Monday, March 24, 2008

the artist's new skill set

I don't know what other people did on Easter, but I spent a good chunk of the afternoon teaching Evangeline how to burn down the driveway.

The actual intent was to teach her a little applied optics, and show her how to use a magnifying glass to focus the sun's rays and do a little wood-burning. We have a cord or more of uncut firewood lying in the driveway from a tree we had cut down last fall, and I figured this would be a fun way to mix science and art.

That was my intent, but intent and practice so rarely meet that I suppose I should have known better.

What happened was this: I showed her a magnifying glass works by focusing the sun's light into a point so focused that it provides enough energy to burn wood. I burnt my initials into a large log, and then let her have a go.

What happened next is my own fault. Being the sort of father I am, once I saw that Evangeline had the idea, I started doing little things to aggravate her, like putting a stray crayon into her makeshift laser and making it melt. "Da-ad!" she moaned. (I've not quite stopped being "daddy" where she's concerned, but I'm afraid it's happening.)

Once she finished her first initial, I got the glass back so I could over my initials again and make them more solid. And she got back at me. Almost immediately, she slid a dry leaf into the beam and then gave a small cry of surprise as the leaf burst into flames.

Duly impressed with the power of a magnifying glass, Evangeline and I both avoided doing anything else of the sort the rest of the afternoon. She finished her initials, saw the other applications of starting a campfire without matches and of burning actual art into wood, and went back inside with me, appreciating that the firestarting power of a magnifying glass is like that of matches: Use neither without an adult's supervision, and don't play with them.

But I'm wondering about the other lessons I've been teaching her. First it was burglary. Now it's arson.

I'm afraid to find out what's next.

Copyright © 2008 by David Learn. Used with permission.

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