Scope for Imagination

Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?

-Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery

Saturday, September 12, 2009

2009 September 13

We begin a New Year in the Big Room.

We begin with a goodbye send off to our middle schoolers who are moving up to the Turning Tides.

We'll play our old game, Big Room Questions 123.

We'll do some weaving,

And get out our journals

And sing.

We'll set our intentions for the year.

We'll make some final butterflies for the Houston Holocaust Museum Butterfly Project and read some poems.

Our objectives for the Big Room program are, as always, these:

Explore Ethics and Philosophy

Compare and Survey World Religions, great and small

Create building blocks for a Personal Theology

Develop a Unitarian Universalist Identity

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Main Street

I really had no choice in the matter.

I knew my town had to have the word "Springs" in the name. "Springs" just has to put a bounce in your step as you walk down Main Street.

But the front part of the name?

I really wanted to have a bit of sophistication in the town's name. You know, as though I'd really thought it through...

But it has named itself and I can't change it in my mind at all. It is what it is:

"Hopeful Springs"

and that's that.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Summer End

Oh such a flurry of activity.
We are getting ready to begin a new year in the Big Room.
We've purchased a couple of new things to play with, and are still tidying up and organizing art materials and books.

This year's topics to include:
New Year Celebrations around the world...they all aren't on January 1, you know...
Fresh starts and new beginnings
Holy Days
Calendars...that's right...they aren't all the same you know...
Orreries, orbits, revolutions and rotations
What We Can Do With a Penny
Wonder Cabinets
Life Changing Journeys and the Wizard of Oz

When does it all Start?

September 13!!!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Main Street

Weeks and weeks ago, Wendy asked me this,

"In your imaginary town, would you have a street named 'Main Street'?"

I of course didn't have an imaginary town. I didn't think I needed one. Has it ever occurred to you you needed an imaginary town?

Dream House--yes. But I just can't go there now.

Dream Town? A whole town?

Holey Toledo...what a mind virus it has become. A good one though. At first I resisted, knowing it would become an obsession. And how many obsessions can one brain handle?

So it starts with a Main Street running east/west. Parallel to Broadway where the movie theaters (2) and the community theater and the restaurants and the art galleries are. And the art supply store...which has the widest array of paintbrushes...fitches and filberts and flats and rounds and sables a person could imagine. Pinstriping brushes, Japanese sumi brushes, woodgraining brushes. Brushes for gold leaf. Pots and jars of brushes. I can't even get started on the paint and the canvas and papers.

The County Courthouse would be on the corner of Main St. and Finch Ave.

All the north/south streets are named for birds and trees, actually. They are not all "streets" though, They could be avenues, lanes, ways, drives or places. It just matters how they sound.

There is no Elm St., since Adam's allergic. Also no Mulberry. Pity since they are nice names.

Of course Sycamore Drive has sycamores planted in the parkway. All the tree streets are graced with their named trees.

At the far north of town...wandering off east into the hills where the bird sanctuary is would be Thoreau Place. Below it, Emerson, and Alcott and Hawthorne, and Fuller and the other transcendental friends.

Mid town east/west would be Jefferson, Adams, Priestly, Paine, Franklin and Washington...

Somewhere, I haven't found it yet, is Bradbury Street.

Near the community College we have Tesla, Einstein, Newton, Leonardo...

At the south end of town, by the hospital is Nightingale, Blackwell, and Barton. The mental health center is at the corner of Dix Lane and Sequoia Drive.

Ten years ago, I would have set my town in Western Massachusetts. But I really believe now it is in So. California. A ten minute drive to the beach...a State beach for 50 miles, no houses or stores or nothing along the coast. Okay, it's mythic.

There is so much to consider. Are we a two high school town with a cross town rivalry? Or do we only have enough teenagers for the one?

I don't know the town's name yet. I do know the center of town has been around since the 1900s. The neighborhoods are all different 20th century revival styles...Tudor and Spanish and adobe and Norman and craftsman. 50's ranch and modern out at the edges of town...not much built after that.

