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Liam's First Fossil

Monday, February 4, 2008

The chestnut oak acorns were sprouting bright red roots as of December 21. The roots are well sunk in the soil less than a month later. Try to pick up this acorn, and you will have to pull it. I revisit it with each walk. There is such life and vigor in a seed.

I've taken six walks on the new ground lately, two of them accompanied by Phoebe and Liam. They love walking, and they never complain. Liam may do some broad, falling-down slapstick about how tired he is, but he plays it for attention and laughs, and loves leading us the whole way.
On Saturday, as he watched me ease down a particularly steep, muddy slope sideways, he said,

"No offense, Mommy. No offense. But you look like an old grandma going down this hill. And aren't you just a little too old to do those awesome moves that you're doing? No offense."

"Well, if I'm such an old grandma, how come I have to keep stopping and waiting for you to catch up?"

That made him laugh. I have to say that walking three or four miles over rough and uneven ground several days a week feels great. It's not running a marathon, and it's not fast or flashy, but the sights are so fine, and it makes me feel strong and sane. Come late spring, when the fields get too high to wade through, I'll get my exercise mowing, raking, gardening, checking bluebird boxes and hanging out laundry, and my sights will narrow to what's around the yard and meadows. I love covering ground in winter. It's good to have a reason to appreciate winter.

Crossing a little stream, Liam spotted something in the water. He came running back to us, all afire, his eyes like saucers. "You have got to come with me RIGHT NOW becauseIthinkIfoundaDINOSAURFOSSIL!!!He's been reading enough paleontological lore that he knows that streambeds are a good place to find fossils. And there it lay, glimmering in the rushing water. Liam's first dinosaur fossil.

The Science Chimp in me leapt up, screaming happily, and was just as quickly muzzled. Suddenly, I wasn't so sure just what kind of creature might have once used this jawbone.

Liam examined the teeth, and decided it must have been a plant-eater. Check. The Chimp agreed.
He studied it and studied it.He smiled a secret smile, whispering, "My first dinosaur fossil."
He turned to me, saying, "Smell it, Mommy! It takes you all the way back to prehistory, and you can tell what kind of dinosaur it came from, tyrannosaur or a felociraptor or maybe a longneck!" And it did have a wild, earthy scent, the smell of mystery and uncertainty, of moss and soil and creekwater. This picture makes me weep.

For a shining week, that jawbone went everywhere with Liam. I had a flutter of misgiving when he took it to school for show-and-tell the following Friday. This Monday morning, he's home with me, suffering once again from a stomach virus. (This time, I was pathetically grateful to find he had only anointed his bed at 2:13 AM Saturday, instead of the hall carpet. Beds I can wash. Carpet thus soiled makes me beat my breast and tear my hair.)

In the course of conversation in the studio this morning, Liam said, "When I took my fossil on the bus, Jeremy and Chase said it was a deer jaw."

"Really!" :-/

"And Sue (the bus driver) said she thought it might be, too, but only a little bit."

(Sue is very kind. The two boys tend not to be.) "Who's Chase?" I asked.

"Oh, he's this tricky, kinda not-nice kid. I know he's older than me, I think. Are you imagining him as a boy? Because he is."

"Yes, I had him imagined as a boy. So what do you think that jaw bone is?"

"I still think it's a dinosaur. What do you think it is?"

"I'm just not sure. I still think maybe it's from a dinosaur."

"Thank you for understanding my feelings. I think Chase is kind of a liar.
He said, 'Thet bone raht thar is a DEER JAW.' And he always tricks me."

Thus, we learn. But hope stays alive, and flutters in the breast.


There's a certain beauty in that that you don't even have to have kids to understand. Thanks, that was wonderful!

"Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders."
— Henry David Thoreau

Kind of like hope. And little boys.

You always pick up on the subtle stuff. Thank you.

Knot in throat story here. Liam's knowledge and imagination will keep him wondering and smiling. Give him a high give for me! What great photos! I hope he's feeling better now.

I've heard the "no offense" line many times. It's always said with an underlying appreciation of who you are and how much you are loved.

That last photo of Liam walking up the path is the one that makes me weep! Love those moments. You are so lucky to still have them!!

