Ursula K. Le Guin:

Socrates said, "The misuse of language induces evil in the soul." He wasn't talking about grammar. To misuse language is to use it the way politicians and advertisers do, for profit, without taking responsibility for what the words mean. Language used as a means to get power or make money goes wrong: it lies. Language used as an end in itself, to sing a poem or tell a story, goes right, goes towards the truth.

A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.

and so it begins

In May I wrote about Willow wanting me to help her learn how to read. Like Jake's pattern of reading learning, she was intensely interested for about an hour, and then for months nothing. With Jake we were a little worried, especially two, three, four years after the initial teaching fiasco, but then suddenly he was reading adult-level fiction. Oh. Okay. So with Noah we weren't nearly as concerned, even when he never asked for help at all, but still we were relieved when he started reading. Finally, with Willow, it just feels normal and totally unremarkable. It's not any longer just that the theory of self-intuited developmental readiness makes sense. We are now true believers.

Today Noah sat reading over my shoulder as I was editing a blog post. I'd read this post over at least a dozen times, as I wanted to be careful that I was representing myself accurately. When I finally clicked "save" and went to view the page, he said, "Wait, wait, go back!" Wha? I thought, but he was so excited I just did it. "Scroll down, scroll down... there! You forget to put a 'to' in there!" So now my son, who has had no reading instruction, is proofreading my writing for me.

I had to smile. I love so much, contrary to what we've all been taught, that it's something that just happens. Like learning to walk, learning to talk. It will be. Not all at the same time, all in the same way. But it will be. The first stick drawing a child does of a person is neat to see, and yes the environment and means are crucial to that happening, but the reaction isn't "oh thank god," as if there was ever any concern that she would never draw a stick person. This is no different. At all. And it's such a lovely place to be, a calm place with progress just being a given, every step of the way knowing that it's exactly what it needs to be.

Exactly the way, in fact, that it is for people who learn to read early enough that they can't remember ever not reading or being taught aside from being read to. "She's a natural!" we say, when someone seems to have an innate aptitude for something. The mistake we made is in assuming that natural, in the case of reading learning, is necessarily defined as precocious. A mistake that has many kids, once they turn six, being made to believe that they are inherently lacking in some way, struggling, miserable, angry, losing faith in themselves and in their mentors.

My kids are naturals, and they know it. And I mean they know it. Like they know that the sky is blue or that if they leap up they will fall back down to the ground. I didn't have to tell them; it's just the way things are. If they were in school, they wouldn't know it, because, as "late" readers, the potentiality would have been stolen from them before they had a chance to.

That seems to me that it would have been quite a loss. Others don't agree with me, I know that. They think that we took a chance and got lucky. But what evidence is this oh-so-intellectual analysis based in? Tell me, who decided that age 6 is the universally developmentally best time to learn how to read? Who has proved this? No one, actually. That's right, a culture-wide belief system about what is best for people is supported by nothing more than simple convention. I just find this outrageous. Are there really that many people incapable of reason?

But that was us. We worried! We fretted! We encouraged! We taught! We got frustrated! Eventually quieting ourselves for Jake's sake, but still feeling that twinge on the inside. Thinking, So many people believe this. We don't know why, but maybe they're right for reasons that we, that maybe nobody, really understands. I think, in fact, that a lot of our early parenting was sort of agnostic in that way. I'm so annoyed by this now. We knew, in our soul, in our bones, in our cells, what was authentic, what was normal and okay. But the religion of modern parenting was so loud and insistent. Who can just be, and let life unfold as it already knows perfectly well how to, with dogma thrumming in your ears? It's not that easy.

So now we're in November. Willow turned seven in July. Recently, with no prodding from me, and with no signs of being interested, she simply took a book off the shelf and started copying what she saw. She worked on it for a long time and was very pleased with it. I was too. I like the very careful and consistent way she made her letters. I like how she circled related things. I like the little person she slipped in there. And then she stopped, and hasn't done any writing or reading since. Which is exactly what she needed to do.

You know what the schools would think about it, don't you? Too late. Not correct. Not enough. We'd be sad if we thought that. But we don't have to, because she's not in school, and because we know better now. So we don't. And so she gets to be a natural too, along with all the four-, five-, and six-year-old naturals, letting her ableness evolve and shine through in its own perfect time and in its own perfect way.

the languages have broken down

"But in our time the languages have broken down. Since they are no longer shared, the processes which keep them deep have broken down: and it is therefore virtually impossible for anybody, in our time, to make a building live." -- Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building

I first heard of Christopher Alexander in architecture school. I didn't know quite what to do with him then, didn't know how to make him and my love of vernacular architecture fit within the confines of what I was expected to do to graduate. Even so, I knew that what he was saying and what I was feeling were important, and his discerning analysis of the failures of modern society has stayed with me.

What I've realized more recently is how much his insights apply to all facets of modern human life, not just the making of spaces.

He starts off here speaking of what happens when personal autonomy is a given:

The connection between the users and the act of building is direct.

Either the people build for themselves, with their own hands, or else they talk directly to the craftsmen who build for them, with almost the same degree of control over the small details which are built.

The whole emerges by itself and is continally repaired. Each person in a town knows that his own small acts help to create and to maintain the whole. Each person feels tied into society, and proud because of it.

The adaptation between people and buildings is profound.

Each detail has meaning. Each detail is understood. Each detail is based on some person's experience, and gets shaped right, because it is slowly thought out, and deeply felt.

Because the adaptation is detailed and profound, each place takes on a unique character. Slowly, the variety of places and buildings begins to reflect the variety of human situations in the town. This is what makes the town alive. The patterns stay alive, because the people who are using them are also testing them.

But, by contrast, in the early phases of industrial society which we have experienced recently, the pattern languages die.

Instead of being widely shared, the pattern languages which determine how a town gets made become specialized and private. Roads are built by highway engineers; buildings by architects; parks by planners; hospitals by hospital consultants; schools by educational specialists; gardens by gardners; tract housing by developers.

The people of the town themselves know hardly any of the languages which these specialists use. And if they want to find out what the languages contain, they can't, because it is considered professional expertise. The professionals guard their language jealously to make themselves indispensable.

[...]The languages start out by being specialized, and hidden from the people; and then within the specialities, the languages become more private still, and hidden from one another, and fragmented.

