Monday, November 18, 2013

what we can give them

Out for a walk the other day on Opua's delightful coastal track and I found that some anti-social types had ripped off the lock that prevented access to a cliff-top tower holding a range light for the port entrance.  I decided that I was the kind of Dad who would go home and ask his 7-year-old son if he'd like to climb up the tower the next day...
Since we've committed to boat-schooling Elias, and eventually Eric, for as long as we're sailing, I've thought a bit about the potential limitations that implies.  You can only teach what you know.  And Alisa and I, to pick an example, are both very non-musical.  Our kids get plenty of Thelonious Monk on the stereo, but we can't teach them to make music themselves.  So, until we get them into a school where they can be exposed to music (oh, right - American schools cut all their music programs), that's a side of the human experience - a very big and profound side of the human experience - that they won't be experiencing for themselves.

But there are some things we can give them.  And one of these, of course, is the gift of books.  I am severely biased and will tell anyone, anywhere, that nothing will prepare you for a life well lived more surely than being well-read.

I've been reading to Elias lately.  The Sword in the Stone was a bit above him, and really a bit shambling in its prose no matter the age of the audience, but there were enough jousts and falcons to pull the thing off.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was a bit archaic in its language, but the core concept of a rascally boyhood won Elias over.  I told him that Huckleberry Finn was an adult book and would have to wait until he was in high school.

We're on The Hobbit just now.  And this one is perfect - Elias gets it.  And it has opened my eyes again to the quality of J.R.R. Tolkein's storytelling.  Not bad for an academic.

Two days ago we read the chapter where Bilbo and Gollum pose each other riddles.  Do you remember this one?

Alive without breath,
As cold as death;
Never thirsty, ever drinking,
All in mail never clinking.

Before I'd read half the next sentence Elias looked up at me and said, "Fish!"

I couldn't believe he'd gotten it.  Though mind you, "fish!" is the answer to most questions for Elias these days.


  1. Hey guys! I enjoy following your travels from the freezing north! I just wanted to assure you that music programs are alive and well in Alaskan public schools. Even though I know you were just jesting. Take care, and we hope to see you back here some day.

    1. Hey Jessy - Thanks for the good news! Will be great to hear the little fellows making a racket on some rented saxophone when we return.