I mention it to my hairdresser yesterday while he clips and snips at my bangs. We connect with books. I'm so passionate in my one sentence description of the experience reading this book, he wants to borrow mine when I'm done. But then he glances at the cover. Not impressed. "Really?" Yeah. Don't judge a book by its cover - there's gold inside this one.
Maybe that's how it's been around for 16 years without spreading like fire? Or that's it's published by a small Catholic company? I don't know. I'm underlining passages often, going back each time I sit down to read those favorites, wanting to soak deeper the gems I've already discovered before mining more. My mom and dad are reading it together - they tell me it never stops amazing you.
A conversation with my son makes me come back to this simple, yet profound passage in it...
(Ireland early 20th century)
"Daddo, it seems to me that we're after thinking sad things much of the time." His father gave him a look.
"That may be so, but tell me why you think it."
"I'm thinking that the world's a lovely place, and maybe we're looking at it through a smoked glass. Like when the chimney on the lamp is smudged with soot."
"Arra, but you're a bright old lad, like your mother's, father's father. You resemble him too."
He gave the boy an affectionate thump on the arm.
"The world is lovely, Stiofain. But it's full of shadows too. Beyond this island there are places where the angels still fiercely make war, and the outcome of the battle is not known."
...But the sun on the hills was too sweet and brash for such thoughts.
"I see only light, Daddo."
"Then I fear for you, my son. For a man who sees only light will stumble over the things that lie in shadows."
"Then does a man who looks only at shadows not also stumble, for lack of seeing light?"
"Arra, but you're a wise child!" he laughed.
~ Strangers and Sojourners, by Michael D. O'Brien, pgs. 91-92
Wise words from a young boy. It's not fiction - the fact that young boys can blow you away with their conversations. I think of recent conversations with my Naynay (Nathan). It's becoming a habit that I relish: he experiences truth and runs to me - spilling the light into my ears and eyes as I listen to him comprehend, understand, apply. A few weeks ago it was,
"Mom! I don't know what it is, but I feel SOOOOO happy right now! I don't feel so tired and I just want to help people and yeah. It's just so amazing! I feel so good!" No. My son is eight and very sheltered. This was not an artificial high :).
Today, he's just ended a conversation with my mother on the phone. He calls my parents all the time for these chats that sometimes go on for twenty minutes or more. (Is there anything sweeter then seeing your children connect with and be nourished by your parents? Witnessing them fill in the holes that you cannot? Those octagons and hexagons you see in your children when all you seem to have are triangles and squares?)
My mom has pulled from him a conversation we had two nights ago at bedtime while reading scriptures that went something like . . .
. . . a question I can't even remember. I answered it and it led to another question, "Is that why you write then?"
"Yes", I answer. "I feel like it opens your ears to the spirit - to those nudges that we're usually too distracted to discern; like amplifying the power of Light to influence you. It helps me process things. It's how I take these words in scripture and inlay them on my soul." I've said such things before, but I can see he's really listening this time. He's more ready to believe there's a reason I want him to practice writing.
"Huh." He's silent, thinking. I realize in this moment that my words aren't alone. There is light interlaced, filling in the cracks I've left, warming the atmosphere in the room. A puzzle piece falls into place. He has that look - purpose is sparking in his little mind. Can it be? This eight-year-old boy might start choosing to write? After all these years of effort with little result?
I've never known a harder (or smarter) person to teach anything to than Nathan. I've been clinging to my trust in the tool set I use - patience, agency, love, inspiration, example, environment of learning, and a safe space to explore . . . and more patience. And it's not that he doesn't have talents and creativity and the ability to focus and learn.
Give him LEGOS and he comes up with this:
|Crocodile and Snake Summer 2013 - Nathan's own designs.|
|Some people look at still lifes to paint them. My son LEGOs them.|
|A snake that can even raise it's head and balance on its own!|
Nathan has been my guide to trusting my Inner Guide and throwing out the hand book and trusting tools that feel right. I give it time. I back off, then surge when I see sparks, then pull back when I douse the fire. I disappoint teachers and try not to care. Ignore or shelter him from comparisons at church or when friends come to play. My paradigm is shifting and I believe more than ever: God knows the best way and time for him to acquire these skills I know are essential for him to progress in life. And it's working - that spiritual assurance is yielding evidence. The ways that are higher than my ways or the world's methods, have sparks flying - the learning kind.
A few months ago he caught the spark for reading. Now he sails through verses of scripture each night and soaks up large animal encyclopedias on his own - by his choice!
Then last week he comes to me saying, "Mom, can I do cello first today? I really like it now." I lift my gaping jaw; we practice happy; we finish and I run off to yoga and he asks before I go, "Can I play whatever I want now for fun?"
"Umm...yeah! That's what it's suppose to be about!" I hear him and Ellie experimenting with guitar/cello duets as I walk out the door.
Is writing the next spark, the next fire to burn in his love for learning?
He comes to me as I'm sitting in the backyard with the two little girls, playing. He's just got off the phone with my mom - they've been planning the next "Wonderful Onesie" sleepover as it's his turn next. He begins to prattle off at the speed of light, he's so excited. He's telling me about their conversation about his writing struggle. I joke, "So you want to go get that new workbook I bought and practice a little?"
"Well, I've been doing that before I came out here, but anyway..." (what?!) He continues. I'm so shocked by what I'm hearing and the excitement in his delivery, I sneak out my iPhone and press record...
"She says that even though you don't know you're doing it, your brain knows what's going on so when you go to do something it's like, 'I know how to do this!' but huh." He pauses and looks thoughtful, remembering something.
"What else did she say?" I prompt.
"Hmm, that's all I can actually repeat because, you know, she's Grammy and you can't really say what she says." Here he laughs. I laugh, too. Then I think, Rats! I just started recording! Go on!
I prompt again,"Not as well as she says it at least, huh? So she gave you ideas about how to learn to write?"
"Yeah, just like - even though you don't know what you're doing, you could just do it and then your brain could help you start like . . . yeah. That is so weird. It looks like - you know that bug I just picked up? I looked at the tree [behind it] and it looked like there was like a giant version in the tree. It was so weird. But anyway, she was just like, just do it even though you don't know what you're doing. Your brain could start memorizing it. Don't try to. Just do it. Don't like, umm, if you don't want to do it don't do it. Cause there's no point." Wow . . . I guess it needs to come from someone other than mom sometimes; shapes my mom and I both give him added with moments of Light equal the Hexagon he's needed to fill this hole? Spiritual mathematics.
"'Cause you won't learn it?"
"So, you could just maybe pray for the desire to do it if you think it's important but you don't feel like it?" I'm hinting pretty hard here, I know. :)
"Uh huh. . . So can we play ball now?"
"Yeah." But I want to hear more - see this joy light your face a minute longer, please? I'll just move out of my chair really slowly, keep talking my sweet sensitive boy.
"I'm excited for the sleepover. Want to know what I like? I like when you go early because the day seems to go forever if you have to wait until six, but tomorrow the second I wake up, Poppy is going to [come up from dad's shop] and say, WE GOTTA GO! Well he's not going to do it that loud, but..."
"That will be fun!"
"Yeah, but mom, I need you to wake me up early. Well. Not too early."