Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Life, or a reasonable facsimile thereof

I sent a post to a friend recently describing how I've presided over many others' discoveries this past week. On Saturday Andy discovered canoeing, and his enthusiasm helped me get through my motion sickness and enjoy the day as well. He reminded me that despite the heat and waves and wind in our face, we were having an adventure, dammit. And even more of an adventure for him.

Monday, during the storm that drenched my apartment, Jonny stood on a chair by Esther's front door and painted his fingers across the open screen, writing trails of water in the holes. This fascinated him and he kept saying in his cute as hell little boy voice, "Wet, wet, wet, wet." Touch his nose. "Nose!" His ear. "Ear!" My arm. "Da da. Ar. Wet!" No swearing now. He'll repeat it. And he loves the alphabet song.

Tuesday at Founders with my juniors, helping them find sources for their research papers. Up and down the stairs, checking with them at the computers, helping them with their searches, then marching them to the stacks with call numbers written in loopy scrawls on scrap papers. Bianca was amazed when we found her book in the long rows of stacks. Wow, that's neat how that works. Then sending her own her own, fledgling researcher, to find the next one. A proud, triumphant return with book in hand. Edward, finally at the shelf with books about the Amazon rainforest. "Here's what I always do when I find a book I'm looking for, Ed. I look on the shelf all around it for other titles that might help me." "But what I do when I've got the book?" "Look at chapter headings and find what interests you." Most of them had never used the library before, and while they are up to date with the latest technologies, cell phones, MP3 players, and all the easy information gathering resources online (Wikipedia anybody?), the card catalog and searching through the stacks was a new experience.

*****


From Gerald Nicosia’s article about Jack Kerouac in the Chicago Tribune Book section, June 30, 2007. This year is the 50th anniversary of the publication of On the Road, the beat manifesto that launched Kerouac to fame and spoke to my love of the road when I read it half a lifetime ago at age 17. I think I'll read it again soon.

"Kerouac writes not about the rich and powerful, but ordinary, working-class people, and sometimes those even below them – the homeless, the hobos and junkies, the outcasts of society – but he writes about them in a way that makes you care about them and root for their eventual triumph…
It would be hard to find anything in literature more authentic that Kerouac’s compassion for the poor and suffering; anything more alluring than his insistence on personal freedom; or anything more hopeful than his clarion call for absolute personal honesty."

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