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    Raising Fabre

    August 20, 2014 by Brandy Vencel

    A long time ago, I wrote a post called Raising Wendell Berry. That was six years ago, and it turned out to be prophetic, in a way. We’re {obviously} not done raising my oldest, but he’s still himself, as he was back then. Only bigger. And also, he smells worse.


    Apparently, I had written a companion post for Daughter A. called Chasing Birds and Butterflies. I have no recollection of writing this post. I only looked for it when I noticed that in the Wendell Berry post I mentioned I was writing a post like this for each of the three children before the fourth was born. At the time, her nickname was Bird due the wispy wings of baby hair she still sported at age three.

    But the title!

    She was a mystery to me then, and even now she’s surprising. Because I correlate math so closely with science, it has taken me a long time to see that she’s a science person. But she’s a science person in the sense of Fabre — in the sense of the true naturalist from the 1800s — and not in the sense of the man in the sterile lab coat of our modern world.

    She lives outside in our orchard, only coming in for food or drink {and, occasionally, to read a book}. She tells me she was born to be outside. She knows every bird and insect that visits our property. She’s currently constructing an elaborate rock garden, and also collecting grasshoppers. She has a pet spider that lives in my milking shed and he is truly huge because she feeds him too many ants.

    She is still scatter brained and flighty.

    It took me years to see what she really is, and I’m sure there is still a lot I don’t understand. But there was one thing I knew: I knew that she would love reading Fabre this year.

    And how right I was!

    Fabre is a breath of fresh air when it comes to science books. Because the book is old, there is some updating necessary, but that would never get me to change it out for a more modern book because I have yet to see a modern book that captures the spirit of the naturalist, and we teach hearts and not just minds. A-Age-Nine was spellbound while I read aloud the first chapter.

    [Uncle Paul] investigates, he observes for himself. When he walks in his garden he is seen now and then to stop before the hive, around which the bees are humming, or under the elder bush, from which the little flowers fall softly, like flakes of snow; sometimes he stoops to the ground for a better view of a little crawling insect, or a blade of grass just pushing into view. What does he see? What does he observe? Who knows? They say, however, that there comes to his beaming face a holy joy, as if he had just found himself face to face with some secret of the wonders of God.

    Sitting next to me, I heard her quiet voice whisper, “He has…”

    If I was ever unsure what it all meant to her before, I knew it when I heard her confirm that the wonders of God can be found outside. She knows this in a way I will never know. She’ll get Fabre in a way I will never be able. But I’m so glad he thought that science was the servant of the Lord Almighty and, as such, a fitting topic for a child’s book.

    [Jules] has an insatiable appetite for knowledge. Everything interests and takes possession of him. An ant drawing a straw, a sparrow chirping on the roof, are sufficient to engross his attention. He then turns to his uncle with his interminable questions: Why is this? Why is that? His uncle has great faith in this curiosity, which, properly guided, may lead to good results.

    That last sentence is one I’m taking to heart — “curiosity…properly guided.”

    Linked to Wednesdays with Words.

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