Friday, October 30, 2009

The death of long-form narrative?

Is what we're writing in our creative nonfiction class worthless in an age of text messaging?Will computer screens and Kindles lead to readers who won't read a 15-page lyric essay? Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post writes a piece well worth reading that pertains to the future of what we're practicing.
"A story curls back into itself," says writer Gary Smith in Achenbach's piece. "And you need a special time and place and setting and mode for that. If it becomes all one smear with your work life and checking your e-mail, your Facebook, it's lost all it's reason for being."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Honey of a Lesson

“Honey fest or Ravens football game? Okay, son, which is more important, your children or the football game?”

Garrett (my son) fell back into the van with a look of such defeat that you’d think the Ravens had already lost the game.

Two Sundays ago, my husband Greg and I took our 3-year-old twin grandchildren (Amari and Ashad), Garrett, and our daughter Cassandra to the annual weekend Honey Harvest Festival at the Oregon Ridge Nature Center in Cockeysville, Maryland. We had planned the outing months ago. We could have gone either Saturday or Sunday and we chose Sunday. But once Garrett learned that the Ravens were playing the Patriots the same day, he had tried every angle to convince me that Saturday would be the better day to go.

“Mom, isn’t it supposed to rain on Sunday?” “What about church? Won’t you be missing church?”

Without hesitation, I replied, “No, it’s supposed to be warm and sunny and we’ll go to the early service.”

So there we were sitting in the van in the driveway again. Garrett was sulking in the backseat, while fiddling with his Blackberry to locate the game, and the rest of us sat quietly, like a volcano ready to erupt. We hadn’t gotten more than a block from the house and had returned for that one item the “other person” was supposed to have remembered to pack, but had forgotten. Apparently as wife and mind-reader extraordinaire, I was supposed to know that the camera needed batteries.

Finally, Greg returned with batteries in hand and we’re off. After taking a scenic route of hilly back roads, we arrived 50 minutes later at the Nature Center set at the end of a makeshift narrow road. We parked on a grassy mound between the trees. As we exited the van, the twins, seeing other children with their families walking up the trail, grew excited.

They started to run ahead. We called to them, “Come here, Amari and Ashad. You have to hold our hands.” As they ran back, their excitement spread among us. Even Garrett was distracted from his Blackberry and the game.

Our first stop along the trail was the bookstore. I bought two sticker books for the twins, and they “oohed” and “aahed” over the duck stickers the bookstore lady placed on their shirts. Next, we were off to the “petting” zoo. Thankfully, all the animals were caged.

Cassandra was in charge of taking the pictures.

Our first visit was with “Mr. and Mrs. Turkey.” Amari and Ashad were fascinated by Mr. Turkey’s prowess in displaying his feathers. We explained that this was his way of trying to get Mrs. Turkey’s attention. None of us had ever seen such a show. We were all impressed; however, Mrs. Turkey was not—she was quite stoic.

Next were the sheep. Amari was not the least bit afraid. She was practically climbing the fence to touch them. Ashad, on the other hand, was not so brave. He stayed a few feet behind just in case he needed to run the other way.
Oh my, Amari, look at the owl!

“He won’t hurt you,” the man explained. “This owl is called a ‘Barred’ owl, and he is one of the largest owls native to Maryland.” Ashad thought he’d play it safe, and stay behind NaNa (that’s me). No coaxing would convince him to come any closer.

Inside the Nature Center Museum, we found many displays of animals and birds native to Maryland: fox, bears, squirrels, ground hogs, hawks, etc. Other displays included several creepy crawly creatures such as frogs, snakes, toads, and insects. The bees were too busy making pollen to have their photo taken, but the cockroaches didn’t mind. Greg and Garrett asked the “bug” lady for a closer look. Talk about creepy crawly—they still give me shivers!

Hot dogs with lots of ketchup and hand tattoos of bees—what two better things to finish off the visit to the Honey Harvest fest?

As we walked toward the exit to the van, Greg and I watched our son and our son’s kids racing down the trail while Cassandra took pictures. I reflected on the day’s events and decided that my son may have learned the most valuable lesson that a father can learn:

“Honey fest or Ravens football game? Okay, son, which is more important, your children or the football game?”

The children will win every time.