Goddess of Small Things

By , November 21, 2010

For many years, some of the most pleasant moments of my life have come from simply following my daughter around. Ever since she could walk, I’ve been delighted by the journey of discovery each outing becomes, particularly when she takes the lead and I follow where ever she chooses to go. Even now, at 17 years old, at the very doorstep of Womanhood, the patterns are familiar and rewarding.

The other morning, she announced that she was going to go for a walk, and I tagged along. She led us up to the “swamp,” a muskeg bog up the trail. It has always provided summer water for our homestead, and served as a potato patch at one time for the previous owner. It’s a small open place in the forest, a fairly round pond of water, dotted by mossy islets and long dead trees. These days, the ice is frozen to about an inch deep. Unlike most visits, when we have to slog through mud or traverse old plank bridges, we could walk across the ice and explore freely.

Before long, Aly assumed a posture very familiar to any outing: crouched down, hunched over, closely examining minute details beneath her. In this case, she had discovered caddis fly larvae teeming over the pond bottom under the ice. Soon, she had her digital camera out, snapping close ups of the half-inch long creatures.

nature photographer

Aly and her trusty camera, exploring the tiny denizens of "the swamp." (Photo: Mark Zeiger.)

Aly has always loved tiny things. As soon as she grew old enough to request specific toys, the general size of them diminished. An entire play set of 20-30 pieces could often fit in the palm of her little hand. When she explored the world, while she appreciated expansive vistas, her attention is inevitably drawn to the tiny plants and animals at her feet.

Once she got her own camera, she learned to share her point of view. I won’t publish any of them here, as we’re trying to get her to release some of them commercially. One particular shot stands out: a single sea salt crystal, isolated on the beach. In the photo, it looks like a large diamond.

This fresh perspective on the world is just one reason why, when I follow my daughter’s lead, I am reintroduced to the world around me. It is all part of her unschooling, but it’s vital to my education as well.

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