Looking at things

There are caterpillars on the grape vine. They are amazing. They are so liddle.

‘Why are they so liddle?’

‘Where’s his mum? Where’s his eyes? Where’s her arms?’

The caterpillars are a nuisance. But today they are astounding. They have a looping liquid walk, so hip that small children must imitate it.

They are the colour of pests.

But this one is crimson, emerald, gold, charcoal, the colour of bees, the colour of lego, of lollies, of excavators, of liddle amazing things. My grandsons hold out grubby hands to help him from leaf to leaf. They offer him extra leaves because she has no mum. They look for her nest, they plan to make him a better house – with a door. Her will love it.

They watch him eat, leaning so close that surely the caterpillar must sense something, but it swings its enormous eyes around and down again, serene over its leafy cabbage meal, warm under the hot breath of my grandsons who won’t come away in case a bit of life happens, and they miss it.

Later they tell Pa, ‘There’s a caterpillar on your stuff.’

‘Is there.’

‘He is. He’s eating everything, her is.’

They are gleeful. Then they go back to sweeping, back to the sandpit, back to the marble run, the biscuits, and sunlight coming through the bathroom window and lighting up the soggy face washer and somebody’s hat left in the sink and the tap still dripping all over everything.

Eating lunch with Noah

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Noah is two years old and he’s like an owl. He sits on his knees, on the chair next to me, leaning his shoulder on mine, chummy and confiding. Turns his head, looks at me sideways. Hoots and sighs and drops bread. Eats fast.

Says, what Nanny? What did you say?

He notices a red dragonfly painted inside the rim of his red bowl. I’d never noticed it before.

He laughs and taps the bowl to show me.  See?

He’s like a clock. Head ticks up and down as he counts the bananas.

Says, I’m cold. Looks around urgently and says he’s not cold.

He leans on elbows, notices everything, breathes through his mouth, blows and sighs, climbs up, climbs down, knocks on the window. He offers me half of his banana, endlessly thoughtful.

Says, I’m a monkey. Calls out, what’s that noise?

He’s like a tugboat. Because when they overbalance and slide from the chair, they take the tablecloth (and everything else) with them, tow everything down in alarm, bringing the entire harbour; plates, cups, spoons, forks, bread, tomatoes and bananas, all to the floor.

Says, sorry Nanny, and patiently picks everything up again.

 

 

Noah Vacuums the Shop

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Noah came to visit on a really hot day. But the heat does not cause a toddler to slow his breathing or his intentions. The heat does not exist when there is a task to do. In my shop there is a vacuum cleaner and it is outrageously sitting idle. Noah knows what to do with idleness and he immediately puts the pieces together, provides the engine with his own heart and the voice of the machine with his own throat and he vacuums furiously here and there and all round his feet and all around his world.
He rebuked me soundly when I shortened the pole for his own shortness because he is not short and because this was wrong. He does not need ill-informed assistance from me; what he needs is the floor of my bookshop, a machine and an opportunity. And then, while he laboured across the small estate of my bookshop his small face was both alive with intention and lit with approval.

Morgan sleeps and Noah reads

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Reading is a sport that can be pursued anywhere. Questing eyes need very little equipment to locate and roll out the print, the mind will hang on behind, and help itself over the top of sentences, words and things not understood. When we read, we are gone. But then we are here because that is where reading deposits us: here.

Noah reads and breathes in a single motion, staring at possibilities and unconcerned with how he views the page. His baby eyes can round up Hairy Maclary at full gallop, he can sample letters and phrases, kick at the dotty full stops, allow the hairy hair of Hairy Maclary to graze his eyes, so deep is the staring. At his back is his dad, sleeping off the night shift and providing solid backup for when an idea is too astounding to continue.

And Hairy Maclary is a banquet of consequence containing, as it does, danger and friendship; the big ships. Noah’s mind and feet continue to map outward and inward, enlarging and layering: he can never return to a time when he did not know about Hairy Maclary, Bottomley Potts and the knotty full stops.

Noah Reads

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Noah reads like a proper reading person, that is, he reads like himself.

He is a year old. When he examines the book, the front and back, the bottom and top, each page on a useful hinge, the last page an attractive gate, nobody knows (except for him) what he is thinking, believing or eating.

Noah reads at an alarming rate, this will continue until formal instruction begins and then he will slow down to a courteous pace; he is  already a thoughtful baby. He will travel thoughtfully through reading requirements. But alone, he will soar with closed eyes, apologetic of recommended titles, he will read the same book over and over, re read old books, re read easy books, insist on reading difficult books, put aside appropriate books and be kind but not enthusiastic about reader stars for progress, charting instead, his own country which will feature a starscape that only he can track.

Noah watches his own parents read. His house is growing a garden outside and a library inside. The library is without plan, format or sensible guidelines. The books are filed according to where they land. There are old books, new books, worn out books and well read books all in together, a mother country with no end page but requiring a heavy reference: it must be a book someone may want to read some day. Volumes that do not wear this badge are shelved anyway.
Noah travels this realm of gold somewhat carelessly, after all, it has always been there. Its gilt influence on his life may go unnoticed, or maybe not. Everybody reads differently.
Some people read for recovery, relaxation, distraction.
Some people read for accomplishment, achievement and knowledge.
Some people read to accumulate data, settle argument, prove frontiers.

This, then, for Noah, a beautiful infant in a great age, the digital age: that he might forgo analysis for listening. That he will pursue the tentative and the original. That he will take terrible risks and abandon the surface of things.
That he might reach air’s other side… ( Rainer Maria Rilke )

Noah reading

 

 

Noah looks out of the window…

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Noah is looking out at his ordinary front yard at an ordinary road in a country town.

There is much work to be done. (But there will always be work to be done. Even at the end of the last task, there is still work to be done.)

There is a smooth lawn to be planted, a shed to be built, a clothes line, some trees, a sandpit and somewhere to leave his bike out in the rain.

There might be a pathway, a cubby house, somewhere for mud and water, somewhere to hide, somewhere for sorrow and somewhere for fury.

There might be a corner, designated for nothing, tangled and of no use, immensely valuable.

There will be a place to leave toys out to rust. He will help dig holes. He might hang washing with the hoist wound down, using 18 pegs for one small shirt.

When he is growing he might say with certainty: this place is shit.

When he is grown he will puzzle over and appeal to the curious things of worth.

And when he has a child of his own he will then begin with urgency, the ordinary lawn.

 

Blest, who can unconcernedly find

   Hours, days, and years slide soft away,

In health of body, peace of mind,

                            Quiet by day,

Alexander Pope, Ode to Solitude

 

 

Noah keeps on growing

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Noah will not stop growing. This is the way it ought to be because, once long ago, his father also did not stop growing. I can remember.

But I did not anticipate two moments, one back then, (we were sitting in a park, we were bright with pride) and one right now (grown up, growing onwards) that would provide such  echo.

We all go our own ways, as we should. But sometimes there is something like a counterpoint, playing bravely and briefly alongside us, or in front of us, or from long ago, or from somewhere, somehow…