Friday, January 02, 2009
THE OLD TABULA RASA
In the evolution of knowledge, it's a fact that things keep on becoming unknown. I'm not referring here to elective rasafication of the tabula, as for example by creationists, or to the natural misplacement of knowledge, as embodied in where the hell I put my reading glasses, which is sort of a pro tem microrasafication. To get more rapidly to my point here, I'm talking about how each generation is born bearing the somehow surprising absence of such basic knowledge as seeds and how to use a rake.
When you're raising kids, you try to teach them moment-to-moment about all the things they need to understand or at least know about, from the toilet to the stars, so you never really get to comprehend the particulars of it all, just how much and in what detail they have to learn these things, and so you miss a few, especially the things you'd never even think of teaching anything about, such as will dad's favorite fountain pen write on toast, or how many times can you put a ball in a box and take it out again. These details too must be learned. (Bet you didn't know you'd learned somehow about fountain pens writing on toast.) Though it's been dismissed as an ignorant representation of the newborn mind, the old tabula is nonetheless surprisingly rasa in certain respects.
When Kasumi was born in on the island of Ibiza, the first thing I did when we took her home was carry her out into an old grove near our finca in Cala Boix, break off some wild rosemary leaves and hold them to her nose. She was only about three days old, but I still remember the look of awe that came into her eyes; no rasa there at all (three-day olds are experts at awe).
On the other hand, I remember one day in spring a few years later when we lived in Kyoto and only Keech and I were home, when I said Hey Keech - who was then about three years old - let's go water the daffodils! We got a big glass of water and went out there and I let Keech do the watering; he held the glass up to the daffodil's mouth so it could drink. Way cuter and more endearing than knowledge. Imagination is a beautiful thing.
When decades later I became a grandfather I got Kaya started early learning about plants and seeds and gardening - she'd help me plant whatever I was planting while she was here - but I guess that somehow, due to seasonal scheduling and time crowding, Mitsuki and Miasa slipped by in that regard-- they haven't yet gotten to be here at planting time. Then yesterday afternoon I took the three of them out to help me pick some winter carrots-- partly for thinning, but mostly for the major WOW I knew it would be for them to firmly grasp those green stems near to the ground, pull hard and come up with a large bright orange root right out of the dirt! (We filled the carrot basket to overflowing but still it was Me, me, me, I want to pull up the next one! and for the first time in my life I was a grandfather seeking order among carrots.) Then we took the whole basketful of green and orange to the garden hose, where we washed the carrots off, and boy were they bright orange when I held a freshly washed bunch of them up in the air-- it was the roots of impressive.
This was of necessity followed by the eating of cold, crispy, orange-glowing baby carrots in the warm kitchen-- what can be mind-sweeter than new teeth crunching into a carrot just plucked from winter ground and washed with icy water? For some time the kitchen air was filled with carrot snaps and contemplation. The crunching trio wanted to eat all the carrots right there, but agreed to take some home for later.
The surprise I've been getting to all along came when Mitsuki asked me why I had buried all those carrots.