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From the Whistler


According to William Wordsworth’s ode Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, as children we possess an almost divine radiance that illuminates the rest of our lives:


Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Shades of the prison-house begin to close

         Upon the growing Boy,

                   But He

Beholds the light, and whence it flows,

         He sees it in his joy;

The Youth, who daily farther from the east

         Must travel, still is Nature’s Priest,

         And by the vision splendid

         Is on his way attended;

At length the Man perceives it die away,

And fade into the light of common day.


Yet childhood and adolescence can be fraught with trauma, unfairness, and harsh realities—just ask Oliver Twist, Francie Nolan, or Holden Caulfield. And our complex mod­ern world doesn’t make growing up any easier. In his book The Happiest Toddler on the Block, pediatrician Harvey Karp gives us some insights into the mind of a small child:


We all know how tough it is to raise a toddler, but not many peo­ple realize how tough it is to BE a toddler. Toddlers lose all day long! They’re weaker, slower, shorter, less verbal, and clumsier than almost everybody they know. That’s why they love stomping in puddles (to make a big splash) and showing off their “massive” muscles. It’s also why they can be so darn stubborn, refusing to listen or give in.


But thanks to parents, grandparents, siblings, daycare pro­viders, preschool teachers, children’s book authors, anima­tors, toy makers, and countless others who work with and for children, childhood can be a (mostly) happy and magical time. Our emotional dynamic, thought processes, and personality are all grounded in its wellspring. Artists like Wordsworth often return to their childhood memories for inspiration, those “thoughts that often lie too deep for tears”—perhaps why so many of our classics (To Kill a Mockingbird, Treasure Island) and contemporary novels (Peace Like a River, This Tender Land) have child protagonists.

In this issue, Whistling Shade tags along with kids of vari­ous ages and backgrounds, from school to the swimming pool and baseball diamond and on to the woods where you can find horses, mushrooms, poison ivy, magic rings and UFOs, among other things. Let us salute everyone who makes a childhood possible, and the child that lives on in us all.

- Joel Van Valin