Dashing through the Snow Towards Wide-Awakeness

DSC_0080I don’t particularly like being outside when it’s cold.  I love the fresh air and if I’m dressed right and the light is falling on the snow just so, I can appreciate the winter weather, but generally, I don’t spend a ton of times outdoors December through February.  Our dog used to get me out everyday, come rain or shine.  I loved watching the seasons change with Elsa, strolling our usual paths – past the neighbors’ gardens, through the ravines, down by the river.  She’s gone now, but I have Cora to get me out.

I can only recall one time last winter when there was more than a light morning dusting of snow and we didn’t make it out to play that day.  So, I was determined to get outside when we woke up to an inch of snow today.  No matter that it was only stuck to the grass.  The world was bathed in white as she’d seen in the illustrations for Extra Yarn.  There was enough to pack into tiny snowballs and walk through and make footprints like we’d read about in The Snowy Day.

I suited Cora up and we ventured out.  I loved watching her touch the snow for the first time with the toe of her boot and finally her hands.  She dragged a stick over the snow gathered on the woodpile.  She slide down the snow-covered slide.  She called to me a million times, “Look Mamma!  Look!”

As I watched her I thought of two things.  First, I recalled an incident earlier in the week when I tried to explain to a childless friend the pleasure I get from watching Cora observe things for the first time.  At that time, she was releasing balloons over the second floor railing and watching them float downstairs.  I offered that those kinds of things seem literally magical to her.  Nothing else in the world matters to her in a moment like that.  She is totally absorbed in the event.  Like today out in the snow.

And that got me thinking about a short essay by Maxine Greene that I reread earlier this week.  I was first introduced to Greene’s work while I was studying at Pratt Institute.  I wrote about that time in my education last month.  When I started my doctoral work, I repeated cited Greene as a major influence on my thinking, but it had been years since I read any of her work.

In “Towards Wide-Awakeness: An Argument for the Arts and Humanities in Education” (1978), Greene wrote about what we can learn about living deliberately from the arts.  The sort of consciousness Greene writes about seems to come naturally to Cora.  Her life isn’t burdened by distractions.  She lives in every moment and offers a great example of how to appreciate the little things we often take for granted about how the world works.  So many great works of art have been born of observations like those.  I wonder what she’ll make of them as time goes by.