This is just too precious. Yes, even those of us with no kids can understand the sacredness of these moments.

But, I did laugh at the no offense "grandma" reference.

Wonderful that even with all the electronic/digital/whiz-bang stuff kids have today, youngsters forever have that innate fascination with dinosaurs!
Just today a science report warned of the tremendous "shift away from nature-based recreation." Your kids probably don't even know just how lucky they have it there in the Ohio foothills... Granny Science Chimp and all!

I hope Liam keeps his dinosaur fossil in a special place.
It's not every day that he will find one!

Aww, bummer! I hope Chase isn't around to spoil the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus.

Dinosaur or deer, the pictures of Liam studying and carassing his bone are priceless. I totally loved the "Um, no offense, Mom..." story.

Great post about my favorite tow-headed boy!

~"granny" Kathi, who is older than you (by about 6 months)

What wonderful pairing of the chestnut oak putting out its root, and then burrowing, digging, clinging--and then Liam--doing exactly the same thing.
And you keep checking back to watch the oak grow, as you watch Liam grow.
I agree with Anne--the last photo of a determined boy walking down the road--priceless.

And so his dreams stay alive and intact and he'll grow just like that chestnut... strong roots and able to withstand winds (or windbags like Chase.) ;c)

You've got to work this into an NPR post. As nature nut said - you don't have to be a parent to see the magic in this post. I though most science chimps would be quick to give the facts - and yet you are patient enough to extract wonders; a true teacher.

At the same age I became an archaeologist in the barren side yard or our home and dug and dug and dug with two goals in mind - one to find fossils and the other to meet some people from China. I never once doubted either possibility and my mom ferried glasses of lemonade while I made my first muscle and marveled at each rock and root and fragment that came from each shovel.

Oh, and kudos for your label
"faith-based paleontology"!!!

Yeah! An NPR story. Please?

Hi Julie:

Sorry to disillusion, but it is a deer mandible and looks to be relatively recent. Older bones get discolored over the years, most of the time.

I'm an ethnozoologist, one of the many hats I've worn over the years. That's just a fancy word for a guy who figures out what ancient people ate by looking through their garbage. So I've seen a deer bone or two over the years.

That said, I am very encouraged when I see parents allowing their kids to pick up and investigate bones. Bones can tell us many things and they also are lovely sculpture, as I'm sure you appreciate.

Thanks for your blog!

Mr. Boneman - you are funny! Of course it's a dinosaur fossil - are you crazy? The science chimp would know a deer mandible from 100 yards.

Read the story again -- there is a story within the story.

The joy of youthful discovery is that it can be anything you hope it to be-- and so it is. Bless his joyous heart.

(Chase sounds like a character from a Jean Shepherd story.)

Here's to a very cute, spirited, magical little boy and his mega cool mum.

This story makes a lump in my throat because my little boy goes through the same crap with the older (mean) boys at his school. I hold my breath and hope:

Long live Love, Father Christmas, The Tooth Fairy and a world of enormous possibilities.

Great fossil!

P.S. Still looking for our first canoe...:-)

We've been lurking, as Bill says (we met him in FL last week), on your blog for sometime and decided it was time to comment. Your postings inspire, educate and enhance our lives and we appreciate the daily dose :).

Ah, boys. Thank you for sharing his magic with us. I remember many such moments with my 5 sons, and now I get to share them with grandsons. What you are sharing with your son will remain with him for years--it makes electronic toys seem like cheap entertainment.

We took our TV out some years ago, and now the grandkids love to show their friends how cool granny's house is because they get to do "stuff." The stuff of memories, just like dinosaur fossils.

Posted by Granny Sue February 5, 2008 at 7:40 PM

God love his little cotton-pickin' heart (as my Mom would say).
We all have "Chases" in our lives, don't we? The kill joys, the ones who always need to be right, the ones who pop our balloons.

"Are you imagining him as a boy?"
That's just the sort of incongruity that makes kids so darn enjoyable.

While I appreciate the boneman's learnedness, that is obviously a dinosaur fossil. At least, until Liam does some ultra-scientific studying of his own and decides otherwise.

Thank you for sharing his discovery. :)

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