By Catherine Hedge
When I was little, my religion teacher told me that when you died, you’d know everything instantly. For weeks afterward, I tried to figure out if there was a way to die just a little bit. There was so much to learn and I wanted it NOW! I toyed with the idea that if I was lucky, I’d also discover how to resurrect myself. Voila! Instant brilliance.
My naturally cautious nature prevailed. I decided to just grow old. Grandpa Borel was a renowned engineer from the Montana School of Mines. I believed he was the source of all knowledge and that age made him that way. All I had to do was wait and my brain would fill up like a bucket at the bottom of a drainpipe.
Well, my hair is gray, my skin easing into wrinkles. Age is coming…gently…but that infinite knowledge is farther away than Jupiter. I know now why my enduring image of Grandpa is his newspaper ritual. He’d pull me into his lap, read the headlines out loud, and explain the ones he thought I should remember. He passed away after a long decline when I was 12, but he had already convinced me that “Learning” wasn’t a finite entity. It was my responsibility.
I’m lucky. Along the way, great people helped me discover how much fun new knowledge can be. I have to set a timer when I go “just looking” on the Internet. Stumbleupon is dangerous! I have a hundred books on my shelves waiting to be read, and then I discover Project Gutenberg. I celebrate National Poetry Month by checking out The Poetry Foundation with over 10,000 poems for free and the PBS site for submitting children’s work. Last week, Google began putting art museums on line from all over the world. You can zoom in so close you can see the brushstrokes!
Ah, yes, the choices are limitless. However, I am now discovering that of all the possible ways to learn, the one that delights me most, is my very first. In reverse. Every day, I get to see my five-year-old grandson explore the world. Friday, we stared at Rodin sculptures and compared his hands with The Thinker, his favorite. Yesterday, we watched a red-winged blackbird scare a duck from the rushes. This morning, we saw a newspaper picture of a feathered dinosaur and then held an abandoned robin’s egg still cool with morning dew.
After almost 50 years, I can hear Grandpa walking behind us. I’m sure he is smiling.