I was hoping for a larger photo to better show the leaf detail, in all its unfurled promise, but this is as big as I could get it.
Daniel is eight today, and we’ve been celebrating his birthday (and continuing to celebrate mine from the other day) with waffles, sunshine, Lego, books, and flowers. His plans for today include working on the fort he and Davy started the other month in Tom’s shop, and which finally made its public debut the other day (Daniel in blue, attaching chains to pull the fort out into the grass):
It’s two stories high, each one of which is carpeted with carpet samples. The boys added shelves for a radio, flashlight, and handy dandy manuals. There’s been some talk about adding a telephone, and knowing them I have a feeling they’re not talking about the paper cup and string variety. While they’re hammering away, I get to work in the garden and peek into Daniel’s new books, including The Dangerous Book for Boys (UK edition), a present from his grandparents, The Unofficial Lego Builder’s Guide (with an entire chapter on storage, perfect for the parents of Legophiles, too), and my own new copy of Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts by critic Clive James.
Tonight we’re going out for dinner to his favorite restaurant, and when we get home we’ll have the homemade Rocky Road Oreo ice cream cake and, as we always do, look through the birthday child’s baby book and wonder where the time went.
Appropriately enough, we had word from the county yesterday that our 900+ new shelterbelt trees will be ready for pick up by May 9th. Tom phoned to borrow the county’s tree planter, which make the process much easier, and we’re getting some fabric mulch this year so that the kids and I don’t have quite as much weeding.
Above is a shot of just a few of the 1,400 saplings we planted last year, most of which came through the winter quite well.
What Do We Plant?
by Henry Abbey (1842-1911)
What do we plant when we plant the tree?
We plant the ship which will cross the sea.
We plant the mast to carry the sails;
We plant the planks to withstand the gales —
The keel, the keelson, the beam, the knee;
We plant the ship when we plant the tree.
What do we plant when we plant the tree?
We plant the houses for you and me.
We plant the rafters, the shingles, the floors,
We plant the studding, the lath, the doors,
The beams and siding, all parts that be;
We plant the house when we plant the tree.
What do we plant when we plant the tree?
A thousand things that we daily see;
We plant the spire that out-towers the crag,
We plant the staff for our country’s flag,
We plant the shade, from the hot sun free;
We plant all these when we plant the tree.
Woodman, Spare That Tree
George Pope Morris (1802-1864)
Woodman, spare that tree!
Touch not a single bough!
In youth it sheltered me,
And I’ll protect it now.
‘Twas my forefather’s hand
That placed it near his cot;
There, woodman, let it stand,
Thy axe shall harm it not!
That old familiar tree,
Whose glory and renown
Are spread o’er land and sea,
And wouldst thou hew it down?
Woodman, forbear thy stroke!
Cut not its earth-bound ties;
O, spare that aged oak,
Now towering to the skies!
When but an idle boy
I sought its grateful shade;
In all their gushing joy
Here too my sisters played.
My mother kissed me here;
My father pressed my hand —
Forgive this foolish tear,
But let that old oak stand!
My heart-strings round thee cling,
Close as thy bark, old friend!
Here shall the wild-bird sing,
And still thy branches bend.
Old tree! the storm still brave!
And, woodman, leave the spot;
While I’ve a hand to save,
Thy axe shall hurt it not.
Oh, Fair to See
by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
Oh, fair to see
Blossom-laden cherry tree,
Arrayed in sunny white;
An April day’s delight,
Oh, fair to see!
Oh, fair to see
Fruit-laden cherry tree,
With balls of shining red
Decking a leafy head,
Oh, fair to see!
Be Different to Trees
by Mary Carolyn Davies (fl1918-1929)
The talking oak
To the ancients spoke.
But any tree
Will talk to me.
What truths I know
I garnered so.
But those who want to talk and tell,
And those who will not listeners be,
Will never hear a syllable
From out the lips of any tree.
Song to a Tree
by Edwin Markham (1852-1940)
Give me the dance of your boughs, O Tree,
Whenever the wild wind blows;
And when the wind is gone, give me
Your beautiful repose.
How easily your greatness swings
To meet the changing hours;
I, too, would mount upon your wings,
And rest upon your powers.
I seek your grace, O mighty Tree,
And shall seek, many a day,
till I more worthily shall be
Your comrade on the way.
by (Alfred) Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that my in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
Last summer I wrote about my brief thoughts on The Dangerous Book for Boys (American website here); I said at the time I thought that for our purposes Daniel Carter Beard‘s classic, The American Boy’s Handy Book, was a better book for our purposes.
Now, with the news that my father is sending a copy of The Dangerous Book to Daniel for his eighth birthday, coming up this weekend, and after reading a piece on the Iggulden brothers, Conn and Hal, in the current issue of Vanity Fair magazine (which I like for the articles and the pictures), I’m prepared to admit there is room on the shelf — the one devoted to old-fashioned children’s pastimes — for The Dangerous Book as well. The main difference between the two books is that while The American Boy’s Handy Book includes only projects, The Dangerous Book includes guides to proper English usage, as well as a series of “Extraordinary Stories”, such as “the one on the exploits of World War II R.A.F. fighter ace Douglas Bader*, who racked up the fifth-highest number of kills in the Royal Air Force despite his flying with prosthetic legs”:
As Conn explains, it’s really not about the penknives and air rifles, “it’s to do with the way children are raised and what they consider important.” Which is why he considers “Extraordinary Stories” vital to the book. “If you put in a story of incredible endurance or courage, you are saying these are impressive values,” he says. “[Boys today] don’t get heroic stories in the way I did. And I think they’re desperately important.”
