“Everything seems more pleasant in the Little House.” — Ellen Marie
Have you discovered the book “How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare” by Ken Ludwig? I brought it home from the library last fall and it sat in a stack of books, unopened, for three weeks. It wasn’t the right time. Or maybe I was intimated by the thought of Shakespeare? Where to begin with Shakespeare?
Well, I brought it home again last week. And this time I managed to open it up on my lap on a quiet Sunday morning when everyone else was still asleep. The result? I’m hooked! I love it. We’re learning Shakespeare. Memorizing it!
I love Ken Ludwig’s philosophy and his emphasis on the importance of hearing Shakespeare’s poetry aloud and memorizing passages with your children. He writes:
“With Shakespeare, memorizing is the key to everything. . . In order to memorize something, you have to be very specific and very honest with yourself. You have to work slowly, and you have to understand every word of what you’re memorizing. There was a time not long ago when memorization was considered to be one of the basic tools of an academic education. Students were expected to learn hundreds of lines from the Greek and Roman classics, then, later, from poetry in their native tongues. This tradition has faded from our lives, and something powerful has been lost.” (p. 6 & 8)
Reading this I realized how much memorization was part of my own education — and yet I hadn’t thought about it much before. So many choir songs; solos; lines in middle-school and high-school plays; passages from the Bible; and French! Oh, the French memorization I did in college was endless.
But when I studied Shakespeare in high school, it was all in written form. Always read silently, to myself. Never spoken — let alone memorized. And so the thought of learning Shakespeare through memorization, right from the beginning, was completely new to me — and yet it felt absolutely right. And so we dove right in with A Midsummer Night’s Dream:
“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows . . .”
Pulled in different directions.
A dozen tasks on my
Trying to attend to one,
To give it the space
But then I am interrupted.
I get interrupted
It happens so often
that maybe I should consider it
as something else?
Call it by a different name?
I’m trying to channel some of this uncertainty so many of us are feeling into hope and creative work. Jeffrey, the girls, and Wallace have been helping me work on a piece about our favorite games for an upcoming wild+free homeschool magazine. This little man may just grow up to be our most enthusiastic game player!
Amidst a great deal of talk about our country this week: the transition in leadership; the grace of President Obama as he left office; the inaugural address; what it means to be trustworthy; the importance of our words; the value of integrity and respect . . . While all the while wondering what we can do, in our relatively quiet part of the world, to reach out to our neighbors . . . there was a whole lot of quiet work (and play) happening in our home.
January feels very dark. Not just this year, but especially this year, I feel a heaviness that I cannot shake. I do not know if I should try harder to shake it or try to sit with it. But when I sit here, trying to enter in, fully, to the weight of this darkness, I find myself simultaneously celebrating life — life and the joy that is so very present in each day shared with our beautiful children. Their curiosity. Their wonder. Their questions. Their pureness of heart. This is light.
I think of this poem by Wendell Berry (forgive me if I have quoted this recently. It has really been on my mind.)
To Know the Dark
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry, Counterpoint, 1998: p. 68.
Did Wendell Berry march in the Woman’s March yesterday (or would he have in his younger days)?
Does he outwardly protest? Or inwardly? Or both?
Does he speak out in body? And on paper?
In the light? Or in the dark?
“Figure out what matters to you. That’s your meaningful work. Find out who else it matters to. That’s your community.”
— Lori Pickert, “The Introverts Guide to Building Community,” Camp Creek Blog
I’m thinking a lot about building community right now. Lori’s words make it sound so simple, right?
And yet we know how difficult it can be. How do I find the people who care about the work I care about?
“Poems are taught as though the poet has put a secret key in his words and it is the reader’s job to find it. Poems are not mystery novels. Instead we should go closer and closer to the work. Learn to recall images and lines precisely as the writer said them. Don’t step away from their warmth and fire to talk ‘about’ them. Stay close to them. That’s how you’ll learn to write. Stay with the original work. Stay with your original mind and write from it.” — Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
That’s how I feel about the landscape too: stay close to it. Stay with the original. Taking photos from my bedroom window may be easier when I have a sleeping baby and can’t go out at the moment . . . but what I really need to do is step into the warmth and fire that is just beyond the glass.