Where's the city park?

Kristin thinks it's time I draw a map.

I can't wait to see her town.

Tell me about your town.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My big fat pile of library books--about Time

So, in my little dilettante way, as an appreciator of Science, I picked out a few library books on the subject of Time.
That's because it is plain mystifying to me that time runs in one direction only.
You know, "the past is history, the future is mystery."
We take it for granted, it is all we know.
Time is a river.
Time marches on.
I just want to understand why.

There is actually a good deal of scientific debate about the whys and wherefores of time's arrow. Everything else in the language of physics (other than time and entropy) works equally well backwards and forwards.

So I have to tuck into a book by Stephen Hawking or Brian Greene every now and again. And I think I kind of get the gist of things for a while, but when I try to explain what I think I just read, I realize I just have to start all over.

But I must say this one, How to Build a Time Machine by Paul Davies is really wonderful. Just the ticket for my summer reading marathon.

Part of what I love about it is the design of the book itself. It's slim and unintimidating.
And the title made me want to flip immediately to the end to find out if there was a schematic for such a thing...because I am both a skeptic and a sucker.
The graphics are simple and elegantly designed to convey some hard to picture concepts.
And the font is a lovely sans-serif (no little lines that complicate the typeface you usually see in newspapers and books)
Which makes me happy.
Because reading complicated stuff is easier when the words are easiest to make out...(like the way green highway signs have lovely legible white letters without serifs, so you can read them at 70 mph) Because I have really bad eyesight.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Flower Fable Part II

Here's the second half of Transcendentalist Louisa May Alcott's Flower Fairy story. The first half is below, on a post from July 9th. The goal was to trim the story into something Jill could read to her Big Room kids. We wonder whether kids of this time (mid 1800s) would have been able to understand such long, flowery sentences, or if adults just didn't talk to kids in a kid-friendly manner. This story is such delight!

Part II
“Now I will go to the hills,” said Annie. “Maybe I will find my little fairy there.” Up and down the hills she went, but she did not find the fairy. She asked the dragonflies and lilies whether they had seen the fairy, but none of them replied. Then she wandered into the forest, and as she passed along the dim paths, squirrels pepped up at the sight of her and doves cooed softly. But none could answer her. Tired of her long search, she sat amid the ferns and feasted on the strawberries that grew beside her, watching the clouds glow around the evening sun.

The night wind rocked the flowers to sleep; the birds sang their evening hymns and all grew calm and still. As the light grew paler, Annie’s head began to fall. Soon she was asleep on the soft moss in the silver moonlight.
Just then, the fairy who Annie had sought all night sent a dream to the sleeping child by elfin spell. Little Annie dreamed that she sat in her garden, like often, with angry feelings in her heart. She ignored the magic flower’s ring and held tightly to her troubled thoughts. Then came a little voice to her, “Annie, let me show you what you are creating with your thoughts and feelings that are now in your heart. You will see how great their power becomes unless you get rid of them.”

Then Annie saw her own angry words change into dark, unlovely forms that were easy to identify from which passion or fault they came. The spirits of anger had red eyes and glaring faces. The spirits of selfishness with gloomy, anxious looks tried to gather all that was in sight, but the more they grabbed, the less they had. Spirits of pride turned away from the rest with crossed arms, noses in the air. These and many more spirits came from her heart before her eyes.

They gathered in strength, each gaining a strange power over her. She could not take her eyes away from them as they dimmed the sunshine so that everything looked like a shadow. All the flowers faded away and in their place rose a dark wall that separated her from all of her favorite things. Then the spirits got closer to her, begging her to obey, because she had welcomed them into her heart and now she was their slave. She sunk down to the withered flowers and wept for her lost freedom and joy. Then she noticed her fairy flower gleaming on her chest. A soft, glowing light shone from her flower like a flashlight. The radiant light became clearer and brighter until the evil spirits turned away and left the child alone. The light and perfume of the flower brought Annie new strength, and she bent to kiss the blossom, “Dear flower, help and guide me now, and I will listen to you always and obey my faithful fairy bell.”