Most people believe themselves incompetent to design anything and believe that it can only be done properly by architects and planners.

This has gone so far that most people shrink, in fear, from the task of designing their surroundings. They are afraid that they will make foolish mistakes, afraid that people will laugh at them, afraid that they will do something "in bad taste." And the fear is justified. Once people withdraw from the normal everyday experience of building, and lose their pattern languages, they are literally no longer able to make good decisions about their surroundings, because they no longer know what really matters, and what doesn't.

People lose touch with their most elementary intuitions.

If they read somewhere that large plate glass picture windows are a good idea, they accept this as wisdom from a source wiser than themselves -- even though they feel more comfortable sitting in a room with small windowpanes, and say how much they like it. But the fashionable taste of architects is so persuasive that people will believe, against the evidence of their own inner feelings, that the plate glass window is better. They have lost confidence in their own judgment. They have handed over the right to design, and lost their own pattern languages so utterly that they will do anything which architects tell them.

Yet, architects themselves, have lost their intuitions too. Since they no longer have a widely shared language which roots them in the ordinary feelings people have, they are also prisoners of the absurd and special languages which they have made in private.

Even the buildings built by architects start to be full of obvious "mistakes."

[...] There is not a single building built in recent times, nor a single part of a city laid out by planners, in which such trivial mistakes -- caused by the loss of patterns -- cannot be described a hundredfold. This is as true of the greatest works of so-called modern masters, as of the most mundane works built by tract developers.

And those few patterns which do remain within our languages become degenerate and stupid.

This follows naturally from the fact that the languages are so highly specialized. The users, whose direct experience once formed the languages, no longer have enough contact to influence them. This is almost bound to happen, as soon as the task of building passes out of the hands of the people who are most directly concerned, and into the hands of people who are not doing it for themselves, but instead for others.

So long as I build for myself, the patterns I use will be simple, and human, and full of feeling, because I understand my situation. But as soon as a few people begin to build for "the many," their patterns about what is needed become abstract; no matter how well meaning they are, their ideas gradually get out of touch with reality, because they are not faced daily with the living examples of what the patterns say.

If I build a fireplace for myself, it is natural for me to make a place to put the wood, a corner to sit in, a mantel wide enough to put things on, an opening which lets the fire draw.

But, if I design fireplaces for other people -- not for myself -- then I never have to build a fire in the fireplaces I design. Gradually my ideas become more and more influenced by style, and shape, and crazy notions -- my feeling for the simple business of making fire leaves the fireplace altogether.

So, it is inevitable that as the work of building passes into the hands of specialists, the patterns which they use become more and more banal, more willful, and less anchored in reality.

--From The Timeless Way of Building, Chapter 13, The Breakdown of Language

the fisher and the businessman

I don't know where this story came from, but it's a great one:

A businessman was vacationing in a small coastal village when a small boat with a fisher docked at the pier.

Inside the small boat were several large fish. The businessman complimented the fisher on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The fisher replied, "Not very long.” The banker asked, "Why don't you stay out longer and catch more fish, so you can make more money?" The fisher replied with a smile, "This is more than enough to support my family's needs." The banker then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?" The fisher said, "Ah... I sleep late, play with my children, nap with my wife, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my friends. I have a good life."

The businessman said excitedly, "That's all well and good, but imagine what you could accomplish if you worked harder. If you caught more fish, you could use the proceeds to buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several more boats and hire people to do the fishing for you. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor; eventually you could own your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You could leave your poor village and move to a big city to run an ever-expanding enterprise!"

The fisher asked, "But how long would all this take?" The businessman replied, "Oh, probably fifteen to twenty years." "Ah," the fisher said. "And what then?" The banker laughed and said, "That's the best part! When the time was right you would sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You could make millions!"

"I see... and then what?"

The businessman said, "Well, you would retire, of course!... move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, nap with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your friends. Think what a wonderful life you would have!"

"we shall laugh"

When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego,

and when we escape like squirrels turning in the cages of our personality

and get into the forests again,

we shall shiver with cold and fright

but things will happen to us

so that we don't know ourselves.

Cool, unlying life will rush in,

and passion will make our bodies taut with power,

we shall stamp our feet with new power

and old things will fall down,

we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like burnt paper.

--D.H. Lawrence

the key ingredient

Today I spent all morning doing some organizational work for an online forum that I belong to. It was making me kind of grumpy because it was taking far longer than I expected it to, and along the way I had to spend some time putting my two cents into a Very Important Issue that was being discussed there. When I was done with that I put some moldy blankets in the wash that got left out in the rain in Willow's secret hideout "Wonderland" while we were at the conference over the weekend. After that I looked at all the dishes in the sink and decided I wasn't quite hungry enough yet to deal with them. Then walking through the playroom it occurred to me that the board games take up too much room where there should be a nice display of pretty rainbow-hued wooden toys, and in the moment this seemed very important to me to deal with immediately. I decided they should go into the drawers in the dining room built-in hutch instead, which tends to get stuffed with stuff when we're trying to clean up quick for company, so I had to deal with that first if I was going to put the board games there. Going through piles of crap, some of which I might need someday but don't know what to do with in the meantime, had me feeling even more grumpy.

Then R spilled a glass of milk on the table which soaked into some of the piles and as I was scrambling to move them as milk flowed across the table and down onto the rug, I noticed that Jake and Noah took a brief moment in their video game playing to glance over at the commotion and decide that it didn't need their further attention so they went right back to their video game and that irritated me enough on top of everything else that I yelled, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING! CAN'T YOU SEE WHAT'S GOING ON HERE! I NEED HELP!" So they jumped up and Jake got a towel and Noah took R upstairs to distract her with Paper Mario because she was upset by my yelling.

After helping me mop up the mess, Jake said, rather pointedly, "I think it's getting to be chocolate season around here." And then, when I didn't respond to his satisfaction, "We need to go into town and get the key ingredient to happiness."

