the dust and the dreaming of the world

I learned the world through incidental poetry. Maps had no charm for me, although I drew them and labelled them obediently. It was the words falling out of sentences, the suggestions of old sounds, that educated me.

The fig trees of Lebanon, and the hot golden wind coming in off the sea. White nights in Russia, ballerinas dancing in stolen palaces, the witches and talking wolves of deep fir forests. Coracles on the stony Hebridean sea. A map and a textbook will inform you of these things ... but poetry, but story, but old monochrome photographs that show you the memory or dream of the thing rather than its bright stark reality ... here is where you will find their heart. And gently, only barely told, so there is space for a relationship to weave between that and your own heart.

I see the detachment of our youth today, and I wonder at their education. I'm guessing it's efficient, transmitted through whiteboards and handouts and computer programmes. I'm thinking they learn about Russian forests and fine-boned ballerinas only as a side effect of studying the Revolution. They probably don't push the desks back and dance like Cossacks. They almost certainly never read obscure poets. They are informed. Their books are all new.

I can think of nothing sadder than teaching our children the facts of the situation.


  1. "space for a relationship to weave between that and your own heart." That is indeed the heart of eduction, isn't it? Giving children beautiful materials and then giving them space to make connections, to create relationships, and to dream dreams.

    My oldest child is obsessed with history, she remembers so many details. I'm convinced that to her all of that historical detail is grist for the storytelling mill to grind into flour to make fancy confectionary palaces for her to dwell in. She loves maps because she can map stories onto them. She loves all the little elements that tell her about daily life, about the conflicts and the passions of people who lived long ago. She writes poems about Richard the Lionhearted that make no sense to me, but tell me she encountered him in a place where history and dreams meet.

    1. Charlotte Mason was the one who taught me that education is a relationship, but I think I lived that philosophy before I heard it. I am like your daughter, I love history so very much. How wonderful she writes poetry about the Lionheart!

  2. oh, yes yes yes yes yes.

    my own education was muchly poetic and random. and it served me so well!

    the poetry of a thing is the heart of a thing...

  3. Oh, I love this: "I learned the world through incidental poetry." I sometimes despair for today's youth, too, but then my husband will tell me a story (about his public high school classroom) and I am heartened to know that there are still many kids who are fierce and dedicated, smart and searching, eager to get into the world and do what is right and just. Incidental poetry (and history) are part of his English class. :)

  4. So true! We need to teach poetry and feelings too.

  5. I wonder if there is a language in the world that we can read through magic, through observing. And it's not made up by words. I love your poetry.