Still in her dream, she realized the the flower saved her from the troubling spirits. Then a low voice spoke in Annie’s sleeping ear, saying, “The dark passions in your heart can shut out love and happiness forever. Remember well the lesson of the dream, dear child, and let only loving thoughts live in your heart.”

Hearing this voice, little Annie awoke to find it was all a dream. She sat alone in the morning light and watched the forest wake up as she thought of the strange forms she had seen. She decided to strive to be a patient and gentle child and to bring back light and beauty to the flower’s faded leaves. Even after this one nice thought, the flower perked its head and breathed its fragrant breath to reassure Annie.

The forest welcomed the morning with whistles, sunbeams and kind greetings. The world looked more beautiful than ever. Throughout the long cold winter, the bell seldom rang and seldom did the fragrance cease. Often she was tempted, but she only had to remember where those thoughts would lead her and she would turn around her ugly thought, welcome spirits of gentleness and love, and all was bright again. Annie grew happier until spring came like a bucket of color over the earth and woke the flowers, set free the streams and welcomed back the birds. She couldn’t wait for her fairy friend to return so she could thank her again for the lovely gift. Then one day her friend appeared!

“Wait no longer; I am back! You have learned to love my gift and its has helped you so much,” the fairy looked tenderly into Annie’s face. “And I have another gift for you from Fairyland.” She touched the child with her wand and told Annie to look and listen closely.

Suddenly the world changed for Annie. The air filled with sweet sounds and all around her were lovely little creatures. Elves sat in every flower singing and rocking amid the leaves. Bright, airy spirits drifted by within each breeze. In the fountain danced sparkly spirits who played in the water. Even the trees sang a low, dreamy song and the grass was filled with sweet voices she had not heard before. Butterflies whispered lovely tales in her ears. Birds sang cheery songs. The world was full of beauty and music that she had never dreamed of until now.
“Dear fairy, is this another, lovelier dream, or is this real?” she cried.

“This is all true,” replied the fairy. “Few humans receive this lovely gift. Most don’t know the language of butterfly or bird or flower and cannot see all that I have given you the power to see. These lovely creatures are now your friends and your playmates, and they will teach you many pleasant things and will be with you always. Your own happiness brightens this place and your flower will never fade. I must go again dear Annie, but I will be back every springtime with the earliest flowers to visit you. Be well, my friend!”

The fairy floated up to the soft white clouds, smiling down on Annie. She stood in her enchanted garden, where all was bright and fragrant and cheery.

Friday, July 17, 2009

My Big Fat Pile of Library Books--Dandelion Wine

There it was on the Middle School reading list.
The best summer novel ever of all time.
I hadn't read it since I was a teenager.
I remembered the part about the new tennis shoes
that felt like marshmallows and made you run faster than all get out...faster than antelopes and gazelles.
and able to leap high and wide, with your feet in total springy comfort.
But by the end of summer, they would just be a regular old pair of shoes.
My own father one time made some dandelion wine in the basement.
I do recall gathering flowers for the project. (my dad was big on projects...weaving and knitting and homemade control aircraft...needlepoint, ham radio...all undertaken with the precision and discipline of an engineer and the soul of an artist)
Anyway. The wine was too sweet and odd for my taste. The main ingredient was figs, not dandelions in his recipe.
Here's a recipe for dandelion wine which is heavy on the citrus and relies on a full 6 cups of sugar. I guess it takes a hearty amount of some sort of sugar ro make wine.
It might be good, but I don't think I ever want to try dandelion wine again. It could never taste like an August day. Like a day in the life of Douglas Spaulding in the summer of 1928.
(My brother and I one time made beer milkshakes but that was a different novel and a different author and a different story)
I do love this book.
I love it better now than when I was in high school. I am sure I would have entirely missed the point when I was in 6th grade.
I think I'll read it every summer until I die.
It's all about waking up and finding life and death and youth and old age and danger and comfort.