Rhiannon Throop (maiden name): Girl and Cat 1998. Pencil on paper, 12 x 16"
A very busy day on Friday:
Worked on a grant, that if awarded, will rebrand my working life catchphrase to “Dreams come true if you’re not selfish and greedy”.
Cleaned house in expectation of a visit from darling granddaughters.
Planned meals and play for great daughters of grandness.
Painted a picture.
Band practice at 5 p.m.
Drank craft beer, chased with water, and made good craic.
In 2000 I published a book of essays inspired by contentment from homeschooling my daughter. It wasn’t meant to be instructional, still, the people who bought the three copies most likely expected teaching tips and lesson plans, and got a book of village idiot “head space” instead.
You won’t be audibly disappointed, because I know you’re sensitive and polite like me, and don’t want to hurt the feelings of a child my age.
First though, three introductions:
How strong is this feeling of fleeting moments!
I cannot capture any beauty running by
My hands touching glass
I stand at the pantry window
and watch the backyard
What is it moving?
What music do I hear?
There are countless visions
of a little girl and you,
my greatest happiness
Oh these bittersweet movements
of moments missing love.
My hands touching glass
What a wetness all around!
The wind. The leaves are in endless applause cheering each other on, “Cling to your tree! Stand your ground!” The stiff breeze teases them, impatient to tear them from their branches—the wilted remains of the fresh green they once were—but not today. Today they cling and laugh in whispers and sunny jubilance.
This day! This perfection! The clouds shroud the horizon on all sides, rising in vaporous, silvery castles, solid with weight of the dampness that wants to fall—that will fall, but not today, the first cool day marking the coming of autumn.
I sit and wonder at my own joy. I see it, hear it, feel it, taste it, a tangible thing. I could collect it all up and bottle it. Leave it on shelves in Ball jars to keep me from starving after the Iron Nights come and go. Ah, but I am a glutton, and I sit with my heart and belly overfull wanting to shout out the happiness that I’m feeling to someone, to no one, to all the world, to myself, to you!
Instead I watch the sun melt like butter in a curdled sunset against an appaloosa sky, and smile with the wind.
I love you Daddy, love you very much
Love is more than a piece of cake
I love you more than all the stars
You will never die of me loving you
You are my very own dad
You kiss me good night when ever I want you to
No daddy is ever nicer than you,
You are precious
You gave me two kittens when I wanted them
I will love you forever and until I die
I will still love you when I am dead
Love always rules
Yesterday Rhiannon and I thought it a good idea to put together a time capsule. We stuffed a plastic bucket with an undeveloped roll of film, the date, (written neatly in cursive), a warm greeting to Rhiannon Rachelle Throop fifty years from now, a Boxcar Children paperback adventure, some Canadian coins, a small horse, and several photos of the family. We dug a hole in the center of the backyard, and with a compass, set coordinates to the exact spot of the site. That is where it will lie until 2049, when who knows what will be taking place above the grass. It’s just a matter of time when there will be no Oswego. Time is such a noticeable bummer for something that is supposed to be non-existent.
Human fragility. Who can predict tomorrow? Rhiannon’s solar system sheet says the sun will burn another 5 billion years, and then it’s supposed to slowly cool down and extinguish itself. That’s nice. What a cheerful prediction! Human fragility is real. Human stupidity is too real. What kind of “fact” is that to put into a child’s head? Whose fact is it? The sun’s? Did the moon leak out some important information to the astronauts? No. The astronauts leaked on the moon. It was the most expensive urination mankind has ever known. Such a high cost to humanity, which is fragile and so temporary, unlike the moon or the sun. You must know that the child does not care a squidely-dit about facts until the significant grown-up(s) begins to drill his two cent’s worth into the child’s happy head. Two cent “facts”. (Two-trillion cents spent when the facts are rocket ships or B1 Bombers.)
Grown-ups who write about the sun’s end cannot be interested in building a home of sun’s light.
