Monday, June 29, 2009

Variations on a Flag

One of my favorite things about having a blog (along with the regular practice of writing and photography and the making of new blog-friends) is how it helps me see the flow of my life. I had forgotten, for instance, that last summer around this time both the girls were obsessed with maps. It was a nice tie-in for Independence Day, actually--we made a giant map of the United States that we downloaded from Megamaps, and a big sugar cookie map, and we decorated each of them with stuff that I explained to the girls were symbols that represented things in the real world. Because don't even get me started about symbols.

Or do. I love myself some symbols. And symbology is such a terrific thing to teach a very young kid, in my opinion, because so many of the things that they'll be asked to do in structured learning use symbols--reading, writing, math, cryptology, etc. Call me crazy, but I think it's something very important for even a four-year-old to understand overtly that C-A-T represents "cat," but is not cat itself (This is not a pipe, y'all). That might turn them into the eighteen-year-old freshman comp students who CAN get it through their thick skulls that although King Kong is, yes, a giant gorilla, he represents, (at least in the 1930s version) a racist fear of African-Americans. And write a paper about it. A paper with a thesis, please.

So lately the girls have been really into flags, which is apparently our current symbol of choice. Will enjoys leafing through our children's atlas together, having me name the country that goes with the flag on each page, and I've been thinking about making some kind of puzzle of world flags, because Sydney likes puzzles...but anyway, I'm digressing.

Will's been asking lately to go again to our sometimes wandering destination, Rose Hill Cemetery (Hoagy Carmichael! Alfred Kinsey!), so since it's nearly Independence Day, I involved them first in a project to make some American flags that we could put on the graves of soldiers at the cemetery. I gathered up red, white and blue cardstock and scrapbook paper, beads and buttons, popsicle sticks, crayons and markers and colored pencils, and pulled up a nice, big picture of the American flag on the computer screen.

The results? Beautiful. Creative. Evocative. Patriotic.

Flag-like? Ummm...

Here's Willow with her flag, at the grave of a World War I soldier that we found:
The scrapbook paper is red and white and blue, you see, and the popsicle sticks are red, and the stones and shells are white.

Here's Syd's, with red and white and blue scrapbook paper and red and white and blue buttons and a big orange carrot that she's munching as hard as she can:
Her soldier was also from World War I. And lest you think that we were simply using these belated gentlemen as mere canvasses for our artwork, I'll have you know that we also swept their markers and pulled the weeds and long grasses from around them, leaving quite the pretty, if inexplicable, picture for other passers-by. I'm glad that neither of our soldiers actually died during the war (Sydney's soldier was a bugler!), because although the girls and I talk about soldiers oddly often, I haven't yet happened to bring up the fact that soldiers, you know, fight--I tell the girls that soldiers work for our country and do jobs for everyone who lives here, so they probably think that they're like administrators, or garbagemen, or something. Who knows.

Of course, the other fun thing to do (along with running around all that nice, grassy space and wishing you could climb all the gravestones but being told by your mother that despite all appearances, this is actually NOT a playground, both feet on the ground please) is to pick out cool stuff on the marker stones, especially cool, probably, because of Bloomington's own glorious limestone-carving history, which means that scattered among the generic headstones, there are some true gems: And, of course, intimations of one's own mortality:

I'm trying to put together an entire alphabet from gravestone photos, which sounds kind of morbid but is actually pretty awesome (and morbid, yes), so although the girls and I are going blueberry-picking tomorrow, we'll likely be back out at Rose Hill Cemetery the next day.

The day after that, we're totally making another 64-page map of the United States.


cake said...

gasp! we're going blueberry picking tomorrow morning too!!

cosmo also went through a map phase. still likes them, but not as obsessively as he once did. and we also try to talk to him about representation... it does sink in, with repetition, right?

i love the flags. and the whole activity.

Anonymous said...

I think putting together the alphabet from headstone letters is a very cool idea (does that make me morbid too? Whatever.)!

julie said...

All that driving around to score a Q and a Z, and it turns out that I didn't photograph an F! Next sunny day at around 3:00 pm, we're trooping right back to Rose Hill.

Oh, geez, Cosmo is Sydney's age, and Sydney doesn't pay attention to ANYTHING. Unless you think she's not paying attention, and then she is. I tend to do everything at Willow's intellectual level, which of course isn't fair at all, but that's just the shaft of being the little sister.