Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Walk with a Three-Year-Old

Have you ever gone on a walk with a three-year-old?

I don't have a whole lot of experience with kids in general, but I do know that "unpredictable" might be the best descriptor of the time I spend with them.

For example, if I want to spend some time outdoors as a way to give the kid a chance to "run the stink off," as an experienced grandmother expresses it, the kid just wants to be indoors (making noise or tearing up something, usually). Whereas if I want to get from Point A to Point B, the kid wants to examine every rock on the beach from all angles and otherwise experience all the glories of nature.

So lately, I've been the second kind of kid. The one who may be on a path to a destination and all, but who keeps seeing shiny things on the ground that require intense inspection. Or an opening in the brush at the side of the road that absolutely must be investigated. Or a butterfly that requires chasing.

You get the picture.

There's this nonfiction project that fascinates me, see, and I'm currently at the stage where nearly everything in the whole beautiful world feels somehow related to it. I recognize the Causabon-esque folly in that approach. Plus the sheer tonnage of what I know I don't know (to say nothing of what I don't even know I don't know) is daunting, to say the least. My project needs some limits. I do know that much.

However, my writing experiences in the past few years have also shown me the value of serendipity. When I'm interested in the moon, an article about mapping the dark side appears in a magazine; as I'm revising that piece, a different but related article appears. I didn't set out to research the moon; I was just spending some quality time with a couple of characters to whom the moon seemed to be important. Pretty fun.

So I'm trying to give my nonfiction project that kind of room. Sure, I'm still trying to keep some boundaries around my subject. But I'm also trying to keep honoring the kid who's having a whackload of fun making connections.