If birth takes one hour, and death eight minutes, then I think it would be very easy to waste one hour and eight minutes of your life. If it cost two billion dollars to haul some metal parts into orbit, then there must be a neurosurgeon hired for a similar wage who would be willing to eliminate the memory of your first hour and the fear of your last eight minutes, since that is all the time there is preventing man from becoming truly happy. For an hour and eight minutes there is birth and death. Over a million hours exists in between to make a life with your time. Ah, with the proper corrective surgery our lives would feel infinite until the beginning of our last eight minutes. Then, of course, all hell would break lose, and a lifetime of unknown fear would surface from the depths. Still, there are only eight minutes to endure. It’s got to be better than a whole lifetime of negative wonder and worry. Sometimes even panic.
Science is too expensive. There is a cheaper way. Maybe anti-science is good for keeping the earth, moon, and sun clean and mysterious, and also teaching our fragile human species the art of living. With enough anti-science present, one can receive a guarantee on a life without lobotomy, suicide, zombiism, or even death (until the last eight minutes).
It is truly amazing that the one hour and eight minutes has us trapped in time. It is the foundation of despair and cowardice, enveloping the all-consuming destructive power of our illusions. Yet it is only one hour and eight minutes! How can this tiny moment in time be so powerful? We could be the only species on the planet trapped like this. Maybe we didn’t set the traps, but who the hell cares? If at this moment you’re not chewing off your own leg in an attempt to set yourself free, then you are caught in the one hour and eight minute trap.
Who shall not set themselves free?
“The sun will end in 5 billion years.”
“Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth president.”
“It’s 7:35 am on a Wednesday morning in September.”
Not one of these statements is true. It could be that every word promoting truth is attached somehow to an enormous lie.
For instance, the sun is not going to end. How could it ever end? How can anyone think that the sun will burn out? Just because Dr. Tim the scientist has a mile long telescope, we’re supposed to believe him when he hops up and down jabbering about his latest discovery. Nebula smebula. Star schmar. Okay, thank you Dr. Tim. Now what are we having for dinner? Macaroni and cheese? Geez, sounds delicious. But do you know what that stuff does to your stomach? No, of course not. You’re in the business of spending a million dollars a day discovering colorful little galaxies 65 trillion miles away. So you can be late for dinner and wear your underwear three days counting. Your car’s ashtray is overflowing with cigarette butts. Dr. Fluflagaten is meeting you for dinner at eight. Your wife is making a pass at the mailman. Your kids are decked out like creatures from science fiction, and stoned on PCP and gasoline. What the hell is so interesting about those little night lights in the sky? Isn’t there enough going on all around you?
Yes, and an infinity deeper than any piece of space you can point at in the heavens.
Any bright child can show Dr. Tim that the undiscovered galaxy he labors to find takes up about a square foot of lawn in the back yard. A speck of dirt is just another trillion miles in reverse waiting for discovery. That is a hypothesis to keep Dr. Tim up all night long, eating donuts and mumbling to himself while his thirteen year old daughter loses her virginity in the garage. Dr. Tim is a charlatan because he can only theorize about the stars which he cannot touch. He must make it all up. And we, the unlearned, allow him paths and platforms to divulge the lies. It is our lack of imagination that sets us wowing when the latest prediction of the sun’s end is sent down from the observatory. Why can’t we think up these things ourselves? Why do we need Dr. Tim?
Very good question.
I live in a somewhat square and level house. It was a cube for 130 years, and I have to rebuild it square because my teacher thinks the cube is an important shape, and necessary for humanity. Two years ago I could not have told you what I lived in. There were curvy shapes I could not name. That was two years ago. Now I am squared in. I know better. I know what I have been told.
And that is how it is with every damn thing! We are taught to know it all. We are told something, and so we are said to have learned it. Our education from the day we are born to the old moment of drinking tea and having a backache, is lies for answers. The greatest joke on humankind is that not one of us, not even the President, ever had to be lied to! Once we were children playing happily in the light, and then what? Jesus, I don’t know, but it’s pretty damn scary. I often wonder if education, as we practice it, is the bane of human existence. We know more to know more, an insatiable quest.
There is a lot of Y2K talk lately of the world coming to an end. The people who write about it, the tabloid editors who print it, the talk shows that air it, the grown-ups who think about it, all of these people were properly “educated”. Ouch. Does that tell you anything? Are we, the grown-ups, really thinking animals beyond repeating facsimiles of our parents and their parents and their parents, down to the first father who said, “I signed ya up fer some book learnin’ at the schoolhouse. You wanna go lil’ girl?” Of course she says, “Yes sir!” It’s either that or hand wash her father’s underclothes.