I mean, really, I'm laughing just writing that out. Who could stay mad? Thankfully the kids got their papa's sense of humor. Because clearly I take myself and my life way too seriously and occasionally need to be nudged back into the reality that these things don't matter and that by giving them power I am causing my own suffering (not to mention that of those around me.) "With a little help from my friends"... in this case the ones I gave birth to. Yeah, chocolate is good, but I know what the real key ingredient is around here.

suddenly, summer

Last week it was cloudy and cool, as it has been since November. Flowering plants signified that spring was here but I didn't feel it. Then the first part of this week the sun came out and winter melted out of my body and spirit. Thursday after Ultimate practice instead of going straight home as usual we walked to the park. The boys took their cleats off and went barefoot. Willow rode her bike up and down and up and down and up and down a grassy slope and when her chain came off she fixed it herself. Rowan climbed on the dinosaur bones.

I lay on the grass, eyes closed, breathing in the sweet scent of sun-warmed conifers, then opening them and looking up into the tall, tall trees swaying in the breeze. After a while it felt like they were moving of their own volition, dreamy and surreal and lovely. It was one of those days that makes you wonder how, if something like this can be, a person could ever be unhappy.

Friday when I went outside at 7:00 am to let the chickens out of their house and it wasn't cold, I knew it was going to be a hot day. I didn't want to believe it, but I knew it. We met Scott at his work at midday and Scott and the kids headed to the fountains while I went shopping for groceries, and because I didn't want to believe it they didn't wear sunscreen and their shoulders were tinged with pink when I picked them up. I filled them up with water and used up half my aloe plant which isn't very big to begin with because it hasn't seen the sun since November either. Noah looked peaked and felt like he was going to throw up, so I spread out a blanket on the sofa for him, covered his head with a cold washcloth, and he slept for several hours and felt much better afterwards, although his shoulders were still bothering him.

This morning we got up early for the boys' first Ultimate tournament. It was unpleasant for me because I could see the social and psychological hierarchies forming, the leaders and the followers, the confident and the not confident, the attractive and unattractive, with the attendant positive and negative reinforcement that only serves to strengthen their perceptions of their place. There is one girl, very fat, who I feel badly for. She's not a bad player, in fact the few times she got the disc she did well, but for the most part she was ignored, and over and over the disc would go to the more confident players, who would as often as not drop it or make a bad throw, but regardless they were the ones who almost always got the disc. I admire her for sticking it out -- she's been to every single one of the practices. But I just have to wonder how it's affecting her psyche to be treated as invisible like that.

Noah cried at one point. He was upset that something he did resulted in a small gain for the other team. Scott said the same thing had happened to him before, and told the story in a way that made Noah laugh through his tears. He told us too about how it took him a year to master the forehand throw. It had never occurred to me that he might not have just been born talented.

Noah then joined an unofficial scrimmage that was going on between games. He has such heart. He started to lag about three-quarters of the way through, I think his sunburn from the day before and the heat were just too much. I think it was probably a little too much for most of the kids. Why are playing fields always right out in the middle of nothing? Why not instead a clearing in the middle of a woods? Or why not plant trees for shade and breeze? And why are playgrounds usually devoid of shade for that matter?

Their team lost, and actually I think only scored a couple of points in two games. That was to be expected, as they haven't been training or playing together for very long. Even so, the boys are already excited about the next tournament coming up. I think this has much to do with how positive and upbeat and kind and encouraging their coach is. And little children know, right? Rowan was his shadow on the field, which was very cute. She wouldn't do that with just anybody. And after the tournament he gave the team gift cards to Dairy Queen. Including Willow and Rowan who are not even on the team.

But yes, it was hot. So suddenly. I got sunburned sitting in full shade.

Scott has gone to play poker now, three of the kids are reading comics (and even as I write have gone out to spray water on each other,) and Rowan is conked out. My face is red and my hair and feet are up. Fan is on, shades are drawn. Summer is here.
I grew up in the 1970's in northwest Portland, in a middle-class neighborhood sandwiched between the poor and wealthy sides of town. My dad was a longshoreman, belonging to a powerful union that guaranteed our moving-on-up lifestyle. He and my mom had bought on old turn-of-the-century house on Savier street that had been converted into apartments, and we lived in one and rented out the others. Our apartment was around 650 square feet. To get to the bathroom you had to go through the bedroom that my brother and I shared.

I have sweet memories of that house, and I dreamed about it for many years after we moved. The green shag carpeting in the living room, the television with five channels, the old davenport where my dad would stretch out to watch TV every night, the beautiful high windows on which my mom would paint scenes every Christmas copied from Christmas cards, my white iron bed, the turquoise vinyl-covered chest where I kept my collection of barbies, the large square fan on top of my dresser that covered the sound of the television with white noise, the piano crowded into the "den" with a sewing machine, an enormous oak wood desk, a typewriter, a dollhouse, and a five-foot-tall tiki statue that guarded the entrance to my room (which, unbeknownst to my mom, I was afraid of.)

This was where I went reverently, hushed, into my parents' bedroom which felt like a special land with its soft light and their personal things which were to me like treasures. This was where I asked my mom how Santa could get into our house if the stove pipe was sealed off, and where my dad's older son instilled in me fear of scary things in the basement (probably in an attempt to keep me out of his room.) It was where my mom made my tuna fish sandwiches for school lunch, and where she smoked and talked on the phone at the kitchen table, absentmindedly filling in newspaper ad type with a blue ball point pen. It was where I dreamed of monsters on the rickety back porch three stories off the ground, and where the sound of the rain on the metal garbage cans beneath my bedroom window lulled me to sleep. It was where I sat in my room with my head in my hands saying "damn, damn, damn" when my parents had a fight, the first time I'd ever sworn. It was where my mom made cupcakes with little plastic turkeys on top for my classroom celebration of Thanksgiving, and where she let me stay up past my bedtime to watch Ziggy Stardust on late-night television.

The neighborhood was filled with people fascinating to me. There was the family that rented from us who had brown skin and dark hair and exotic names and who let their children run around naked, to my mom's dismay. There was the mysterious woman who I only ever saw glimpses of, who went by the name of Unthank and played violin for the Oregon Symphony. There was the young hipster across the street who wore wire-rim glasses, played banjo in a bluegrass band, and had a pet owl (and who incredibly my conservative blue-collar dad had a friendship with.) There was the family with the house open from front to back, dark and breezy, and who had a table set up just for playing chess.

