girl & quill

mumblings of a fumbling twenty-sumbling

Month: October, 2016

pre-k metaphysics

“Teacher?”

A co-teacher and I turned our attentions to Nicholas, an energetic and imaginative three-year-old who often leads his classmates in elaborate games of pretend. The day was blissfully warm and bright.  I had to squint to see his face, aglow with sunlight and unabashed curiosity. He clutched a plastic red batting tee in his hands, often used as a “blaster” among the children. This seemingly innocuous piece of plastic has blasted water, fire, clouds, candy, and tiny elephants that stick to your skin.

“Yes, Nicholas?” we asked, unsure of whom he was addressing. Perhaps it didn’t matter.

“Teacher, what do you imagine to be nothing?”

I cannot recall if silence fell as we processed his words. I cannot recall if I, the co-teacher, or both of us laughed in that way grown-ups laugh when a child asks a question of this nature. By “of this nature” I mean sophisticated, profound, and/or downright metaphysical. As if a small child were incapable of taking the notion of existence into their own fumbling little hands. I find it curious how the common adult response to a child’s sophisticated, profound, and/or downright metaphysical question consists of amusement, a laughter tinged with condescension and discomfiture.

Subsequently, the child is labeled inquisitive or precocious. 

liam

As if the questioner’s young age strips the question of its cogency.

(Not until I started working and playing with young children did I discover that stupid questions do exist. It’s just that they rarely come out of the mouths of babes.)

Poor Nicholas! There he stood, open and trusting, exercising his right to free inquiry, while my colleague and I realized our sore lack of preparation for an impromptu Pre-K Intro to Metaphysics course. In my paralysis, I deigned not to respond and maintained my role as Tickled Grown-Up. The co-teacher soldiered on and attempted to answer with an illustration that involved holding empty air between her two hands.

Nicholas listened, indulging her attempt, but his interest fast faded. He scampered off and resumed his play. I keenly felt that we had somehow failed him.

Teacher, what do you imagine to be nothing?

I honestly don’t know, Nicholas, and I have spent an entire week thinking about your question. What do you imagine to be nothing? For my part, I struggle to imagine Nothing as Any One Thing. I imagine that if nothing else, Nothing is all of what you, Nicholas, and your friends and your blaster that shoots tiny sticky elephants, are not.

Nothing is a life without questions.

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so this is san francisco

Florida to Virginia to Washington, D.C. to New York to San Francisco.

Life coaxes me to unexpected places, and down unexpected paths.

Now here I am teaching small children on the other side of the country, in a city of hills and fog and ocean air, stumbling along and playing at being a grown-up.

golden-gate

So this is San Francisco, and there is much for me to love, including:

  • Temperate weather. Being a Florida native, I feel right at home in a city where seasons are but a quaint storybook fiction, though the whole micro-climate and sunny-foggy-sunny-foggy thing adds a kooky element I find both perplexing and appealing. Florida only has hurricanes, and the occasional sinkhole.
  • A house in the clouds. We (partner and I) currently reside in the southernmost part of the city, at the tippy-top of an impossibly steep hill. Due to its geographical positioning, our neighborhood is a fog trap. There’s something ethereal and mildly eerie about waking up to a world covered in mist, or driving down your street — car’s fog lights aglow — half-wondering if you will either reach the bottom or enter a portal to the Fourth Dimension.
  • My morning commute(s). Three days a week, I take a ten-minute stroll to the preschool where I teach; two days a week, I drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and park down by the Bay, where the watermelons grow–er, that is, where sea lions bob in the water like adorable buoys, and I blow them a good morning kiss before heading into the children’s museum where I also teach. Blessed.
  • Parks galore. Gimme that green space, mmhmm.
  • Eclectic foods. Bubble tea. Sushirritos. Cronuts. Red wine and Coca-Cola sorbet. If you’re looking for culinary innovation, you’ll find it on every corner.
  • Walking. Besides the preschool, I can walk to the store, to the library, to the cafe, to the auto shop, to the Thai restaurant, et cetera. There is something very gratifying about the ability to go places on one’s own two feet. And yes, I realize I must sound quite provincial, but I did grow up in suburban Florida, after all.
  • Good vibes, man. I see a lot more smiles than frowns on a daily basis. That stuff we East Coasters hear about  West Coasters being “laid-back”? So far, so true. People are, generally, more at ease here — the perfect antidote to my neuroses.

Indeed, there is much to love about San Francisco, but there is also much to bemoan: the influx of “techies,” absurdly high housing costs, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and a dwindling artistic community — all of which are interconnected. I cannot afford to stay here forever, nor do I wish to; for the time being, I will enjoy everything this pretty little city has to offer, until the next adventure. And I won’t take it for granted.