Wow! We’ve had more snow in Portland than (I think I heard correctly on the news last night) we’ve had in 21 years. My sister Cathy came over and we tromped through it together. Just like old times! (She’s the one sitting in front of the snowman and I’m behind it–in the year we lived in Boise, Idaho and not Ethiopia.)
I’ve been fretting about the native plants in my yard. If Portland doesn’t get this kind of weather…and now it does…what happens to plants that are adapted to a usual Oregon climate and temperatures? OTOH it’s been a dry year. Adding the moisture to the ground has to be good for the birds and bees and butterflies and plants. Right? This is the spot where the bulbs I planted last fall were starting to send their green growth charging up through the soil…and I can’t wait to see what those shoots look like when the snow melts.
Last night, I caught the tail end of an Olympic interview where someone said that she’d traveled so relentlessly for so many years that now she’s obsessive about nesting. Maybe that’s the deal with my yard, too. Not since I was a kid in Ethiopia have I felt so intensely connected to the…um…soil.
Tomorrow, though, if the ice doesn’t block me, I’ll be traveling again. I’m going to Memphis for three days of author visits and talking about Ethiopia Reads (www.ethiopiareads.org) to several groups of teachers. This is what Ethiopia looks like in January and February–through the eyes of artist Stephanie Schlatter who was just there. It’s where we all should long to be as the ice trickles down!
I used to do author visits almost every week. It seemed as if every school in the United States wanted to have an author come to talk about books, about where to gather ideas and details, about the writing process. I remember a high school teacher who said to me, “Around here we’d never hire someone to teach basketball who had never played basketball, but we have people teaching writing who don’t spend much of their free time writing.” And it’s true that while I can’t explain exactly how the blizzards I lived through in ND one snow-filled year became my picture book River Friendly River Wild, I can use it to show a lot about how a writers’ mind goes searching here and there for vivid details and the right words to evoke an experience. I can model what it’s like to be passionate about reading and writing.
These days, schools often think themselves too busy or too broke to have an author come. Too busy to show young readers and writers what’s the same and what’s different about the way they approach writing from the way a devoted and fanatically interested writer approaches writing. Too busy to have kids fall in love.I dream of a day when politicians listen to teachers about the things that make a young brain spark…about how complicated teaching and learning really are. I dream of a day when more young readers and writers get to see their teachers and principals awed and thrilled by having an author in the school. The pendulum has to swing again sometime. Doesn’t it?
In the meantime, I’ll savor this opportunity to talk about Anna Was Here and Ethiopia and reading and writing and to meet the kids who care so passionately about books.