749: Sun Goes Up

749: Sun Goes Up

749: Sun Goes Up


I’m Shira Erlichman and this is The Slowdown.

The night a raccoon jumped on the hood of our car––its eyes electric, all of us screaming inside the vehicle––I couldn’t get to my bedroom fast enough. I opened my diary like I was an international reporter on deadline. The next day at school, I told every classmate: Extra, extra! We live in a wild, unpredictable, flying-raccoon world! These days when I see a raccoon digging through a New York trash can, does it set off a wild wonder in me? Does it make the front page? Does it change my conception of the world?

There’s something particularly humbling about how a child’s mind works at organizing the world. When I was little, there was an old church down the street. Whenever we walked by it, my younger brother was terrified. In his mind, the long, rusted spindle coming from the roof and the dark paint job added up to one terrifying conclusion: a witch’s castle.

The same year my brother avoided the witch’s street, I kept a Moon Journal for a first grade class project. I wrote vivid notes about the faraway figure changing outside my window; but the time I spent considering the moon was so much more than note-taking. The moon became a mythic character to me. It was like a God, unfathomably large and shapeshifting. Everything about it seemed impossible; yet, there it was.

The adult’s world is often like a rubber-band ball, a static accumulation of idea on top of idea; packed nice and tight, so we can feel comfy about what we already know. Meanwhile, kids fling rubber bands in all directions, trying to hit the ceiling fan or, let’s be honest, another kid. While many adults tend to settle on a particular creation myth to guide us through life, children’s perceptions change at rapid fire pace. What was believed yesterday has been replaced. A shiny new fact has taken up court in the frontal lobe where fireworks are exploding and what is learned can simply be interesting, or, can be utterly life-changing.

At age ten, a friend and I found a baby rabbit deposited on the front step by a cat. We walked to the pet store for help. We were told to feed it with the tiniest baby bottle you’ve ever seen, and when we did, we were suddenly mothers. Caring for that creature whose eyes hadn’t yet opened filled me with newfound responsibility and awe. Nursing an innocent being, and learning that it wasn’t going to be enough––as it would die without its mother––well, it changed how I saw the world. My young mind struggled to wrap around the brutality and loneliness of that small creature’s death. If that small being could die, couldn’t I? What kind of world was this, anyway? Is there anything more beautiful than a new mind beholding the oldest, biggest thing?

Today’s poem is admittedly one of my favorites. The poet was 5 years old when she wrote it. I’m so impressed by her sparkling mind’s creation myth, by her way of holding the vastness.

Sun Goes Up
by Hilary-Anne Farley

I love the juice, but the sun goes up; I see the stars
And the moon-star goes up,
And there always goes today. And the sun
Loves people. But one always dies.
Dogs will die very sooner
Than mummies and daddies and sisters and
brothers because
They’ll not die till a hundred and
Because I love them dearly.

"Sun Goes Up" by Hilary-Anne Farley from MIRACLES: POEMS BY CHILDREN OF THE ENGLISH SPEAKING WORLD copyright © 1984 Richard Lewis. Used by permission of Touchstone Center for Children.