February 16th, 2007

book cover

The Noticers

Yesterday, the mail brought a packet of appreciations from 50-some kindergartners I visited with recently. We’d spent a morning reading A Sock is a Pocket and exploring my Writer’s Vest, (a.k.a. khaki fishing vest stuffed with pens, shells, tea bags and other little trappings of the trade).
Each time I share this book, there’s a moment when kids get it, the whole pocket-metaphor thing. And when they do, they practically have to sit on their hands to keep from levitating with ideas.
I love when that happens, partly because that’s how the writing of this manuscript was for me. Once the concept stuck in my craw, I could not look at socks or bowls or caves or breaths in the same old way. Everything became a vessel for something else. I swear to you, it’s an addictive little game, kind of like UNO only you don’t need a deck of cards.
One of the teachers, whose note accompanied the childrens’ yesterday, wrote, “They could not stop thinking about pockets all day!” She added a half-smiley face and a “thank you” tinged with tiredness and the teensiest bit of irony, like I’d introduced them to pure-sugar pixie sticks or something.
But really, there is nothing more gratifying than when kids are at their most uninhibited – both energized and attentive – so completely connected to their experience that you can almost see new synapses being clicked on.
I think it is this wakefulness that we’re most afraid of losing to standardization – and rightly so. Kids need to be players, co-creators, in their own learning. And when they are, they come up with gems like these:
Your body is a pocket for your bones.
A tree is a pocket for a scared cat.
The past is a pocket for a dragon.
Fresh, vivid metaphor. From kindergartners, mind you.
There’s been an awful lot of discussion in this country lately about who are the “deciders.” But it seems to me there is something more fundamental than decision-making. First, there is awareness, perception, taking note. Before any dotted lines are signed or buttons pushed, there is (there should be) a time for absorption, for paying very close attention

I’m making it a habit to ask kids like these kindergartners to be good “noticers,” because I think if they are – if we all are – the decision-making will become a little more organic, a little more intuitive, a little more right.

Poetry Friday -- Mary Oliver

And speaking of “noticers”, a belated Valentine goes out to Mary Oliver – 
beloved poet, queen of noticing.

Oliver sees “great hands of light…” and “clear pebbles of rain…” and “the broken cupboard of the clam…”
She asks, “How does any of us live in this world?”
She asks, “What is the name of the deep breath I would take over and over for all of us?”
She asks the fire to “put on its red hat and sing …”
Her poems pay attention to mushrooms and geese and the tongues of toads, to music and to stars. 

They behold, she beholds:
How blue is the sea, how blue is the sky,
how blue and tiny and redeemable everything is, even you…