All posts in Family Life
So here we are way up high in India where centuries of history buzz like bees. One day, when the sun has just risen over the peaks opposite, the birds crazy with joy, I am drinking coffee, which grows right on this farm by the way, hot and up high both. So happy in a chair on the porch, my wife too here with her hot drink. Our daughter with us, four and three-quarters years old. She is quiet a long time, perched on the stone wall above the misty big valley. Finally she says, “The world can’t go on forever because I can’t count forever. One, two, three, four, five, six. See . . . I would die first.”
Then in the fuckwad pay toilet in Manducherry I walk out, pay two rupees like everybody else but then the attendant falls into deep consult with two uniformed cops. I am called back told to pay five instead he is gesturing toward the ladies room I just came out of saying something something gesturing to me.
Here we are, then. Unlikely potter, one ogre, three new ducks.
We like it all close together like this, grouted with footpaths. Nurses, a city planner, five little doctors vying for space. Somebody put grass in my ear. Where’s that helpful princess?
The sun comes out and I swear these teenagers are taller than they were when it was raining. Going to nationals.
Some of us take a boat to work. Steel and glass and smells, we return to this green place to learn all the things a stick can be. Sword, staff, mast. Stethoscope, spoon, magic wand. Healers live here, that’s for sure. Where’s that bike pump?
“Yippee!!!” My brother Max shouted, leaping out of the car, even as it had not come to a stop. We were all so glad to make it out to the Bay House. My younger brother Sy was still too young to understand what was happening, but he looked around happily, sensing our excitement. Even though it was only about 30 minutes to our family summer vacation spot, it felt good to get out, stretch my legs, and to feel the fresh sea salt air on my face.
The peeling paint on the deck greeted my bare feet like an old friend. It was cool now in the late morning shade. But, it would grower hotter as the day passed, eventually becoming unbearable for my little toes. We would move inside, maybe to play a game of cards or dice, great Aunt Harriet instructing us younger kids in the games she had played as a child in Sweden. But when the money came out, we would be relegated to the carpet. While our parents drank, smoked and gambled the hot afternoon sun away, we would recreate the world in miniature with Monopoly or Lincoln logs.
Seven years ago I witnessed a 9-year old boy blow a coal into flame. I watched him tenderly cradle the tinder bundle in his hands, slowly turning it to expose the cedar bark shavings to the life-giving breath from his lungs. I cried when I saw the grey furls of smoke burst into flame – cried with the release and the joy of a mother having just given birth to her baby. Beyond the, joy, there was relief -as if some bone deep buried knowing was set free.
I had heard of other children, children far away in remote native cultures who knew how to light fires using their hands and pieces of wood. These same youth also knew how to harvest food and medicine from the forest; read the language of subtle and intricate animal sign and tracks to find their next meal; and smell the coming of the rains.
They were mentored in the rhythms and cycles of the land, their senses trained exquisitely to see, hear, smell and taste all that the world offered for their survival.
My son turned 18 last winter. He graduates next month. Eighteen years and a mostly grown adult – there is a lot to ponder here! Included in my reflections are thoughts about the role Vashon played in his upbringing, thoughts on how the village helped raise my child.
In this respect I am grateful to the library. It’s been the kind of experience that makes me glad that I’m not the king of the world. Before Aidan made his library connection I frowned upon the popular music and video selections available for checkout there. At best, media other than books was outside of the primary focus of the library, and at worst, a waste of the taxpayer’s money.
I work in the library space now, and these days, my librarian acquaintances would tell me (in the kindliest terms, as is their wont) that the libraries-are-about-books attitude I held was wrong for classist and elitist as well as what-the-library-is-actually-about reasons.