Two months ago, I was watching Youtube videos of rocket launches as research for a short story. My kids, fascinated by the giant column of fire and smoke, joined me. We chatted about rockets — what they are, what they’re used for, and where they go.
Today, the kiddos are still using blankets and bits of toys to build rocket ships, which they then ride to the moon. It’s all highly imaginative. But before they could imagine rockets, they needed that spark of information, that image of a column of fire blasting a cylinder of metal skyward.
Watching them reminds me of something J.R.R. Tolkien wrote about The Lord of the Rings:
“One writes such a story not out of the leaves of trees still to be observed, nor by means of botany and soil-science; but it grows like a seed in the dark out of the leaf-mould of mind: out of all that has been seen or thought or read, that has long ago been forgotten, descending into the deeps. No doubt there is much selection, as with a gardener: what one throws on one’s personal compost-heap; and my mould is evidently made largely of linguistic matter.”*
My children’s cobbled together rocket has been a marvelous reminder that simple every day adventure — like watching a Youtube clip — can grow into a journey of epic proportions.
*Carpenter, Humphrey. J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000. p. 131.