Most notably, there were Harry & Rose, an old Jewish couple who my parents socialized with regularly. They lived in a wonderfully shabby and filthy house in the industrial area of town. They liked to play bingo and made a career out of scouring the local flea markets for valuable antiques. Harry was small and sprightly, with a tuft of hair on either side of his head and grizzled knotted hands that could fix anything. He was always happy, always funny. He had no children himself, but he loved children, and he paid as much attention to my brother and me as he did to our parents. Maybe more. Harry had an organ he would play old-timey songs on for us. Harry was the only one of everyone I knew who was genuinely interested in my piano playing. He grew a lush garden of vegetables in his backyard that he was very proud of, surrounded by tall warehouse walls. My brother and I one year sang "I'm Just Wild About Harry" to him on his birthday. He was special to us.

Rose was a large woman, with an air of severity and a nasal voice. She did not feel like an unsafe person, but nonetheless she remained vaguely intimidating. She wore her hair clipped short and dyed dark, and she had a large mole on her lip that she covered with shiny red lipstick. Her favorite article of clothing was the house dress. She was the one, of the pair, who would haggle incessantly and tenaciously with sellers, which was both impressive and embarrassing to me. She made my mom her favorite cabbage rolls. We played blackjack with her and Harry, and she was on a mission to convince me that my future was as a blackjack dealer in Reno. Every time we went to their house she would point out to my brother and me that there was candy on the table, little roll-shaped taffies in different flavors and shiny colored wrappers. I could write a book about Harry & Rose.

My friends lived in this neighborhood. There was my friend Judith who lived in a white mansion (or so it seemed to me, in my tiny apartment) and went to Catholic school. She had a subscription to Cricket magazine and her own peach-scented soap and an easel for painting, and her parents took us to the Saturday market in a volkswagen bus. They would take me for night swims in a big dimly-lit indoor pool, and afterwards on their big screened back porch we would sit under a real salon hood dryer to dry our hair.

My friend Annie (Annie-bananie as my dad affectionately referred to her) was pretty and proper, and she did things like ballet and stamp-collecting. Her father was a doctor who played the fiddle and spoke with a german accent, and they lived in a dark, still house nestled into the edge of Forest Park. There was a globe of the world in their study, and a telescope, and books, and instruments of all kinds. The adults left us alone, so it felt like we were the only ones in this quiet house. There was a pretty housekeeper who I later thought her father married, but I could have been mixing things up. She made a cake for my mom one time, out of friendliness, that my mom talked about for years afterward because in her opinion it was inedible owing to the addition of citrus peel. (My mom took cake seriously and was of the Betty Crocker school of thought. Betty Crocker didn't use citrus peel.)

My best friend Cristin's parents were hippie and my dad didn't approve of either her or her parents, I think mainly because she said "Dammit!" a lot, but maybe also because of her joyful wildness (but no matter, because my mom loved her and so did I.) Her father was a professor of Arabic at the local university and they seemed to always be going off to foreign countries. Her mother was busy with community work, and neither of them were ever there. They had strange foods at their house like whole grains and fresh vegetables and carob chips, which meant that I was always hungry there. I traded Cristin a coveted Hershey bar for a little red piece of plastic shaped like a stained glass church window that she had shaped and polished in shop at school, and forever after felt guilty about it (but I didn't give it back to her, and I cherished it for a long time until it was lost.) We sat on her bed and listened to her sister's folk music records and read fantasy and science fiction and talked about philosophy, all of which became livelong loves for me.

There is a big part of me that wants this for my children, the variety of experiences and people that is unique to a wealthy inner city neighborhood. I want to take them back to the scent of the river on a hot day, the low bellowing of the tugboats and barges, the flashes of light off the water, the vivid blue sky. I can't, and not just because the pollution and traffic are insane now. I had a dream about my old neighborhood last night, so this morning I got up and did a search on Zillow for the apartment building we lived in, the one my dad bought on a salary that wasn't much more than my husband's now, adjusted for inflation, which according to the government puts us at poverty level. That building goes now for around $1 million, as do Cristin's and Judith's old houses. Harry & Rose's rickety wood-framed house is gone, having been replaced by a $500,000 condo.

When I saw that my heart broke a little. There is no going back.

Now we live rurally, somewhat isolated (it feels like,) surrounded by farmland conservatives. The little old church across the street where my children like to play has a large framed photograph not of Jesus but of George Bush right inside the front door. Our closest neighbors spank their children and send them to bed at 7:30 every night after having done their chores and homework. Around the corner is a fellow whose yard is filled with old cars and who has a scary dog who barks and barks and barks in the middle of the night. That's what I see and what I don't like.

I wonder what my children will remember and love and maybe wish they could go back to when they're older. Maybe it will be the alley of plum blossom trees, hunting for agates down by the river, the shadowy boat landing, our friends (their Harry & Rose?) who make sculptures out of found objects and collect velvet Jesus paintings and skeleton art and tell ghost stories around the fire pit with colored lights strung haphazardly overhead, climbing trees and playing in rock piles, the fountains along the river, the easy pace of the co-op, the prim white surfaces of the Mennonite bakery, the colorful hedonism of the Oregon Country Fair, the austere formality of the Ki-Aikido training room, their first taste of team sports being the friendliness of ultimate frisbee, selling melons at the farmer's market, a large green tree painted on the wall of a green living room, rainy days drinking tea by the woodstove, days filled with play, and not homework, ever. Maybe their memories will be just as good. I hope.

math 2

Noah tried to explain to me today how he does math in his head. He got so frustrated with me when I couldn't follow his description of the process. "Man, I didn't know it would be so hard to explain it to you," he said. "Maybe you just don't think enough like me." "I'm sorry sweetie." "That's okay. Man. I don't know why it's so hard for you."

I was trying hard not to laugh, because I remember being similarly annoyed when I was a kid excited about algebra and wanting to show my mom, and she wasn't grasping it at all. Then as I was starting to write this down, he happened to look over my shoulder to read and immediately protested that I wasn't reporting things accurately. "That isn't really how I do math, Linda, it was just that problem." (And he was right, he had actually come to me excited about a specific problem, which I carelessly generalized when telling the story.) "Well, how do you do math?" Exasperated sigh. "I don't have a way I do math. I just do it the easiest way I can figure it out!"

math 1

"I'm starving for math problems!!!" -- Noah, in response to my grousing at being expected to come up with math problems at 10:00 pm which is frankly past my bedtime.

