I have been reading May Sarton‘s journal called Recovering which is initially about recovering from the loss of her life partner due to onset of senility and finally recovery from cancer and a radical mastectomy.
May Sarton’s writing was published in many forms: novels, poems, and journals.
I have not had to face any such life altering events in the last few years, and yet her ideas on finding meaning in the middle of life when you are lost helped put some perspective on my life. I have been feeling lost the last few years and actually most of my life.
In the journal, she tells of all the people who come to visit during the year, about all of the connections she has made in her life, and the people that reach out to her in letters. She writes about the difficulties of balancing the need to have space to create with the need to have connections with the world. My life is crowded with the world of work that I find overwhelming and family which has many positive aspects, but leaves me with just little slivers of time to be, to contemplate, to wonder, to study, to read, to absorb ideas and make sense of of them. This is what being a writer is all about. It is what makes me feel whole, and it is what I get to do the least of.
It does not help that I have been battling little illnesses all winter. I have had to use my low reserves of energy just to get through long dark days. But now I feel the light coming back. I am getting out in the world and moving and ideas are growing.
On Thursday I took some time to go to a recycled hardware store, something I used to do all the time for inspiration. I found some large bolts and nuts that I brought back to my class just to see how the children would use them. Just this process opened up other possibilities. How can we use the old muddy clay left over from last year. The bolts are heavy and cold and hard. What other materials with different properties can I find with which the children can experience different properties. Can we use clay to paint with? What about sand or coffee grounds? All of this is more valid than any of the other work on pre-academics and fine motor skills. I want to open their minds to the world and with preschoolers the world comes through what they feel and experience concretely. Maybe we will build stick houses and cover them with the muddy clay and coffee grounds. Maybe carving ice with colored salt water and eye droppers. What will inspire the connections in their brains to open up to the world and ask questions? Because questions are essence of true learning, questions that lead to more questions and further experiments. There is no need to make the answers hard and fill in blanks. The world should be full of wondering and open ends. They will have a life time to build frameworks of facts around the airy space of wonder. Let them discover the questions first and design their own structures to organize what they find.