Wednesday, January 5, 1949
From those first small pages of baffling figures, up through McVickar's terrific problems, algebra, geometry and Trigonometry, my feeble brain refused to function when confronted with even the simplest mathematics. With the exception of the "Fives" and "Tens," even the multiplication tables were meaningless and painful as I meandered through their labyrinths. I can see my sweet mother even yet hearing me recite them, and I can still feel the critical and somewhat contemptuous gaze of my brainy schoolmates the while they rattled off the various tables and rules encountered in our unwilling search for knowledge. How often I lamented the choice my mother had made of a reward for undergoing that painful but necessary operation, tooth-pulling. But geography, ahthat was something else again and a whole new world opened up to my childish imagination.
There was something a body could grasp and understand, and besides so many questions were answered between the two covers of my precious little geography. "What is the Earth?" "The planet or body on which we live." There was something ponderable. How often I had wondered as I played about the fields and brooks just where I was, anyhow. Why was there so much dirt under my feet and why was some of it covered up with grass? Why the night? How did the Moon come up in the sky? Why did clouds sometimes cover the Sun? What made the Sun go out of sight and night come on? Would the Sun always come up where and when it should, and what would we do if some time it failed to shine in the morning? Where did the brook go to and where did it start? Where was "the end of the Earth" which my folks mentioned sometimes? Could I find it? All these questions had been fired at my mother as I tagged her about her work and no doubt she hoped I might find the answers in the printed pages of my first geography. And sure enough. What is the shape of the Earth, "Round like an orange, and flattened at the poles." My goodness. Round. And no one had ever told me that astonishing fact. And I had supposed it to be like the floor. Of course. When I climbed the very high hill on the way to the strawberry patch I looked all around and there was the rim of the "body on which I lived," stretching right around just like an orange, round and round. I had to turn my body to see that. My little book was right. However, that discovery brought more questioning. What could hinder me from falling off right into the sky, and where would I go if I did? It was my Dad who relieved my fears along that line, but it was hard to understand the strange drawing power drawing the Earth and another Power which made me cling safely to her breast. It was a comfort to know just the same, that there was a Power holding me safely anchored to my Earth or planet on which I lived and which was round like an orange. For I liked my habitation and had no mind to be scrambled off into the sky perhaps never to land, but to float for years and years in the sky or some strange void in back of it.
Then "Of what is the Earth composed?" "Land and water." Right again. Everyone knew that answer for there was land all around. My father owned some land, the South meadow was his and the pasture next to it was land belonging to a neighbor's and I must stay off it. And I had always had my lovely brook to play in. Of course, the Earth was land and water. Later, what joy it was to study a map and see the oceans, rivers and continents.
Ah, my mother did well to reward me with such a treasure.
One day the Preacher read from the Book "The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness, thereof." But a certain number of years were required to teach that small girl that it was a great gift, but men have tarnished it by misunderstandings, cruel wars and hatred. Who shall restore its beauty?