In school the young girl gets pestered with so many answers.
“Two plus two equals four.”
“The capital of Wyoming is Cheyenne.”
“Rubber is made from—Hey Suzie, are you paying attention? How are you going to grow up and have all the lovelies that I have if you’re not listening to a word I say? Hmm? You will never know if you don’t listen!”
Please little Suzie, don’t listen! The teacher is fibbing. She doesn’t have any lovelies. She may know facts and formulas galore, but she is unfulfilled and feeling swindled, I promise you. Just don’t listen. Pretend to listen. That will suit her. Pretend, and you might get to heaven-on-earth some day.
To cease the quest for knowledge leaves for wonder a room the size of infinity. Bliss, contentment, happiness. These are the only facts that should inspire. Sometimes sadness drifts in, only to disappear the moment the cat jumps onto her lap, or the thought of a great “set up” for her playthings comes to mind. Rhiannon doesn’t know that time is weighing heavily down upon her. There is the clock, and it marks certain functions in her day, mainly her bedtime, a thing she hopes to one day prove does not exist. She also knows that Rose comes home for lunch “about” noon and leaves “about” an hour later. She knows Rose finishes work at 4:30 p.m. and that “Wishbone” is on at 5:00 p.m. “Wishbone” is a television show about an adventurous dog who reads books. When five o’clock comes around, I have to remind Rhiannon that it’s time for her favorite TV show. She will stop what she’s doing immediately, even if that means rescuing a man from the paws of Joey’s pet jungle lion, and run downstairs to join in the adventures with the talking dog.
Oh yes, one more thing... She knows when it’s time to clean the litter box. It’s always the time just before bed when she trudges upstairs to brush her teeth. She even reminds us when it has to be done. She has no grown up sense of time, yet she knows her duty, and is always very steadfast and honest about this chore.
Why do we choose the grind over this peace of mind?
I suggest a new category to the Nobel Prizes, one that contributes significantly to the perpetuation of mankind.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, the Royal Swedish Academy of self-centered, pompous grown-ups is proud to announce that this year’s award in Childlike Simplicity and Happiness goes to the following wonder-filled children of the world:
Hans Fleiterflach of Germany
Any poor nation’s children under five years old.
Rhiannon Throop of Oswego, America.
Thank you very much. Now we are out of business.
The Nobel prizes were handed out this month. I am glad for the winners who no longer have to eat canned beans. Smart people who choose the paths of discovery usually have horrible diets. Now a million dollars might make a difference. I am glad for Science, Economics, Peace, and Literature. I am glad Sweden doesn’t have a billion dollar Professional Football Industry, or a half of billion dollar troop of steroid stuffed circus wrestlers, or a sixty billion dollar TV empire, or an actor who gets a Nobel cash prize every time he shows his gleaming teeth.
A million dollars is a lifetime of financial security with a small house and a nice car. I am happy for the winners. However, I would be very pleased if the prize committee considered my suggestion for a new category open for consideration.
For an adult, it is as difficult as discovering a nebula. So very rare. I believe it would be good for the children to have award-winning accounts of happiness to look forward to. It cannot compare to a treatise on economic theory, or a university presentation about black holes in space, rivers on Mars, or dogs on Jupiter. But Happiness pointers could be useful on a planet suffering over-science and over-technology. Dr. Jones, Reverend Jones, or Jonathan Jones, a town’s drunk could spend their life’s work searching for happiness. Or, if there was an enterprising child, he or she could make their first million very early in life, provided that the information were true, and not a pack of data proofs and distortions that often comes fresh and ready from the scientific community.
Perhaps the children should have to wait until they are older, wiser, and deserving of the prize. You have to be over thirty to be taken seriously by Sweden or any other country with money to burn. Of course, by that time the prizes are in literature, science and economics, long after the original child has deformed into the clever adult, one to expect financial recognition for a labor of love.
