Monday, April 09, 2018

life's peculiarities and unexpected surprises

For me, technology is like health insurance: at some basic level, I don't understand the way it works.

The insurance puzzle is easy to lay out. It's known to any insured person who has had to use medical services in this country: you think you're covered by insurance (though you never ever know the cost of a medical procedure or visit because it is a closely guarded secret, so don't be foolish enough to ever call a provider and ask, for example -- how much is a cataract surgery? The answer will always be -- "that depends," and there it'll end) until weeks or even months later, when the bills start coming: the co pays, the deductibles, the not covered by insurance -- on and on, from the person who answered your phone call, to the stitches used, or the pills popped -- you'll get all these bills and suddenly you realize that you're not home free.

Technology is equally mysterious. Ed has a firmer grip on it and indeed, spends many of his work hours finessing some aspect of some technological piece of magic and still, sometimes it eludes us both. Take last night: at about 2 in the morning, I woke up and realized that I had forgotten to turn down the thermostat for the night. Easy: the farmhouse temperature is regulated by a smart phone operated thermostat (indeed we don't even know how to do it like in the olden days -- on the wall). I reach for my iPhone, click on the app, click several degrees down and we're set. Two seconds after doing this last night, I hear the robotic vacuum cleaner wake up downstairs and set out on its journey, in search of dust particles. Ed, who is still downstairs is dumbfounded. What just happened??

You think you have life figured out -- black holes, galaxies, apes evolving into homo sapiens and then boom! You're back to wondering what the hell just happened when you clicked your thermostat that then woke your robot vacuum cleaner.

Morning. I go outside to feed the cheepers. Snow once more? Really?

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When I glance at the forecast, I am delighted to see that there will be a warm up later this week -- the first one of the year! I am less delighted to note that it will end after a mere two days.

But then, in my morning mail, I find a (general audience) message from Snowdrop's school principal. She writes about the need to connect our children with nature. I smile rather smugly: yes, don't I know it! We are losing our connection to the natural world! Children are detached from seasonal transformations!

But as I read through the email, I pick up a new twist to her message. She quotes (from a Montessori webpage): Children may realize that, just like humans, nature has different patterns and “characters." Nature can be daring, silent, wild, gentle, gloomy or glorious. There is no one way to “be.” These patterns come and go.

The point is that children, too, have feelings, moods and reactions that aren't linear or always predictable. That's interesting in its own right: we shouldn't expect them to be this way or that, but instead we may teach them to understand that dips and peaks come and go and there are plenty of gentle and glorious days ahead. We can't do much about the weather and perhaps we shouldn't feel hostility to our own or to our children's feelings as they ebb and flow. Point well taken.

But further in the piece I also read how this disconnect from our natural environment is proving to be damaging to our children at a deeper level. American kids (perhaps others as well, but the comment is about our own) are more anxious and oftentimes less healthy than their parents. Might we help them by changing their routines somewhat? By bringing them, as it were, in closer contact with nature?

I have the luxury of living at the farmette. In the same way that I spent so much of my childhood at my grandparents' home in a deeply rural village in Poland, I now benefit tremendously from having each day defined by what is happening just outside the farmhouse doors. I plan my free hours depending on the "mood" of the weather.

Of course, you don't have to live in the country to pay heed to nature. It's just easier that way: the natural world throws its mood in my face, like it or not. My hope is that my grandkids, when they are here, will pick up the same love of shaping their free play depending on what nature delivers on any given day.

My second comment is a little bit of a rap on my own knuckles: I've been a rather demanding "observer" of what is taking place outside this month. I'm mad that we still can't dig into the pile of wood chips because it is frozen solid! And the crocuses are hidden and the buds on trees look like they did three months ago: shut tight. I've replaced my "isn't that interesting" observational stance with something that is more like an entitlement approach: why hasn't April delivered great sunny days already??

Let me see if I can readjust. It's a cold April morning. Isn't that interesting! Can't heave wood frozen solid chips, but can admire the emergence of daffodil foliage. And wait more patiently for those sunny, warm days.

I pick up Snowdrop. We investigate what's emerging close to her (southern facing) school buildings. Snowdrops and glory-of-the-snow (which I call blue bells for her benefit... sorry for the slight, oh beloved Bluebells of Scotland!)!

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We come back to the farmhouse.

A visit with the babies, excuse me -- the teens girls...

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And then Snowdrop dives into her pretend play. This time she pulls Ed into her games.

As she places a headband with stars on his head and skips about with an endless tale of events and happenings he can barely follow, we can't help but laugh heartily at the whole set up.

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All this takes place upstairs in the bedrooms. How to get her back down? I tell her that there is a party to prepare. This girl loves to fix pretend foods for a celebration.

She comes down and immediately changes it all to a wedding, announcing that she and ahah are getting married. Weddings to her are party platforms.

And here's a shock: the man who was born announcing to the world that he has no great love for the institution of marriage (so he'll tell you), allows himself to be lead "down the aisle" by little Snowdrop. Hold up your wand, ahah! You have to have a wand for the wedding!

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Happy girl...

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We click onto youtube and "Going to the Chapel and Going to get Married" fills the room. As the song runs its course, the next number by the Shirelles  automatically starts playing -- "Will you still love me tomorrow!?"

Snowdrop looks gravely at Ed and says, as if this sung question was a no brainer -- I will always love you! And within a second she is onto something else: pretend tea and cakes, grilled cheese sandwiches and pickles.

I lose them then to a few more soundtracks from the 1950s -- a music era that has basically held Ed's attention and affection since I've known him.

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Evening. Snowdrop finds ribbons that I set aside for dance class. Pink with polka dots. She insists we wear them.

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So, the usual, right? Work a little, read a little, admire photos of Primrose, play with Snowdrop. Or, not the usual at all -- a day of new charms and insights and warm feelings and yes, cold temperatures. What an interesting April this has been thus far, don't you think?