Saturday, January 8, 2011

Crocuses and clams

We're a few weeks away from the crocuses. They know the sun is coming back. I do not know how they know but they do. Soon green fingers will break through the corms.

Meanwhile, my clams have settled in for the winter. Not deep, maybe 2 or 3 inches deeper than July, but still deeper, clammed up tight, waiting for the water to warm. Deep for a clam, though.

We still have a few stalks of Brussels sprouts growing, still with a few tiny sprouts left.

At this moment, the tide is just starting to rise again on the mudflats, under a crescent moon dancing between wintry clouds low in the west. The clams are there, under the black water glistening from the sliver of moonlight, as they have been before we came, as they will be when we're gone.

In a few more hours, a few feet of water will rise over the clams, then recede again before dawn.


We can teach about tides and the moon, we can talk of gravity, but until a child wrestles a clam from the mud, she knows nothing about them.

Most of what we teach, or pretend to teach, means nothing to a child, but often, sadly, nothing to the teacher as well.

I know of tides, but not the taiga or the tiger.

I know of quahogs, and reasonably well, but my words and pictures cannot replace an afternoon on the mudflats, the pungent sweet smell of life mingling with death, jolting young noses more familiar with Amber Romance and Axe.

A single afternoon on the flats can be ruined if I emphasize the abstract, especially to a generation that knows only the abstract. So I will pretend to care about mantles and siphons and the economic importance of hard shell clams while I hope that a few of the children get curious about this unknowable universe we've kept hidden from them.

And for the next few weeks, I am trapped in their world, until the crocuses come back.

Thanks to PSE&G, about 150 young adults will get to spend a day on a tidal flat in May.


Justin said...

A refreshing post. Experience life is very important to learning. Thanks for sharing!

- @newfirewithin

doyle said...

Dear Justin,

Thank you for the kind words. The trick (for me, anyway)is how to do this--I wish I had a better answer than one day at the beach.