Noah likes math. I've been very protective of this. It bothers me when people try to quiz him so they can place some sort of judgment on his abilities, or as a kind of game that they can set up so that they're the "winner" -- showing their cleverness in exposing his ignorance. Or when they try to teach him a certain technique. Both of these things interfere with his internal motivation and enjoyment and intuition. When quizzed he'll get nervous and stutter and his creative brain process shuts down. Suddenly, he's not so brilliant. That might not be apparent to those who aren't around him all the time, but the difference between his reaction to unsolicited questioning and judging and his normal sparkle and enthusiasm and innate genius is huge. It makes me wonder how many like him are not able to realize their potential because of the relentless teaching that goes on in school. He is such a classic example of how teaching can be harmful, and it just kills me that a whole society of people will never see it because the conditions that expose that truth would never be allowed, due to the near universal fear that people won't learn what they need to unless others constantly take them in hand and tell them to learn, and how, and when.

Yesterday he asked me how many seconds are in an hour, because he wanted to know how many seconds it would be until Scott got home from work. Not thinking very hard, I said, "three hundred and sixty." He protested, "That can't be right!" And I sheepishly agreed with him. I can be wrong. It's crucial for the development of their critical reasoning ability that the kids feel safe to question me and disagree with me and mentally work things out for themselves rather than feel they're supposed to just take my word for it and follow my lead unquestioningly.

One of the most damaging effects of school on me was the lesson that it is foolhardy to ask for clarification, and exponentially more so to question the expert's pronouncements, because you will be humiliated whether you're right or wrong. As Ken Robinson points out, children are taught to be afraid of making mistakes, and that is an enormous hindrance to creativity and self-motivation. The expert/novice dynamic is the backbone of the schooling model, and this has behavioral repercussions.

Noah is probably not actually working at "grade level" as the state defines it. But this is meaningless to us; grade standards are arbitrary and the only real benefit is that keeping up with them helps students to continue to keep up with the teacher's pace. The real issue is, what is lost in the demand to hold to an externally-enforced schedule? How many kids are awed when you show them multiplication by the column method on paper, or how to check equality of fractions? When Noah was six it would have been for him no more than rules for making pencil scratchings that happened to please adults. It would have had no meaning for him other than that. But because he's been allowed to roll numbers around in his head for fun, thus allowing him to develop an intuitive understanding of their relationships, math is fascinating to him, wondrous. What a terrible loss it would have been for him, for his brain, not to experience it in that way. Which is one reason why I am adamantly opposed to educational standardization and why I will not permit the state to define "proper" learning for my children.

joseph chilton pearce

Joseph Chilton Pearce, from What Babies Want:
These ancient encoded wisdoms and powers and strengths that are released at the moment of birth. I had read about this, but I had never delivered one of my own until twenty years ago, and I had grown children then and I think 8 or 9 grand children by then, but I had another child of my own and I delivered it, I mean I was the only other person present at his birth, the child’s mother delivered it. But I was stunned and astonished at the tremendous energy that filled that whole house, the house shook with that energy and it was an awesome near mystical experience for me, I would say that it was the closest thing to a wide awake mystical experience that I had ever had. Those of us who have delivered our children and made that contact ourselves know that it is an invitation to the greatest intimacy that life ever affords us, offered in that moment; and the infant is the one that offers that total vulnerable intimacy, and if we do not meet it, then the infant feels betrayed by the world, and so they’re coming into a world they can’t trust because it does not meet their most critical need right at that point
And from Magical Child, Chapter 10: Establishing the Matrix:
She conceives because she wants to create life, as her intent drives her. Her pregnancy is then first in her life and the source of her strength and calm. She knows the creative thrust of life supports her, that she is acting with the flow and has the strength of that flow. A husband may prove vital to this calm confidence, but I have met mothers who maintained their centeredness without one. I would opt strongly for the nuclear bond. [...] The strength and support of a husband or mate is almost essential for an anxiety-free pregnancy and mothering. The role of the father as a transitional figure from mother to world, particularly after the child's second year, cannot be overstressed. I am leaving fathers out here simply because the strength and response of the mother is the issue. His strength must feed into hers and through hers to the new life. That is the way nature has designed the process.

The mother is responsible, able to respond. She responds to the needs of her body with the same respect and care she will show for her infant in and out of the womb. She responds by making her own preparations for delivery, birth, and bonding. During the last months of pregnancy, she works specifically for bonding with her unborn child. [...]

She keeps communion with the child, thinking positive and creative thoughts about him/her. They are already friends. She attends to her child, becomes aware of different movements and responses. She is, from the first signs with her, learning about her child, learning to take her cues from it and respond accordingly.

Knowing anxiety to be the great crippler of intelligence, she works purposely for a calm repose. She begins each day in quiet meditation, establishing her union with the flow of life and with her child. She closes each day in the same way and makes her time in between a living meditation, a communion and rapport, a quieting of the mind to tune in on the inner signals. She reduces all the fragmenting intentions of life to the single intent of her act of creation.

She does not indulge in doubt. She chooses what she will entertain in her mind, and she chooses confidence, which means moving with faith. She knows the contents of her mind are matters of her own choice, that anxiety contents stir adrenal steroids that are passed on to her child.

She may elect to deliver the child herself, with or without help. She does not break the even tenor of her days but continues in her life routines. She avoids the risk of serious startle or stress, knowing the adrenal flood would transfer to her infant. She prepares a proper delivery and birthing place: private, quiet, dimly lit, with no possibility of unwanted intrusion or noise. The necessities for tidying up are laid out, and a warm bath may be readied. The preliminary signals are noticed with rising anticipation and excitement, but without alarm. Relieved of the trauma of having to rush off to the hospital, she continues her routines until the final moment.

If she has help (the midwife, perhaps a doctor, and the father), they are there only for the physical delivery itself. They maintain quiet and calm, giving strength and support. Onlookers and friends distract, break the flow, set up expectancies discordant with the flow of the event. Her intent and intentions must merge into a single point of total absorption. She uses the birthing position adopted throughout the ages, squatting on her haunches or perhaps on her knees. This aligns her with the earth, with gravity, puts all her muscles into the most advantageous positions for the work at hand.. She flows with the process, a balance of stresses and relaxations.

