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Home  >  Family and Community  >  Family Collections  >  Lax
Living Literature: Travels in John Steinbeck's Wake  -  With Aryeh and Tziporah Following Right Beside Us
By Brian Lax « Prev   Page 4 of 4  

During our trip to the Sea of Cortez, while Andromeda and I were frantically flipping through invertebrate textbooks and The Log From the Sea of Cortez, obsessing over tidepool stations on the maps, and picking our way among rocks, hunched over like herons, Aryeh and Tziporah were apparently following along right beside us. I don’t mean this so much in a physical sense. Rather, without our intending it, the two of them trained their attention on the natural world around them in the same ways we were attempting. They noticed colors and odors and details that we often missed.

While we were still in Mexico, Aryeh took to sketching in his journal at a furious pace. I had no idea of the intensity of his preoccupation until we were stuck beside the hot and dirty turnoff to Bahia de Los Angeles waiting to hitch a ride that took hours to materialize. After bowling with some wild squash and making peanut butter cracker sandwiches, Andromeda and I had no further diversions. Aryeh spent nearly the entire time sketching cacti, the bizarre boojum trees and bombardier beetles. Hours in the mid-day heat of the Sonoran Desert rolled by while he squinted and scrutinized and sketched.

Jellyfish scene, by Tziporah Lax, Age 3
Scorpion, by Aryeh Lax, age 6

Since our return, both of the children have added far more detail to their drawings than they had previously. Along with the correct number of legs, Aryeh has carefully included the chelicerae, pedipalps, and proper body segments on all his arachnids. (The pedipalps on the scorpion are easy -- they are the pincers. The chelicerae are the blocky mouth parts in front.) Tziporah has thoughtfully included plankton for her jellyfish to eat (the green blobs). The bell of her middle jelly has the distinct shape and blue-violet color of a Portuguese man o’ war — pictures of which have fascinated her. The red ones are another species.

Andromeda and I never set out for the Sea of Cortez specifically to educate our children. We had, however, always intended to include them in whatever we did. We knew this would be beneficial. We knew they would learn an awful lot. In the actual execution of this expedition, however, we were often too hot, too tired, anxious about our supplies, transportation and finances to attend to their educational needs. If they wanted to troop with us to the tideline after a long day of hitchhiking or kayaking or look over our shoulders as we pored through field guides trying to identify a particular limpet, great. If they would rather look at picture books in the tent that was fine too. Most days, we simply hoped that we had not made them too uncomfortable.

They did accompany us, though — to the tideline, through the guidebooks and even through the stories of an old, Nobel Prize-winning author from California. They absorbed it all in that artful and effortless way of the very young. While our backs were turned, while our attention was focused under the rocks in front of us, they learned how to extract wonderful detail from the world around them, observe it, record it and relate to it. They have continued to amaze us ever after.

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