Our Christmas elf is delighted with the tree — every morning as soon as he gets downstairs he points and calls, “Ball, ball, ball!” in his deep little baby voice. And then he proceeds to skip around and pull off his favorite ornaments.
Today Amabel said, “It doesn’t seem like we’re doing very much homeschooling.”
I said, “Well, we’re taking it a little easy in December because we’re working on Christmas gifts and preparations . . .”
To which she replied, “You are always making excuses!!!”
And so I piled up a stack of books that we’ve read this fall (which does not even include the books she has read to herself, the books Jeffrey has read to the girls at bedtime, the countless picture books we’ve read together, and the audio books we listen to in the car), and I took a picture. “Does this make you feel any better?” I asked her.
“Well . . . sort of.”
I am listening to an onbeing podcast episode with composer, conductor, and teacher, Alice Parker. It is so very lovely. And it makes me feel so very happy about the hours I’ve spent singing to my children. And with my children. And, especially, singing them to sleep.
Here is a bit of the transcript:
MS. PARKER: Yes. And watching those tiny babies develop, it just gave me this absolute conviction that babies — that’s the language of babies. That’s what they’re born knowing. From their first utterance, it’s all singing. And it takes a long time to learn the language, learn the words, and how to communicate from their brain.
And there was nothing that I loved that I could sing to them that they didn’t love and sing back because the trade that’s going on is not learning a song; it is human communication at its most elemental level, from the mother to baby, wordless hum or something like that. Which also leads me to conclude that song predates language, and that the first way that humans communicate is with vocal sound, which is much closer to song than it is to thought-out, measured, rational language.
MS. TIPPETT: Sentences. Bobby McFerrin once said to me — he said he suspected that we sang before we spoke.
MS. PARKER: I’m certain that that’s true.
MS. TIPPETT: Because we do — we talk a lot, and there’s a lot of study of how we learn language and the kind of elemental template in us, however that functions. And for you to point out which — we don’t need any scientist to prove this to us, right? That singing also emerges, that sound emerges just as naturally. It’s a possession almost.
MS. PARKER: It is. It’s one of the things that we’re born with. And it’s the great international, inter-everything language because it’s dealing with our inner emotional life. It’s as if singing is the language of the emotions. And it’s our intuitive life as opposed to our rational life. And we live in a society that has glorified rationality.
I dream about this farm. This land. This place. It has lived in my heart since I was ten years old, and every time I go for a walk in the woods at Gousty, I feel its pull. I’m drawn to Little Valley — across the sumac-bordered meadow, past the spring, and under a canopy of towering Beech trees — by a mysterious force.
Just for a moment, I want to stand at the edge of the woods and drink it in.
Today it sits, so sill, under a light blanket of fresh snow. In soft shades of gray and brown, it looks back at me.
What do I seek here?