My 9-year old granddaughter and I recently took a walk downtown to the library. She and her sister go to the library multiple times per week with their mom, their grandmother, or me. This time we were returning a few books. As we left our house I noticed she was carrying one of those small, plastic magnifying glasses.

“What’s that for?” I asked.

“Just to see stuff up close,” she said. “Lean over, Papa.” She stared through the magnifier into my eyeball. “You got a huge eyeball, mister!” She said and laughed.

It was a bright, sunny day outside. “Do you know what else you can do with that in the sun?” I asked.

“What?” she said.

“I’ll show you when we get to the park.” And we were off.

Once at the park, about halfway between our home and the library, she picked up a maple see pod and began to work with it between her fingers. “Wanna see something cool?” She asked.

“Absolutely,” says I.

She turned away from me and was doing something with her hands on the side of her head. With a big smile on her face, she turned around and exclaimed,


She had split the maple seed and clamped it to her earlobe.

“That is so cool!” I said. “Where’d you learn to do that?”

“My friend at school.”

“I love it!” I said. “Okay, give me your magnifying glass.”

Making Smoke

She handed it over. I placed a dried leaf on the sidewalk and worked the focus of the sun into a bright spot in the middle. “If you keep this bright point focused long enough, you can burn this leaf.”


“Yep. You gotta be careful though. This is literally playing with fire.”

“I will. Can I try?”

“Sure.” I handed her the magnifying glass and she bent over the leaf. It took a while for her to hold the glass steady enough, with a tight enough bead, but eventually a tiny slip of smoke began to rise from the leaf.

“We better get going,” I said. “We have a lot to do today.”

It took an extra long time to get to the library. She insisted we stop several times to try burning multiple leaves. I hadn’t done this since I was about her age. We talked again about the importance of being careful with fire, but I was glad to teach her about the power of the sun and magnifying glasses. Just as she was glad to teach me about a Maple tree’s natural jewelry. It was a good exchange and another wonderful walk… and another reminder (as if I needed one) about how wonderful it is to be a grandfather.