The Way I Hear the World

Maple sugar

Yesterday morning we awoke to a swirling snow, and upon awakening I recalled that in the night I’d heard the gusting wind and in the haze of half-sleep thought to myself how much sounded like a chant. Rising, falling, leaving off and rising again, the pitch changing according to the force of the air behind it.

After chores, I walked into the woods to collect what sap had flowed in the hours between yesterday’s gather and the cessation of the run. The northwesterly faces of the trees bore long stripes of caked snow, driven by the wind. The ground was soft, the snow sticky enough to not be slippery. There wasn’t much sap. Five, maybe six gallons. I hauled it home. It’s on the stove right now.

I am working on a project with Heather, about our respective experiences with home schooling. It is audio-intensive and interactive, which means it will also be about the experiences of anyone who participates. I am really enjoying the process, in part because I’m sort of fascinated by the audio component (and huge thanks to Erica for so generously sharing her Great Wisdom), and in part because I’m sort of fascinated by the conversations Heather and I are having. She is one of those people who says tremendously insightful things without even realizing she’s done so. This is a quality I deeply admire, and though I know it’s a stretch, I’m hopeful some of it will rub off on me.

So far, Heather and I have talked a lot about our respective – and remarkably divergent – paths, about socialization and community, about the challenges we’ve faced, about deschooling ourselves, and about honoring averageness in both children and adults. We’ve also tried to answer the questions Heather solicited, while acknowledging that every question has many answers, and that neither one of us has this all figured out. We’re as imperfect as anyone. In my case, at least, perhaps even more so.

It’s fun for me to be doing something new, and I’m super-excited about the possibilities. If this project is successful (admittedly, I have no idea what success looks like in this context, but I trust we’ll figure it out along the way), Heather and I have talked about tackling other subjects via this medium. I think the audio component lends a lot of warmth and spontaneity to the collaboration; our conversations thus far have not failed to take us in surprising directions. It also offers a way for folks to participate away from the screen, although to be clear, there will be an online component as well.

While I hope Heather and I will be able collaborate on more of these projects, I’m also looking forward to exploring ways I can include audio in my other work. I’m not sure yet what this will look (sound) like, but I’m enjoying how just thinking about it is impacting the way I hear the world. I think that many writers – including myself – have a tendency to focus on the visual, even as we lose sight (pun intended) of smell, touch, sound, taste, and so on. For anyone interested in improving their writing, I think it’s a great exercise to include at least one description from every one of these senses in their next piece.

It’s been a pretty good sugaring season. The bigger producers I’ve talked to are at about 3/4 of a typical crop, and there should still be a couple weeks to go. I’m glad we hung some buckets; we skipped last year in deference to our preparations for moving, then felt the absence. You do something long enough, and it sort of imprints itself on you, and you don’t even realize it’s happened until you stop.








18 thoughts on “The Way I Hear the World”

    1. It was these same words that made me sit up….”Honoring averageness”. As a mum who is Unschooling her children, I feel a pressure for them to be super amazing at something, to be above average. I see lots of super unschoolers kids giving TED talks, winning the Raindance Film Festival, running a successful business or being a YouTube star. But, my kids aren’t showing interest in any of that. They just want to hang out and be themselves. I’m really looking forward to hearing your words on this Ben, I know it will be a relief.

  1. The homeschool project sounds like something Liam and I will definitely be interested in. Our daughter is only three, but we already know that traditional education is not the route we’ll be headed.

  2. Glad to hear you’ll (and Heather and others, if I understand correctly) be talking about education again. I’ll be tuned in to that conversation, for sure. 73 and t-storms tonight here. Crazy “winter” this year.

  3. I have enjoyed Heather’s blog for years and read your book last fall. Which I likewise enjoyed. I look forward to reading/hearing your collaboration. We’ve always homeschooled, though how that looks has altered greatly. I had a lot of deschooling to do myself having been a classroom teacher for years. I like what we do (and don’t do) now ever so much more!

  4. I was struck by the phrase “honoring averageness.” That’s one way to put it. I’ve come to think the deepest and most interesting things about us as human beings are the universal ones, the ones we share in common. The ones we can measure competitively are relatively narrow and superficial, though we often treat them as the most defining and significant.

    Buddhism has a word for that commonality: our Buddha nature. It’s our true self, all that really matters. If there’s a point to home-schooling (we did lots of it ourselves) it’s giving a child a sense of it. (Waldorf speaks of nurturing the gift every child has–same thing, I believe.)

    A few of my kids used to be in something their school called “the gifted and talented program.” The name always seemed abhorrent. It took me a while to figure out why.

    1. Always enjoy your comments Dan. Though I clearly see your point about shared commonality, I beg to differ in that it is the unique aspects, personalities and individual gifts that set each of us apart that I find most fascinating. Your “true self” would be very different than mine, diversity being advantageous on so many levels. And those deemed gifted/talented should be given the opportunity to aspire to their potential, while others are encouraged and taught at their particular level of ability. Sort of like what home-schooling does.

      1. It’s semantics, Karen. What you’re saying and I’m saying are both true. What Buddhism calls “discovering one’s true nature” means trading the simple-minded ideas we all have of ourselves for the experience of who we really are, in all its richness and complexity. This has nothing to do with whether we’re home-schooling, or anything else we happen to be doing in our external lives.

    2. Abhorrent: inspiring disgust and loathing; repugnant.

      Did you also find the program the program abhorrent, or just the name?

      If you removed your kids from the program, did that that help them in their journey through life, or did it just make you feel morally superior?

      I want my kids to have every opportunity in life and if that means that other kids fail, that’s OK with me, as it just means less competition for them down the road.

      1. Abhorrent probably a bad choice of words. I should have said the name made me uneasy, which is simply a fact and not a judgment. It was also a fact that the kids who weren’t in that program were made to feel inferior, while the kids in it were encouraged to have a feeling of entitlement. It wasn’t a case of feeling morally superior. Just as you want your kids to have every opportunity in life, I wanted mine to grow up in a world where all talents are equally respected. Nothing has happened since to change that feeling.

  5. I’m listening to.more stuff these days in an attempt to get my face out of these screens. I was an avid shortwave radio listener way back when and miss getting information that way. If audio works out for you, please make downloadable from your website. I hate jumping thru the hoops at apphole and googoo. They have enough of my info thank you! The audio interview you did was great and I hope we get to hear more. Maybe even on the radio!

  6. Struggling for smelly adjectives, I sniffed around online for assistance

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