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Thursday, June 25, 2009

To Feel Like a Kid and See Like a Kid, Read Like a Kid

Wednesday morning was unusually busy at Dog Ears Books. We had visits from four teams of summer school explorers. The Small But Mighty, Fox Islanders, Bald Eagles and Crazy Cherries were spending the early part of the day exploring Northport on foot, and the bookstore was one stop along the way. After a brief introduction and time for the kids to explore, each team voted on a book to buy for their school library. The first team was the bounciest, the last pretty subdued, but I think the increasing heat of the morning was responsible for that difference. Anyway, faithful volunteer (read ‘angel’!) Bruce Balas, himself a veteran teacher of 25 years at the American School in London, was on hand to help sort things out, and every team departed with their chosen book and map of Leelanau County, with no backpacks left behind. Fun for all!

Having the kids visit on Wednesday and looking forward to Hillary Lang Porter’s book signing on Saturday has me thinking about children’s books. If you look at my “Books Read” list, you’ll see that right above (i.e., after) Doug Stanton’s Horse Soldiers comes Louis Slobodkin’s Circus April 1st—and now I realize that I have to add David Small’s That Book Lady to the list, too. Reading (sometimes re-reading) children’s books from time to time refreshes my spirit and keeps me, I hope, from becoming philosophically stale. Oh, who cares! It’s just fun! I like the picture books, and I like the chapter books, too, the ones you can live in for a while, inhabiting the characters’ world. Porter’s The Colors of Beech Hill is one of the latter, its story set right here in Northport, where the author graduated from high school in 1989.
The ruts in the dirt road made it hard to keep up the pace, and I ended up walking my bike up the last section of the road to my favorite spot. On a clear day up here it seemed like you could see the whole world. To the west on Lake Michigan you could plainly see both of the Manitou Islands, way out to Beaver Island, then across the northern part of the bay to the town of Charlevoix. Much closer in you could see the Point, Gull Island, even down to the tip of the Old Mission Peninsula. The trees on the top of this hill were growing so much that there would probably come a time that Old Mission was hidden from view, Billy Winslow said, but not yet. The best part is that you can’t see any buildings at all, not one in the entire landscape. It was like no one had built a house yet, no cherry processing plants, no barns, and no little village next to the water. The trees cover it all up. -- from The Colors of Beech Hill, by Hillary Porter

Since I didn’t grow up in Northport or in any small town, it’s only vicariously that I’ve ever had the experience. (That, by the way, is the same way I’ve had horses—vicariously, through reading.) I’ve noticed, though, that people of every age in Northport, all of them hard workers, still manage to keep a child’s delight in the changing of the seasons, local events and festivals, and all manner of magical, ephemeral moments. No one ever seems to tire of spying a fawn half-hidden in tall grass or a fox crossing the road, loons or cranes, geese or hawks overhead, the parade of blossoms or the progress of the orchards.

So go barefoot for a few minutes today. If you’re near the water, go wading. Lie in the grass and watch clouds. Read a book written for young people and cherish the child who lives on inside you.

Or, to put it another way--and to give me an excuse to post more flower images--be partly cultivated, like the elegant iris, and partly wild, like the happy hawkweed. Am I stretching my point too far? These shots were taken Tuesday evening, St. John's Eve.


Gerry said...

Yaay! for hawkweed, and irises too -- yaay! for our sense of wonder. Lots of fun in this post, PJ!

P. J. Grath said...

I can always count on you, Gerry. You have a very lively sense of wonder!