All of us homeschoolers have something “unique” about our method of education, to be sure.

In the past I have seriously questioned how successful I really am in my “school” work, but that was probably because I am undoubtedly a perfectionist. Or critical idealist…or whatever.

Quite recently I questioned that again. How many students my age have to read a soaking wet copy of Dante’s The Divine Comedy?

Out of all honesty, I enjoy studying. I also enjoy going out in the canoe on our small lake (some might just call it a big pond, but I happen to think it is a small lake) with my siblings. I have always struggled with trying to balance my time of work and recreation, and my sister Rachel and I came up with a brilliant conclusion: We agreed to read our assigned books while rowing across a 17 ft. deep pond.

The first time worked out perfectly splendid. She read The Bronze Bow and I read Hell – that is, the first book in the Divine Comedy trilogy. It really isn’t as horrifying or funny as one would assume – it is a complicated Christian allegory that is just interesting enough to keep you thinking “What does he mean by that?”. I suppose that was the intention all along.

{If you want to read a Christian allegory for the first time, however, I would advise you to begin with C. S. Lewis and John Bunyan first. Dante was a bit off here and there, leaning somewhat to Greco-Roman influence (as you will find often in writing from the Renaissance).}

It was great – we just glided around in peace and quiet with no one to interrupt us. Well, that was the first expedition.

On another afternoon we both decided to take a ride in the canoe again. This time Rachel didn’t care to take a book, but I, out of scholastic necessity, carried the Dante book again.

As usual, we shoved the canoe part way into the water and Rachel climbed in – I always get in last and have to shove the rest of the boat into the water with my oar. Much to our bewilderment (and panic), the canoe would not leave the shore. It tilted back and forth, but absolutely refused to leave the shore.

We sat there trying to maintain some sense of balance, but it was very awkward. Rachel warned me not to try anything crazy – especially not to try to climb back out.

“You know,” I commented, “during the Renaissance and the Middle Ages they had difficulty balancing views of Grace and Nature. That’s what I was studying in World Views.” Rachel could have cared less at that moment. She was further out over the water than I was.

I should mention now, however, that many people of the Renaissance – under the influence of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas – began to tilt too much emphasis on Nature and particulars. Dante’s writings also began to tilt in that direction. It was too much trust in man’s own works that imbalanced them in a fall toward humanism.

Finally, after we resolved to pray over the situation, I jumped out and pulled the canoe back on land. We realized that the ground beneath the canoe was not stable in that area, so we tried moving it over to the side.

“This time you’re getting in first,” Rachel promptly announced. We still had a little trouble getting off shore, but nothing like the previous experience. It felt excellent once we were gliding freely over the water. We could then take pleasure in the fact that we had endured both smooth take-offs and the awkwardness of an imbalanced canoe.

We chatted and observed and I read while the afternoon was slowly fading. I love the long days of spring and summer! Yet as we neared the south side of the small lake, our faithful lab/shepherd mix dog, Rex, began barking and digging with enthusiasm in the nearby woods. As he barked louder and glanced back at us several times, Rachel became concerned.

“What if there’s a snake or something? Shouldn’t we go see what the problem is?” she pondered out loud. We agreed that we should row towards the shore and allow one of us to examine Rex’s discovery while the other remained in the canoe (thus avoiding our previous struggle).

Once we reached the shore I grabbed on to some reeds and Rachel stepped out of the boat. She got part way down the path, and Rex was looking more excited. She couldn’t bear it.

“This is scary, Amanda. Why don’t we both walk over there?” she said, looking nervous. I was a bit annoyed, but I understood and was rather curious about it anyway. I left my book on one of the convenient little “shelves” that were behind both the captain’s and passenger’s seats in our canoe, and pulled the boat to shore without a thought.

Our roughly 8-9 month old dog may be considered protective and affectionate enough to be classified among the good dogs in the world, but at times his idea of a threat is incomprehensible to us. Rachel and I saw nothing but an empty dirt hole.

We returned to the canoe, a little disappointed but nevertheless confident. Rachel didn’t even mind climbing in first. I sat down and picked up my oar, ready to set out again.

“I hope what happened last time doesn’t happen again.” said Rachel. I shoved off with the oar. The familiar and awkward tilting resumed.

“Don’t worry; we didn’t fall last time,” I began, “We shouldn’t fall over this time.” I shoved off again. Tilt left, tilt right, tilt left, tilt right… Too familiar.

“We will get off,” I insisted. It would be just one more shove or two. Surely…shoudn’t it? I should acknowledge at this moment that optimism is one thing and foolish over confident trust in one’s self is another.

Then, for some odd reason, I found myself staring at the water. The next sensation I felt was my feet touching sinking into it; my dark brown suede/leather boots filling up rapidly. Then I found myself on my knees in the substance. Yet somehow, at the same instant, I saw Rachel falling out of the canoe on her side, getting all except her head and one of her shoulders wet.

Indeed, so slow it was agonizing and yet so fast it was irrevocable, we had tilted off balance completely.

We were both screaming (without even realizing it at first), and Rex came charging valiantly to our rescue. Fortunately, the canoe regained its balance again and didn’t come crashing down on us. I grabbed my oar as we scrambled to our feet and waded out in our wet skirts.

I turned around to see The Divine Comedy floating in the pond water. “Oh no, the book!” I exclaimed as I grabbed it.

I had to conclude that we had, sure enough, experienced a tilt towards “nature” all right. LORD help us…

We were both laughing uncontrollably by then, and Rachel discovered that some how in the accident she had managed to cut her hand. It was bleeding, and Rachel was now shivering quite a bit. We have always been very thin, and could get chilled easily.

Rachel expressed her worries through chattering teeth as we began trudging home, our boots feeling extremely sluggish. I began examining the pages of the Comedy, which were soaked so thoroughly that I wouldn’t doubt that there were amoebas and paramecium swimming through each canto. In fact, the pages had swelled to a size greater than the cover.

“It’s okay, everything is fine – it wasn’t that bad. It could have been worse.” I repeated as I subconsiously began squeezing drops of water out of the book. Then something caught my eye: The unmanned canoe was gliding across the pond, carrying with it Rachel’s oar.

“No!” I shouted, “The canoe! We can’t leave it floating out there, you know what Dad will say!”. I went to the edge of the pond and groped for it – in vain, of course, it must have been 3 – 4 feet away from the shore (is it just me or do all people do ridiculous things when they’re desperate?). “If I have to come out here with a flashlight, I will get it.” I resolved as it was fast becoming dusk.

“LORD, please forgive us for being foolish and let the canoe come back to shore…” I prayed out loud, feeling a bit discouraged.

When we reached the porch we immediately removed our boots (you should have seen the water that Rachel dumped out of hers). Mine had soaked up quite a bit of the water (they felt like they were made of lead), and when I removed them there were evident gold letters embossed on the inside that said: “MADE IN ITALY”

That figures. Center of the Renaissance? Ha! The book remained wet for days, but I read it regardless. I think it is still a bit damp (don’t take using a highlighter for granted!). Thankfully, GOD did allow the canoe back to shore, and a hot shower helped us recover. Ultimately, I would say HE allowed a “Reformation” of our wits –

and my view of hanging on the balance!



P. S. – Rex sneaked off with one of my boots, but he eventually “confessed” and Mom took it away from him.


Apr. 14, 2006 – 16?!

Posted by tallenmomof5
I love to hit the “random blog” button and see where the Lord leads me…Today it is to you. Normally I wouldn’t comment on a teenager’s blog, but I am just so impressed at what an articulate, bright young lady you are. Wow! Keep up the good work. I hope my children reflect you in 10 years.

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