20 September 2010

Boy Chases Squirrel

There it is, folks. The meaning of life boiled down to three words.

I suppose you want the story now, eh? Well, I've got time...

On the first free evening I've had in awhile, I took Elliot (Mr. Six) to the park (his choice). He clambered a bit on the wooden apparatus before he disappeared from my sight. With new book (What To Eat - Marion Nestle) and water bottle in hand, I found a bench closer to the playground to watch him.

It isn't soon after that he has abandoned the playground equipment to run around on the green lawn that surrounds the park. He appears to be chasing squirrels. This entertains him for several seconds before he finds a long, slender branch on the ground. I then watch him transform from squirrel hunter to ninja with sword. Several moments pass in this fashion before he becomes enamored of the rickety circle swing - and now he's a human monkey.

He wanders closer to me after many minutes, and I ask him what he's doing. He doesn't respond, racing off instead at the sight of another squirrel. And that's when I thought to myself: Yeah, shut up, Mom.

We're absolutely stupid if we think we have nothing to learn from children. Here's what I gleaned in these few precious minutes watching my son:

1. More watching and listening. Less talking and lecturing.

2. As parents, we often ask our children "What are you doing?" but how often do we mean it as a question of curiosity? Most of the time, we mean it as a question of reprimand, critique, authority, or anger.

3. Elliot wants to catch a squirrel - so he has to chase one. It's fun. It's adventurous. It's impossible. Fortunately, he doesn't know that yet...but by God, the dream is a good one. And so, I will practice Axiom #1.

4. Mr. Squirrel managed to cross the street during the chase, bringing Elliot back to me. He informs me sagely that even though the squirrel crossed the street, he did not.

5. Children sure got some right ideas when it comes to living decently on this damn planet. Live for the moment, go for your dreams, safety first. Why aren't we taking notes?

I hope I never forget these lessons.
I hope I always have the wherewithal to tune in when the universe is talking.
I hope my kids never get old.

05 September 2010

Gem Of The Day!

These words, spoken by poet Rainer Maria Rilke, completely summarize and encapsulate the feeling and meaning behind my last post...and my feelings towards boredom in general. Enjoy!

"If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for the Creator, there is no poverty."

Heather's Interpretation: If you're bored with your surroundings, it's your own damn fault.

03 September 2010

Good Ol' Honest Abe

One of favorite quotes of his:

"People are usually as happy as they make up their minds to be."

Classes at the university I teach at began about a week ago, and this last Wednesday I was asked by a student where I was from. I responded with "Iowa" and then he asked, "what do y'all do here?" I guess I didn't respond quick enough, because he and a few other classmates launched off into a tirade about how "there is nothing to do around here."

I suppose for young adults coming from big urban cities, a small Iowa town (pop. approx. 11,000) is pretty boring. But then. I've always believed everyone has the power to create their own entertainment. That probably explains why many college students get into trouble with alcohol, drugs, or video games the first year in college...too busy creating their own entertainment.

The student in question goes on then to tell me that where's he from, there is so much to do. My guess is that he's used to big shopping malls, stores, nightclubs, hangouts, and other entertainment facilities.

Ruminating about this over a cup of coffee with my husband this morning evoked further thoughts on this.

I think this student's situation (and many other similar ones) are scarily indicative of how independent we humans are NOT. Or, at least, this younger generation.

Exhibit A: With the exception of a small garden that is yielding a decent crop of tomatoes, my family is inadequately prepared to produce our own food. Sure, I can go to the grocery store, make healthy dinners from scratch, bake my own bread, etc...however, I am hard-pressed to know what to do should my town's grocery stores collapse. And not to mention, how would I get them through the winter?

We absolutely depend on these stores, which depends on fossil-fuel-burning transportation, which depend on farmers. Without them, we starve. And my case is probably the rule, rather than the exception.

Exhibit B: Now that we have televisions, computers, cell phones, video games, etc...we don't rely as much on our brains for fun. Why expend the energy to entertain ourselves with a book, crossword puzzle, board game or conversation when we can easily flip on the Wii, xBox, or MacBook?

Back to the student in my class. He has moved here from an area where he had access to all the above things...in addition to cool places to go. Naturally, how can the laid-back, slower paced lifestyle of southeast Iowa compete?

What are the consequences if somewhere along the way, shopping malls, video game stores, arcades, dance clubs, bars, etc. all collapse? How will humans deal with boredom? Will crime increase because there's nothing else to do? Or, will we dig deep down and find that inner resourcefulness that impels us to sit down to a quiet game of Magic with friends?