March 13, 2017

First Day School
we learn about the sound
porcupines make

Today's little haiku has a lot of background!

About "First Day School":
Quakers were at one time known for their adherence to a testimony involving plainness of speech. This kind of speech, which included omitting honorific addresses in favor of forms of address that stressed the equality of all persons, was part of Quakers' witness of the importance of simplicity. Similarly, Quakers in those earlier times would sometimes refer to the days of the week in plain speech, which led to Sundays being called "first day," Mondays "second day," etc. etc. Most of these customs have faded out as Quakers are no longer quite as intent on separating themselves through speech choices in order to accentuate their differences. There are still some echoes of those early customs in our present-day experiences, though. Religious education classes for members and attenders of a Quaker meeting are sometimes still termed "First Day School" (rather than Sunday School); indeed, this is the case at Princeton Monthly Meeting, which is my home meeting and the site of today's haiku.

About the sound a porcupine makes:
When I was growing up, there was a day when my mother looked out the living room window and saw that there was a cat stuck up near the top of our crabapple tree. Except that when she sent my father out to investigate, he discovered that it was a porcupine! We called the local animal rescue crew, who said that the porcupine had probably wandered down from the undeveloped woods at the top of our neighborhood. They brought protective gloves and carefully took the porcupine down out of the tree. Of course my sister and I stood as close as they would let us, which meant that we got to hear the porcupine as they wrapped it up in a blanket before returning it to the forest. The best description I've come up with is that the porcupine sounded like a tiny little old man who had assigned himself the task of counting to 100, but who had forgotten what comes after 99. So, something like... "ninety-nine...   ninety-nine?.... ninety-nine..."

In First Day School at Princeton Friends Meeting this week we were singing a song that had animal sounds in it, so I got to tell the kids this story.

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