What’s new?

When my son was five, our family traveled around the United Kingdom for five weeks. I went on a knitting frenzy, wanting to find locally-spun yarn on each of the British Isles. I knit in the car, knit in every one of our B&Bs before breakfast and after supper, knit in pubs. Nathan desperately wanted me to teach him to knit. In a busy, crowded yarn shop in Oban, Scotland I picked up some child-sized needles and we sat down before dinner that night to have our first lesson. He sat patient and wide-eyed while I cast on enough for a little square, maybe 16 stitches. Soon he became distracted and I could tell he was fast losing interest.

“Don’t you want to learn to knit?” I asked.

“Yes. But I don’t want to make a square, Mommy. I want to make a sweater.”

Learning new things is hard. Really hard. It’s one thing to learn the correct pronunciation of someone’s name or where to find a great new restaurant or even how to use WordPress. It’s another thing to learn to make a sweater from nothing, to learn a language, to learn a whole….thing. To stick with it through thick and thin, through the rush of fantasy and the sludge of reality.

I’m trying to learn some new things. Not a new language, exactly, but kind of. And we all know that learning a language gets harder the older we get. A friend writes beautifully about the power of words, the cozy fabric we wordy types weave for ourselves and wrap around our shoulders to comfort us and warm us. The words we cook up into a hearty stew, stirring together flavors, textures, and smells mixing like so many metaphors.  Lovely, right? Now, imagine doing it in Chinese. Or Sanskrit. Or taking Intro to Anatomy at the age of 53. Or deciding to become a barista so you can make beautiful pictures in latte foam and learn that all that is actually about something entirely different: physics (that class you never took) and chemistry (that one you barely passed).

Sometimes I’m not so sure my menopausal 50-something brain can handle learning a whole lot of new things. Certainly not happily. Certainly not with the kind of comfort of dipping into a delicious new poet or a book recommended by a trusted friend. It’s a stretch, and who wants to stretch? Not I, said the Little Red Hen.

What about you? What are you learning? Where are you stretching?

2 thoughts on “What’s new?

  1. Loverly thoughts. For myself I am so constantly learning I am always amazed that there may be time for classes, often I am learning about how I could be a better person, but I have to say that I am a bear of such simple brain that I am constantly radically amazed at the world we live in. I am amazed that just by tapping this glass screen words appear hey that these little squiggles can be called words and you can read them, that I press a button and the car starts, that’s a biggie. But I do know what you mean about new learning and I like the results.
    I am currently teaching people to fly fish for trout and it’s like going back to school for me as well.
    As an aside I don’t know if folk will know an out iLearning on iTunes there are loads of university course available with written matirial and pod cast suport I am looking at Phlosophy of the real!!!!!
    Radical amazement – push button now!
    Thanks Sarah

    • Radical amazement indeed, Chris! You’re an inspiration. Flyifishing! I know what you mean about learning through teaching. For me that involves even more stretching, and another whole layer of humility.

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