The other evening, my son in Edmonton phoned from a small park near his home to arrange a Skype call for later that evening. He’d walked to the park with his little daughter who turned two a couple of weeks ago. “Do you want to say hello to Grandma?” he asked her and held out his phone. “I’m in a big hole!” she shrieked excitedly. “How will you get out?” I asked. And her reply, even louder: “I’m in a big hole!”
Her dad quietly confided to me that the hole was a slight depression in the sandbox. What I loved about her communication was that it was a complete sentence. Maybe she’d used sentences before but not in our conversations via Skype or during our last visit in May. She knew lots of words but I hadn’t heard them put together so confidently. Or with such joy.
And I loved that her sentence was about location, about geography, about herself in relation to the earth. There’s a metaphysical mystery inherent in it. I thought of Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Reverie: Childhood, Language, and the Cosmos, as marvelous as his Poetics of Space for its explorations of how dreams, memory, and our capacity for wonder are integral to how we experience the world. And that the language of poetry is best suited to our apprehension of these things.
“Poetry is one of the destinies of speech. In trying to sharpen the awareness of language at the level of poems, we get the impression that we are touching the man whose speech is new in that it is not limited to expressing ideas or sensations, but tries to have a future. One would say that poetic image, in its newness, opens a future to language.”
“I’m in a big hole!” Yes, we all are. How we experience that, how we relate to its dimensions, how we remember them, how our body felt in the cool sand, how we looked up and out, how we find language to describe this, how we dream of it all our lives…and how those first words came to us as we expressed our joy to someone we couldn’t even see but whom we believed was there, connected to us in thin air: “Reverie helps us inhabit the world, inhabit the happiness of the world.” I wish this for my grandchildren, for all of us.