28 Mar 2014 No Comments
Who has seen the wind: neither you nor I.
This haunting song is an adaptation by the Australian ABC Playschool of the poem written by Christina Georgina Rossetti in 1872, when she was 42 years old, but, I imagine, was very much recalling the mindset of the little girl exploring the World and indeed the poem belongs to a book of childrens poems “Sing Song” written by her. The full poem is as follows:
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
What is this unseen thing, the wind? We cannot see it, but we can feel it, we can sometimes smell, even taste, it and we can hear and see its effects. We see its interaction with the World.
It is mysterious and unseen, and yet if you hold a baby of between one and two years hold, as I did with my daugher Nakira, bestow a wet kiss on her hand and blow on it or hold it up to the wind at the same time uttering its name “wind”, that child will, even though altogether unbidden, understand the wind deeply, swiftly and utterly naturally. Soon after I began doing this, Nakira would make her wind sound when she saw leaves being swept along the ground and the trees swaying. She did this when she was indoors, looking through a window, shielded from feeling the wind. She had clearly taken an unseen, yet perceivable and measurable phenomenon into her stride, utterly naturally.
The little poem evokes the joy of the exploring child. Not long before a child can understand the wind, they were a helpless baby, wholly dependent on their parents for all their needs and very vulnerable. If their parents are, as did Merrindal and I, struggling to adapt to the onslaught to their lives that it the coming of their first child, then some of that child’s experiences before that time will be of parents who don’t quite get their needs and, even though it is not meant by the parents, their impression might be of the World as sometimes a bit of a scary and lonely place where the big people don’t always grasp their feelings very well.
But now they perceive this mysterious and unseen thing, the Wind, and they know that, through carefully listening to the World, they can grasp the World, know the World, ken the World through their own minds. The ability of explore and understand for oneself is truly a great joy for the small child, and Rossetti’s poem reminds us of our instinctive openness to the World and the learning instinct of our species, the most basic and essential tools of the scientist, if only we can keep listening. Much of modern science is like studying the wind. We must ken our World through the effects of what we study on our instruments and experiments. We are like the little girl or boy, feeling the Wind for the very first time.
Some Activities for Children
As a science activity, this one is suitable for very small children: kindergarten age or their preparatory primary year.
- Learning and singing the song itself: children of this age delight in music and the words themselves convey the idea of kenning the mysterious Wind through Her effects on the World;
- Talk about the wind. Ask your children how they know it is there. Ask them what they think it is. Why does it blow only sometimes? Some days have little or no wind at all, other days the atmosphere seems like fury itself. If the child is a little older, maybe explore the idea of what drives the wind. Where does it get its energy from? Can it use up all the air in the atmosphere? Why doesn’t it do this?