She knows what to do by heeding the 3-billion-year biological coding built into her genes. Her knowing is not articulated, though-out, coherent, or verbal. She is just a coordinate of smooth actions. Her thought is her body action, and in this she is like a child. She is gripped by that same intensity found in deep play (skiing a dangerous slope, scaling a cliff face, fast tennis): the total attentiveness and single-mindedness of confrontation, an ultimate encounter. Every move, act, signal heeded is an unbroken flow of controlled abandon. By being responsible, she is in her power, a joyful response to a body-knowing that “breathes” her and does the proper thing at the proper time.

why I'm not a bad dancer

I was supposed to learn a series of dance moves for a performance. My friend urged me to practice with her and as I did it became apparent that I didn't know the dance moves and had to mimic her after the beat. I knew that this was why I had been placed at the back of the formation.

My first thought upon waking was: What an odd dream. Because I'm a good dancer. And then: What a powerful dream. Because what if my only experience with dance had been that of doing a kind of dance I did not find compelling; what if I had to do it not because I was interested in the dance itself but for others' interests; what if it was presented to me as something that only a certain type of people (of which I am not one) can do well; what if competition was expected and I wouldn't under any circumstances be good enough to compete at it; what if I learned it only well enough to fulfill the merest of expectations, just so I could be left alone?

If that had been my first and usual experience of dance, would I still think of myself as a good dancer?

In real life, that all actually happened for me with drama, speech, music, art, science, languages, team sports, math, and yes, even writing. Some of those things I have no present skill at and don't expect to ever have any; others, because of later intervention that undid some of the prior conditioning, I know I'm good at now on some objective level, but I still carry paralyzing self-doubt about not being good enough (for what, I'm never sure.)

But that didn't happen with dance. I love dancing, and I can recognize that I have a natural affinity for it. I'm not one of the best, certainly, but I have no concern about that. And I think it must be because I did not have the opportunity to dance until I was able to do so on my own terms, and in an environment where I was considered as capable as anyone, and where there were no external expectations (i.e. not my own) to live up to.

Up until now I was of the mind that one of the failings of schools is that there is so little attention given to the arts. But now I see that's all wrong, and it's just one more reason that the schools in their present form need to be scrapped for human potential to really be served.

stealth learning

This morning Noah was sitting very quietly in front of a page of text on the computer, which caught my attention because usually he's moving around and making sounds and using the keyboard (game playing behavior.) I asked him what he was up to, and he replied, "Reading about how Neopets got started." I said, "Oh really?!, What's it say?" He read me a bit at which point I got excited and interrupted him to run and get the video camera. In the midst of my filming him, I realized that the "clank-clank-clank" of something in the dryer was going on in the background, and I asked him to do it again but he was tired of performing. I asked him if I could put it up on my blog though and he said yes.

So without further ado, Noah reading:

In case you can't hear very well what he was reading, here it is:

Neopets® began from an idea Adam had way back in 1997 while sitting in a dingy little computer room, possibly while eating kebabs or pizza. The site was launched on November 15th 1999. Our aim is to keep adding new and exciting games, puzzles and activities daily, and hopefully keep you all entertained!!!

So: This is a nine-year-old boy who has never had any formal reading instruction, and whom we don't test. He also, as I just noted, is not a performer. So even though I probably should know better by now, I'm still a little surprised when he just up and reads something. It feels a little like, now wait a minute, when did that happen?!

math and bedtime

Noah: "Story problem, Linda, story problem!"
Linda: "Uhhh... uhhh... 150 times 4."
Noah: "That's not a story problem!"
Linda: "Noah, 10:30 at night isn't an ideal time for my brain to be working this way."
We head into Scott's room where Jake is effectively crushing him with a goodnight hug.
Noah: "Scott, story problem!"
Scott: groan
Noah: "Okay, how about a riddle?"
Linda to Scott: "What were those riddles in The Hobbit?"
Scott, rubbing eyes: "Oh, I don't know."
Noah: "Story problem, story problem!"
Linda: "How about if I write some out for you tomorrow morning."
Noah: "What if you forget?"
Linda: "I won't forget. Or I could just go get you a math workbook." [thinking of the torturous regularity with which I encountered story problems in math workbooks at school]
Noah, making horns gesture and banging head to indicate how rockin' an idea this is: "YES!"
Linda: "Great. Now let's get to bed."
Linda leaves room.
Noah: "Riddle, Scott, riddle!"
Scott: "In the morning I have four legs, in the afternoon I have two legs, and in the evening I have three legs. What am I?"
Noah, mumbling to himself: "four legs... two legs..."
Jake: "That's a hard one."
Noah: "Wait, I can figure it out. Three legs..."
Scott, eyelids drooping: "Think about it and tell me in the morning."
Noah: "Two legs..."
Jake: "It's impossible."
Scott: "Gedouddahere!"
Children scurry into bed.
Noah: "Good night Scott!"
Scott: "Rock on, Noah."

creativity (quotes)

What am I in the eyes of most people? A good-for-nothing, an eccentric and disagreeable man, somebody who has no position in society and never will have. Very well, even if that were true, I should want to show by my work what there is in the heart of such an eccentric man, of such a nobody. - Vincent Van Gogh

When Alexander the Great visited Diogenes and asked whether he could do anything for the famed teacher, Diogenes replied: "Only stand out of my light." Perhaps someday we shall know how to heighten creativity. Until then, one of the best things we can do for creative men and women is to stand out of their light. - John W. Gardner

So you see, imagination needs moodling - long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering. - Brenda Ueland

(Judy Anne Johnson Breneman elaborates, "In order to moodle we need to make space for alpha waves to operate in our brain. If we are too exhausted our mind will quickly move into theta (drowsiness) then delta (deep sleep). If we are too focused on a problem or given objective we are using beta waves (consciously focused). Alpha waves bring in that in-between, meditative state where our mind can gather together conscious thoughts and unconscious information in order to create something brand new. Inspiration occurs with a great burst of alpha waves.")

