically in all kinds of ways. When I finished it, I found I simply wanted to take a step back and think about the broad outlines of the story: Gregor is transformed into something loathsome, is increasingly isolated within the enclosures of his body and his room, and eventually dies. His family responds without any real compassion, dutifully supplying scraps of food but becoming gradually more neglectful. They never understand that it is still Gregor inside the transformed exterior. Last but not least, they are transformed themselves into both more independent people — previously Gregor was the provider for the family — and more bestial, callous people. When he dies, they feel released.

It’s thoroughly depressing. It has a way of getting under the skin because it raises questions about what is bug-like or bestial in modern life — how our humanity may be affected by our values and routines and expectations of one another. Kafka develops the incredible, fantastical tale using a realistic, documentary tone. To me the whole thing reads like a dream where the strangest things can happen, but in our dream selves we don’t question them; we adapt and react and live in the alternative terms of the dream.

Maybe it’s this — Kafka’s creation of an air-tight fictional illusion — that explains why The Metamorphosis is pretty much universally lauded as a masterpiece. But like so many masterpieces, it disturbs, and leaves me with the sense that I see bits and pieces but miss many facets of its meaning. I can’t say as it was enjoyable to read; I’m glad to move on to something else now. But it does send me into this day with a heightened sense of how we treat one another.