Yesterday was my birthday. So I took a walk at a nearby trail and found a few October beauties. I love this time of year, I love the cooling waters, the pungent air, the damp ground, and the warm apple cider. It's the best season for a birthday.
What I love about science is that it is accessible to anyone. Any interested student can observe the world around them, create theories and test those ideas. Wendy Macdonald's Galileo's Leaning Tower Experiment, illustrated by Paolo Rui, is a picture book that invites readers into that world of observation. Here, learning science is not some foreign, exclusive club that only a chosen few get to study, rather, readers, both young and old, can participate. Galileo's Leaning Tower Experiment is about a young, fictional, boy name Massimo, who is interested in the speed at which things fall. He meets Galileo, a professor at the University of Pisa in 1589, and the two work to figure out if Aristotle's previous theory was wrong. Legend has it that Galileo dropped things off the Leaning Tower of Pisa to prove his new theory, which displaced Aristotle's old theory. It is this event that the picture book centers on. But throughout the book, as Massimo and Galileo theorize, experiment, and make deductions, they show the reader how science works. It's this progression of deductive thinking that makes this book resonate as more than just a recounting of an old story. This is what a nonfiction picture book should do, engage children (or us older readers) so that they feel they are not being preached to, or lectured, or bored by irrelevant historical information. Macdonald is highly successful with that. In the course of 32 pages, the characters drop many things to compare their speed. By the end, I got up and started dropping things. Just so I could participate too. It's STEM Friday! Science Technology, Engineering and Math.
I've been pretty focused on one thing lately- writing. Here’s a short list of what I've been doing: writing a ten page essay every 2 weeks, reading a book a week and writing 4-5 page critical responses to those books, going to local book readings and events, connecting with writers online, forming a nature writing critique group and then getting into our first month of critiquing each other’s work, writing in my personal journal, reading news articles about the writing business, taking on more work as Blog Editor at Literary Mama, sending a small handful of queries to magazines, writing a few articles for the paper, thinking about what essays to write next and contemplating what my thesis will be about next year. My life is writing. That’s all. It’s writing. (I spend any other free time cleaning bathrooms and dishes).
I manage to work in time with my son and husband as well, but they are becoming more sufficient without me, and I am becoming more ok with leaving them to their own devices. But six weeks into the MFA, eight to go, I realize that it can’t all be about writing all the time. Really, it can’t.
Since this writing life kicked in, everything has been pared down to the essentials. And garden work is not one of them. So the garden is a mess, the lawn needs mowing, Cedar and his friends somehow scattered bits of trash all around under the treehouse and there are toys all over the lawn. The list goes on.
Our patio sits under three black cherry trees. Not the kind that make nice red fat cherries to top off your ice cream sundaes, rather, the kind that make millions of hard, tiny seed pods that have a quarter inch layer of slimy, black-red squish covering them. All summer these little red balls fell onto the patio, and though I swept them off a few times, millions more kept falling. They stain the furniture, the splatter on the rocks, they get tracked through the backdoor on shoes and grind into our carpet. They work into the cracks between the rocks and start slowly decomposing, covering the rocks and forming a new layer of dirt to hide the patio. They generally make the back patio a place to avoid at all costs.
This far into fall, the cherries are all out of the trees, and it's time for the leaves to fall. They have, in force. They have begun to cover up the cherries. So, Monday, I closed the computer and decided to tackle the decomposition head on.
It was great. I made three huge piles of sticks and berries and leaves and weeds from the patio and I loaded up the wheelbarrow and hauled them to the woods and compost pile. My body was happy to move. I felt pleased to be doing something outside in the warm sun (generally my favorite place to be). And by the end of only a few short hours the patio looked like a place one might want to sit and enjoy again. And so I did. With a nice fresh cup of coffee, and my laptop.