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. - Joseph Chilton Pearce

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. - Pablo Picasso

You must not for one instant give up the effort to build new lives for yourselves. Creativity means to push open the heavy, groaning doorway to life. This is not an easy struggle. Indeed, it may be the most difficult task in the world, for opening. - Daisaku Ikeda

I do believe it is possible to create, even without ever writing a word or painting a picture, by simply molding one's inner life. And that too is a deed. - Etty Hillesum

Then and there I invented this rule for myself to be applied to every decision I might have to make in the future. I would sort out all the arguments and see which belonged to fear and which to creativeness, and other things being equal I would make the decision which had the larger number of creative reasons on its side. I think it must be a rule something like this that makes jonquils and crocuses come pushing through the cool mud. - Katharine Butler Hathaway

(Thanks to The Sun, Google, and The Beacon Book of Quotations By Women for finding these for me.)

music learning

About four years ago when he was 6 or 7, Jake asked me to show him how to read music. He'd already been making music of his own for some time, but he'd seen me playing songs other people had written and thought he might like to learn how to do that. I sat down with him to explain how it works, but we both very quickly became frustrated because he was having trouble making sense of the terms and concepts. So we dropped it, and he continued to occasionally make up his own music. I was actually a little relieved, because I figured the longer before he brings his left brain into it, the more he'll be able to expand on his intuitive abilities.

Yesterday morning I was sitting outside on the porch when he yelled at me from inside with a tone of urgency in his voice, "Mama, come here, I need you!" I yelled back, "What do you need?" He yelled back, "I need you to come here to the piano!" The thought flashed through my mind that maybe something had been spilled on it, or who knows what. I yelled, "Is it important? I'm right in the middle of something." He yelled back, "I want you to show me how to read music!" Well, I thought, I guess that's pretty important, so I went inside and sat down with him and explained to him how the keys correspond to the lines and spaces, what the base and treble clefs are, what the time signature means, what a measure is and how it can be divided up, etc. He understood immediately and was playing the song in the video above in about ten minutes.

I left him to work out the next several songs on his own, popping back in occasionally when he had a question. He repeated the same phrases over and over until he could play them to his satisfaction, and I remarked that the repetition was creating muscle memory, so that eventually his brain would be able to almost instantaneously tell his hands what to do when his eyes saw those notes, without him thinking about it or even really trying. I think that's a nicer way of saying "practice makes perfect," which to me is a phrase that evokes a feeling of having expectations put on you, probably based in my own music learning experience in which practicing was practically a moral mandate, and that being perfect was the important thing, rather than just enjoying playing.

He played throughout the day, off and on, every so often taking a break to rest his arms and mind. He said that one of the things he likes about learning this way as opposed to going to a class is that he can better accommodate his own needs when he's not tied into someone else's schedule.

schools and creativity

Our education system has mined our minds in the way we strip-mine the earth, for a particular commodity. And for the future, it won't serve us. --Ken Robinson

Some excerpts:

My contention is all kids have tremendous talents and we squander them, pretty ruthlessly. [...] My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.

[...] kids will take a chance. If they don't know, they'll have a go. Am I right? They're not frightened of being wrong. Now, I don't mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative but what we do know is, if you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original. If you're not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies this way, by the way, we stigmatize mistakes. And we're now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities. Picasso once said this, he said that all children are born artists. The problem is how to remain an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately, that we don't grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out of it.

[...] our education system is predicated on the idea of academic ability. And there's a reason. The whole system was invented, around the world there were no public systems of education really before the nineteenth century. They all came into being to meet the needs of industrialism. So the hierarchy is originated on two ideas, number one, that the most useful subjects for work are at the top. So you had probably stayed benignly away from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked, on the grounds you would never get a job doing that. Is that right? Don't do music, you're not going to be a musician, don't do art, you won't be an artist... benign advice. Now, profoundly mistaken. The whole world is engulfed in a revolution.

And the second is, academic ability, which has really come to dominate our view of intelligence, because the universities designed the system in their image. If you think of it the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they're not. Because the thing they were good at at school wasn't valued or was actually stigmatized. And I think we can't afford to go on that way. In the next thirty years, according to UNESCO, more people world-wide will be graduating through education than since the beginning of history. More people. And it's the combination of all the things we've talked about, technology and its transformational effect on work, and demography and the huge explosion in population. Suddenly, degrees aren't worth anything. Isn't that true? [...] the whole structure of education is shifting beneath our feet.

We need to radically re-think our view of intelligence.

[...]Gillian and I had lunch one day. I said, "how'd you get to be a dancer?" She said it was interesting, she said when she was at the school, she was really hopeless. And the school in the thirties wrote to her parents and said, "we think Gillian has a learning disorder." She couldn't concentrate, she was fidgeting. I think now they'd say she had ADHD. Wouldn't you? [...] she went to see this specialist. So this oak-paneled room, and she was there with her mother and she was led in and sat on this chair in there and sat on her hands for twenty minutes while this man talked to her mother about all the problems Gillian was having at school. And at the end of it, because she was disturbing people and her homework was always late and so on, little kid of eight, in the end the doctor went and sat next to Gillian and said, "Gillian, I've listened to all these things that your mother's told me, I need to speak to her privately." So he said, "wait here, we'll be back, we won't be very long," and they went and left her. But as they went out of the room, he turned on the radio that was sitting on his desk. And when they got out of the room he said to her mother, "just stand and watch her." And the minute they left the room, she said she was on her feet, moving to the music. They watched for a few minutes and he turned to her mother and he said, "you know Mrs. Lynn, Gillian isn't sick, she's a dancer. Take her to a dance school." I said, "what happened?" She said, "she did. I can't tell you, sir, how wonderful it was. We walked in this room, and it was full of people like me. People who couldn't sit still. People who had to move to think." Who had to move to think. They did ballet, they did tap, they did jazz, they did modern, they did contemporary. She was eventually auditioned for the royal ballet school, she became a soloist, she had a wonderful career at the Royal Ballet, she eventually graduated from the Royal Ballet school, found her own company, the Gillian Lynn Dance Company, met Andrew Lloyd Webber, she's been responsible for some of the most successful musical theatre productions in history, she's given pleasure to millions, and she's a multi-millionaire. Somebody else might have put her on medication, and told her to calm down.

