Daily Schedule

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


This afternoon, we spent about an hour revisiting our last theme, Exploration. Two projects in particular needed finishing - our Lewis and Clark moccasins, and our special poem.

Eliza's dad wrote a beautiful poem about Lewis and Clark, as he was urged to by his lively and insatiably curious daughter. After talking about all she had learned about the explorers, father and child worked together to create a poem - and further understanding of the complex feelings and ambiguity we often have about explorers, the past they took, and the future they created.

I read the poem slowly to the students this afternoon, pausing frequently to ask questions or to give guidance on what the poet might mean. Then each child received their own copy to illustrate as they saw fit. Some drew winding rivers, some drew maps, some drew people and animals. Here is the poem for you to enjoy, written by Christopher Matthews and Eliza (her part is italicized):

They rode on a river’s glistening back
There must have been rivers with glistening backs
Snaking through forests, nuzzling cliffs, winding west for an ocean to bite

I suppose their boats twisted and wandered across and followed the wide-open land
Land that might have looked to their eyes wide-open
Like cursive across a clean page
Like a signature that curls like a drawing of a river on a map being made

You don’t have to write about them coming back
That’s just the reverse of what they did

Through prairies and valleys, through mornings and nights on spangled water
None of it new or unknown but new and unknown to them


I imagine the nights were thicker with dark than you or I have seen
The dome of sky closer

President Jefferson bought some land and asked them to explore it
Lewis met Clark in the Continental Army

They must have brought paper and ink
They must have been proud of their careful maps
All of it named and described and sung and mapped already
But not in a language they knew


I suppose they were lonely
I suppose they must have been terrified at times
How could they not be
I suppose they saw things they were ready to see and those were terribly beautiful

I wonder if they thought how strange it was that so much
Land—tangled, vast, rising and falling, woven with crisscrossing trails, animals calling,

Birds calling, people with fires to light and songs to sing, babies crying
Like regular babies—that all of that

Could be bought, by a man, for money, a thousand miles away?
I wonder if they felt how strange that was
I don’t know


It took them two and a half years, and someone died in the middle

I suppose they must have been terrified at times
How could they not be—
They probably missed their homes, smelled a sweet smoke sometimes and thought of home
Pies and tea and beds thick with blankets
I think they had hearts, and sometimes their hearts probably broke

Sacagawea knew how to collect roots and berries they could eat
Sacagawea was married to a man she’d been sold to

I suppose they could hardly do it alone

Sacagawea’s husband said, “You can have her if you treat her like a slave”
They pretended they would, to free her.  I’m not sure she wanted to go with them
But it was better than being a slave

I suppose half of what they did was find a way to talk to people
They had never met before
To find a way to be allowed to pass
And get help
And trade things with new words, or no words
And trade new words
And gather stories about the shape of the land and how the rivers moved
And turn those stories into another day of going west on a spangled river
And making a map
I don’t know

Do you wish sometimes there were more roadless places?
More darkness in which the stars brightly spilled?
More stories in the dark, more fires in the night for our singing to encircle?

I do.  I think they saw and felt those things

I don’t know if their seeing them made them harder for us to see now.


We also finally finished our moccasins! Lewis and Clark were said to make many of these shoes when they spent the winter at Fort Clatsop in 1805. They made many, many pairs of these, as they wore out very quickly. I think they would be proud of our work and perseverance.

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