Saturday, January 14, 2006

Snow Melt

Here in Boston we can see the ground for the first time since I've been here. The grass, green, brown or scraggly is laid bare and, although today it is raining, the last two days have had sunshine. Every one has been mentioning the weather in passing. Shop keepers and customers, bus drivers and passengers, receptionists and patients chat, "Isn't the weather wonderful?" "It seems like spring is here". There are a few wistful comments. "If only it would last" My daughter has forewarned me that the next blizzard will make all hope of spring vanish.

We take Anya out for a walk in the good weather. It is fifty degrees outside. We put on our jackets and don't wear the snow boots, hats and gloves. It feels so much lighter. Anya finds a stick and picks it up and begins to poke the piles of unmelted snow, the ground, the sidewalk, testing them for permeability. "Won't go," she says about the sidewalk. Our walk is very very slow as she stops every few paces to test the street sign, the telephone pole, the pools of water. She feels very important with her stick. She is in a command mode, investigating her world.

In a pool of water in front of us, there is a dead squirrel. " What's that?" she starts to poke it. It has been dead a while and covered by snow and just now revealed. Not very pleasant to look at. "A dead squirrel," her mother says and walks her around it and onward. The live squirrels are all out and romping about. Most dead things are quickly gone, hidden from view. We have glimpsed one of life's mysteries and not been reassured, but bravely continue onward. Science must not be detered by events which we have no words for.

She looks for the dog that is sometimes in a yard across the street in good weather. "Where's doggy?" "Inside," we say. The dog barks. She stops transfixed by this evidence of dog presence. "Doggy" she says. "Yes" we say. " Where's doggy?" "Inside" we say. We have many conversations of this nature, sometimes reversing the catechism so that she must tell us what it is.

On we walk and with our slowed pace, we turn at the first street to walk around the block as it is evident that we are not going to get far. Up the street there are tree trimmers and a chipper making a lot of noise. "What doing?" she asks. We try to give a short succinct account of what is going on, but fail. We stop and stare. "Man" she says. "What doing?" "Cutting trees and chipping them" We have given up hope this will make sense to her. What she is learning is that every question has an answer or at least is honored with attention. Around the next corner, she hands me the stick and picks another twig from the sidewalk for her mother. She is passing the investigative tools on. Our scientific expedition seems to be over. She is ready for her mother to pick her up and we head towards home.

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