[...] What I think it comes to is this. Al Gore spoke the other night about ecology and the revolution that was triggered by Rachel Carson. I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology. One in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds in the way we strip-mine the earth, for a particular commodity. And for the future, it won't serve us. We have to re-think the fundamental principles on which we're educating our children.

There was a wonderful quote by Jonas Salk, who said, "if all the insects were to disappear from the earth, within fifty years all life on earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the earth, within fifty years all forms of life would flourish. And he's right. What TED celebrates is the gift of the human imagination. We have to be careful now that we use this gift wisely, and that we avert some of the scenarios that we talked about. And the only way we'll do it is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are and seeing our children for the hope that they are. And our task is to educate their whole being so they can face this future.


He's going to be eleven next month. He's wearing a men's 12 in shoes. This morning he came and laid down with me, snuggling into my shoulder. I looked at his face, noticing the oil and tiny rash of bumps on his nose. He made little sounds of contentment. When he stood up again, I noticed how long his legs are getting. I said, "Jake, I think you grew some more. All right, that's enough growing, you can stop now." He laughed and said, "I don't think that's going to happen." "Oh c'mon," I said, "can't you stay my little boy for just a little longer?" He smiled and said, "I think that's going to happen."

grist for the mill

On the way home from the store tonight I was listening to the radio and happened on an interview with photographer David Plowden. I was immediately taken with both his and interviewer Kurt Anderson's easy, candid manner. So often these interviews seem staged and stilted; this felt like a real conversation.

I especially loved this part:
KA: Photographer David Plowden called himself a wharf rat for all the time he spent on the banks of the East River. That's where we met up recently, at a park that was his boyhood hangout in the 1930's and '40's. He explained that during the summers, though, his family took him to Vermont and that's where he fell in love with trains and steam locomotives.

DP: Well the first picture I ever made was when I was eleven, and that was a picture of the train in the station in Putney. Well the first time I went to photograph it I got buck fever, and I handed the camera to my mother and said, "Here, you take it," and I started to shake. Well the next time I went down I was steadier, so I managed to get a picture. I still have it. So I really started to photograph in 1958, '59...

KA: Really! So you were in your twenties.

DP: That's right.

KA: Before we get there, though, you kept indulging your love of trains, you rode all over the place.

DP: I rode all over the place, to the despair of my uncles and aunts and my mother's friends who said, "What's he going to amount to? He rides trains!" And she said, "I don't know what he's doing, but he does. Leave him alone. He's gathering grist for the mill." She was my champion. And I did ride trains, I rode them all over the place.

KA: And was there any destination in mind, or were you just riding?

DP: No. I was just riding. Absolutely. You said it. The destination didn't matter.
It's even better heard with the wonderful intonations of Plowden's voice -- you can listen here. And see more of his work here.

and they do this all day long

R: I think this is a flower

W: oh yes, it is. It's a paradise flower. It was trying to be a flower, but it couldn't grow that well

R: yes it is

W: but these are beautiful. picture time! picture time! picture time! (song) we're having pictures way up high. Sister would you like to?

R: I don't want one.

W: I'll put my arm right behind you.

R: I'm the princess, I'm the girl

W: what's your name?

R: my name is Sistena

W: can I just call you Sist... or Na? my name's Co

R: nice to meet you

W: nice to meet you Sis

R: I not Sis!

W: what's your name then

R: my name Nasaprincess

W: hi Princess! my name's Co

R: hey Co

W: (singing)

I was lost in the forest and didn't know where I was I was lost in the desert I was so thirsty I didn't know where I was supposed to be so I went to the river peddling down the stream jumping backwards woo one legged jump didn't even hurt (scat)

I'm walking up the stairs and I kind of fall down and I tripped
Hey princess, hey watch this I was walking up the stairs I slipped down I hit my broken leg I didn't know where I was do do do do do

I kind of was on the one pinky toe I fall down I hit my head still didn't barely even hurt

okay, now dance with me do do do do do do

c'mon, step up here, get on the stage! do you want the clean stage? You take the clean stage I'll take the dirty stage do do do do do jamba jamba jamba thank you, bow. Thank you people of the earth.

W: hey are you going to sell that cat?

R: no, he's my cat

W: are you going to sell him? go run around little fellow

R: her's in my pocket come here puppy he won't scared you I think her's in the room the girl's in her room please give her the cat

W: okay, here you go. did you just give her the cat's cat food?

R: I got some more cat food. oh no my cat food's gone

W: I ate it.

R: go out of my house!

W: this isn't my house, it's a hotel

R: look at my cat food!

W: oh, you need a refill? Be right there! okay, let's go

R: no, not in there, in here

W: oh (filling noise) it's done! it's all filled up!

R: thank you

W: you're welcome (kiss noise) bye-bye why don't you go up on the stage and dance with that guy? he's your dad

R: dad, they ate all the cat food

W: come sit up here with me I know it's a little hard

R: cause you ate all the cat food

W: I don't even eat cat food

R: you just did

W: no, I didn't sweetie I don't eat cat food. We eat human food! Roast beef every night, and ice cream for dessert, and water for breakfast! you have me mixed up with someone else! (dad dancing) hm hm hm hm hm up a do up a do up a do but Co I'm sorry sister but I did not have the time move out of the way what? go buy me some lemonade to drink brother I did but you just threw it away in the garbage. Hey May, I know how to solve the mystery hey May come up here, this isn't really Co, this is future Co! He came back to find you!

R: well... I didn't get in the future.

W: ju ju ju... see, I'm your mama this is your papa

R: unintelligible yelling

W: what? mm mm mm did you know this is your real mama

R: it's not my real mama!

W: no, you're not from the future, she is and she was your mama's friend

R: I don't know, I'm going to my sister's future! come on

W: ju ju ju high up high in the sky hm hm hm

R: mom and dad! my sister in the water I don't like her

W: you don't like your sister? why not?

R: yeah, I don't like her

W: well then, go. wait! if you do, then we won't have a spare time machine to come back and see you eight years ago! The air's blowing, some one grab on to my hair! graaaaab iiitttttt ahhhhhhh

R: unintelligible yelling

W: I'm back in the future oh there's my friend! May! (hug) May is it really you from the past? from the future? From your future you came to our future?