Wednesday, October 14, 2009


A Visit to All Saint's Day School

I'm finally in Carmel after an epic trip from Seattle (more on that later), which involved a canceled flight and a drive through a torrential rainstorm that pretty much halted all air traffic between San Francisco and Monterey. This morning, I woke up to quiet-the rain had passed, though our garden is littered with twigs and leaves. Many of our neighbors have lost power, and PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) has been laboring to get the county powered up again. Our beloved sushi restaurant has lost its fish; libraries have closed due to a lack of power.

Storm be damned-I wanted to make sure I got to the Peninsula on time, because I'd been invited by Becky Rheim to visit All Saint's Day School, which I attended. Becky and I were classmates, and she now teaches Language Arts to 7th and 8th graders.

I struggled in school--with shyness mostly--but realize now just how much I gained from my early education. We were all taught to appreciate language, and how to take notes and write papers. The early training stuck, and I was able to go to college and really learn and think--my study skills had been embedded early. I was and am grateful for this. So it was fun to go back to school and to see how it has and has not changed.

The day began with chapel, and a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance (which I still remember) and the Lord's Prayer (which I also still remember). The triptych for the chapel altar was painted while I was a student there; our class banner hangs from the ceiling. I was incredibly moved when the chaplain read a "prayer for writers." I had no idea that such a thing existed, and it made me happy to know that someone had taken the time to think about our contribution, our challenges and our struggles. I was tremendously grateful for this gesture. There are times when all writers wonder if what they do matters-the prayer was a nice reinforcement.

The kids were all so smart and alert. They came prepared with questions, and I tried to answer them as best I could. One question was tricky--someone wanted to know the meaning of the title of the book. I didn't think it was really appropriate to discuss cremation in front of a group of children, so I tried to talk about campfires, or beach fires, and how, after all the wood, the paper plates, the trash and junk have burned away, you can find what is most important left behind in the coals. And then I said something about how finding what is most important in life is always critical, if difficult--understanding who is a true friend, or how, in an afternoon of distraction, homework must take priority. All of this is true, and they seemed to understand and that made me happy.

After chapel, I visited two classes and talked a little bit about the art work on my book and how that related to Kaguyahime, the fairy tale about the Moon Princess. And then I read a version of the story out loud, and we discussed it together. That was fun. It did all make me think that teachers really do have the very best job.

So, a big thank you to everyone at All Saints, and especially Becky, for making my morning so rich and fun and fulfilling. It is nice to be home.

(And for those of you keeping track--yes I do look increasingly pregnant. On the other hand, this is what is supposed to happen).

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