Can you imagine the fun the prize committees could have with their several million dollar prizes? Offer the same prize, for the same categories, but offer them only to children under eleven years old, just for one experimental year. How does an eight-year-old understand economics? As well as any grown-up “expert” in the field. She might win for her supply-and-demand theory about the nickel and the stuffed lion. And in the fields of Science, Literature, and Peace? Peace is easy. All the children who aren’t bullies will win that one. Science? The same thing. The bully will be too stupid to know what wonder is. Literature? Children love stories. That might spawn powerful competition.
I know Rhiannon will hope to win the Nobel Prize in art. She is very competitive in this field, and enters contests whenever she can. She has already won two drawing games at David’s sixth and seventh birthday parties. She had to draw a portrait of the birthday boy, and won hands down. She would have won on his eighth birthday too, if she hadn’t already got her prize at musical chairs, (one prize per guest). So the award went to her five year old cousin who couldn’t draw David’s face for an apple.
Earlier today in the presence of this brilliant, cool, colorful autumn, Rhiannon and I took a walk to the bank to exchange coin rolls for paper cash. There was a flyer taped up to the teller window announcing a drawing contest for children 9-12 years of age. The theme was “Money, Money, Money”. Our walk home was a talk about how she would design her drawing.
“I’ll have a poor girl on one side of the paper. There will be a dollar bill in the middle, and a rich girl on the other side.”
She had an hour to draw it before her mother came to pick her up. She didn’t rush, and finished with time for us to have a frisbee game. A masterpiece! She dressed the rich cat up in jewels, and gave it a comfortable pillow to sit on. As great as anything van Gogh submitted to the bank judges at the salon. Better than a Rembrandt who would have won the Nobel Prize if the bulk of his Swedish contemporaries weren’t peasants and coughing up blood. Maybe she isn't a scientific genius Einstein, but then he couldn’t draw as good as her either. She does not yet have the courage of Martin Luther King, Jr. , but then neither would he, if he thought more about frisbee after drawing, and less about the bullies.
We must stop insisting on square houses. Dr. Tim, the sun scientist, should end his disturbing talk about the sun's collapse. Rhiannon can give him a few pointers if he finds himself desperately alone in an ever-expanding universe. With a gray and green pencil, she can teach him how to draw a pine tree sniffing the onslaught of Spring. With a few plastic toys, a small carpet and some yarn, she can prove to him that the sun will end right after she cleans the littler box and brushes her teeth. Let this be the hundredth time I am reminded that nearly every position a modern grown-up aspires to is mostly wrong. It does not fit into the book of unlearning that I propose we get published right away. I know that our education gives us great powers of deduction and justification. I can ask with wonder, and you can cancel my wonder with one of your perfectly “elementary” explanations. “The kidneys filter urine.” “The dog barks because he is hungry.” “The sun has five billion years left to shine.”
The question and answer game can be fun sometimes, although eventually it gets out of control. At one moment in history we need a well because Pierre fell through some rocks and discovered that water flows underground. The next moment some jackass is awarded a million dollar prize because he proved with some really complicated equipment and an equation, that there is water on Mars. Yippee! Meanwhile all the educated grown-ups are saying, “Yup, we know this now, and we’ll give you an earful in the second grade, so someday you can aspire to tackling the mysteries of outer space and despair. But first you will need to be toilet trained, and shown how to keep the spaghetti in your mouth, and then lectured on how spaghetti is made and passes through your digestive system. After biology is college and, no lie, two hundred million more bits of useless information that will one day land you a damn good job, and something to talk about when the Millers come over for barbeque.”
The children play. And when it is “cute” and “darling,” it is enough. Until later. When is that? I don’t know, but Santa Claus knows for sure. He knew when they were sleeping, when they were awake, and when he refused to leave them presents under the tree. The year happy children became know-everything adults.
I often ask myself, “Why am I doing this to Rhiannon?” She doesn’t care about The Louisiana Purchase. Why should she? She is nine years old, and if she is not helping with dinner, or cleaning the litter, she should be playing. And that’s exactly what she does when I am not so worried about keeping time.
Why did I stop playing in wonder? And you? Yesterday my father showed me the Big Dipper in the night sky. Today a three-ring notebook filler told Rhiannon when the sun is going to end. Which is the life-giving moment in time? When are we going to shut our mouths, close our eyes and follow the children?