Somewhere, quite rightly, Charlotte Mason is beaming. And the folks at Flying Point Press who are bringing back the Landmark books should be smiling, too.
I was particularly heartened to read, while the Igguldens were expecting some British backlash because of activities involving “power tools, penknives, and — in the case of a procedural on rabbit-hunting — an air rifle and entrail work”, the backlash never came, since the book struck a chord with British families. The authors may not be so lucky in the US, where the publication of an American edition next month — next Tuesday, in fact — no doubt inspired the VF feature. Publisher’s Weekly interviewed one of the brothers, who, in response to the question “What do you think it is about this book that’s resonating with today’s kids, who clearly have a lot more than a book on how to tie knots vying for their attention?”, answered,
A lot of parents are getting fed up with an overly restricted attitude for their children, much of that coming from their government. Paper airplanes are being banned in the schools for fear of someone poking their eye out. That sort of thing is slightly annoying and really isn’t good for children, especially boys. They have to learn where their own limits are. We’re taking about managed danger here. We don’t want them running out under cars. But if they don’t [learn what their limits are], God knows what sort of pale, white, fat adults they’ll become.
To which both PW commenters so far unsurprisingly took exception (should one even bother to point out that what Mr. Iggulden was referring to were pale, white grubs? You know, the kind that live outdoors, in nature, under logs. Heavens, get those commenters out from under their logs and away from their computers for a bit of fresh air and sunshine.)
And then there’s this recent wire service article from various online North American news websites,
Exuding the brisk breeziness of Boy Scout manuals and Boy’s Own annuals, “The Dangerous Book” is a childhood how-to guide that covers everything from paper airplanes to go-carts, skipping stones to skinning a rabbit. It spent months on British best-seller lists, has sold more than a half-million copies and took the book of the year prize at last month’s British Book Awards.
The book will be published in the United States May 1, allowing American boys — but not their sisters — to learn how to play marbles, make invisible ink, send Morse code and build a tree fort. …
It’s possible to see a less wholesome side to the book’s nostalgia. Girls are discussed, in a single chapter, as something akin to another species: “They think and act rather differently to you, but without them, life would be one long football locker room. Treat them with respect.”
Girls are explicitly — and, some argue, unnecessarily — excluded by the book’s title. …
Though why North Americans can’t figure out that girls, and women, are most welcome to pick up the book and make use of it, is a mystery.*
Danger on American shores, Will Robinson, danger!
*I will admit, however, to more than a bit of discomfort, however, at the Igguldens’ UK website’s shilling of The Goddess Guide, especially since it seems geared more toward women than girls. I apologize for any retching sound you may hear coming from my direction. I’m willing to bet my collection of pocketknives confiscated while doing the laundry that the mention is there by order of HarperCollins, who should give the decision a bit more thought. Especially since they made sure that the “Girls” page didn’t make it to the US website.
UPDATED to add: Just learned that earlier this month The Guardian‘s The Bookseller section included the following item:
The runaway success of The Dangerous Book for Boys has inspired Penguin to start a list of “boy’s own” classics. Six end-of-empire adventure tales are being given nostalgic covers, aimed squarely at the Father’s Day market in June. They are: The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; She by H Rider Haggard; The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope; The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers; The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan; and The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton. A dashing collection for any middle-aged boy’s bookshelf.
* If you happen to discover on TV the 1956 British movie Reach for the Sky, starring Kenneth More as Bader, watch it with your kids. Not on DVD in North America any more, though you can find it in the UK.
The frogs are singing loudly now from the ditches, dugouts, and sloughs, the ducks — especially the goldeneyes — are pairing up, the grass is greening, gophers are running about, hawks swoop around overhead, and the prairie crocuses are up.
I missed Poetry Friday again — too many visitors here and places to be there. We had our mandated semi-annual home school facilitator visit (who last time told us, “I can see there’s a lot of learning going on in this house,” one reason I like him so very much), art lessons, cleaned our not-so little pioneer heritage museum, closed up since last fall, went to a working ranch horse sale where Davy was disgusted to leave without buying another horse, and worked on halter-breaking Laura’s 4H calf.
But in time for Earth Day, here is yet another poem from Frances Frost’s The Little Naturalist, 1959:
Valentine for Earth
by Frances Frost (1905-1959)
Oh, it will be fine
To rocket through space
And see the reverse
Of the moon’s dark face,
To travel to Saturn
Or Venus or Mars,
Or maybe discover
Some uncharted stars.
But do they have anything
Better than we?
Do you think, for instance,
They have a blue sea
For sailing and swimming?
Do the planets hills
With raspberry thickets
Where a song sparrow fills
The summer with music?
And do they have snow
To silver the roads
Where the school buses go?
Oh, I’m all for rockets
And worlds cold or hot,
But I’m wild in love
With the planet we’ve got!