Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Teaching Ms. 29 books!

Ah Minnesota. I was launching into some teacherly nonsense when I was interrupted by the warbling call of loons. Loons! You can't compete with that. Nor with coffee.

I'm on the campus of St. John's. More particularly, I'm at the Ecumenical Institute, and I just finished a week of minster wrangling. In the mornings, the ministers talked with Eugene Peterson (of the Message Bible, among other books) about balancing pastoring and the writing life, and in the afternoons, I led out in a writing workshop. On the first day of class, each pastor gave an introduction--which roughly translated into this: Have you written more books than the teacher? The answer: Why yes I have! One lady had written 29 books. Another gentleman had written 4. Still another had written 8 or 9. "How did you get this gig?" they kept asking me during breaks.

It was an interesting gig. Not only did the 12 students attend, but so did my boss Don, so did Eugene Peterson, and so did Dave the moderator. I got to be Miss Bossy Pants and enforce a cone of silence around the person being workshopped. It went something like this: "Remember Silvia, hold your comments till the end." "Ah, hate to interrupt you again Silvia, but it's hard to listen when you're talking." "Silvia, great question, but why don't we dialogue after the workshop?" At first, I was terrified to have so many non-students just lurking around the table, judging all the weirdness that comes out of my mouth, but Don and Dave were great, and I began to prey on poor Eugene. He is a lovely person. He's like a thin, incredibly quiet version of Santa Claus. Each time the students gave me a I'm-not-buying-that-particular-brand-of-crazy look, I would say, "Eugene, What do you think?" And he would agree with me, each and every time!

At the end of the week, Ms. 29 books said this: "I know this is probably a stereotype, but usually it's a disaster when a young person attempts to teach her elders. But it turned out better than I expected."

Don kindly let me stay in an apartment for a week after I taught. It is beautiful here. I can see the lake from my desk and this afternoon, I walked down to a pottery studio and talked with the master potter over tea. He said that you can't properly throw a bowl until you're 50. Before then, you just practice.

There is no one else staying at the apartments this week. At 5 pm, everyone at the institute packs up and drives home. Since this is Minnesota, nothing is locked--except my apartment, I lock it good at night, which is ridiculous and redundant. The main hall is kept unlocked and all the apartment keys are hanging on the wall inside. Last night, around 1am, I heard footprints right under my window. I looked out and saw nothing. Then, I again heard a very distinct crunch of gravel, pause, crunch of gravel, pause. My cell phone doesn't work here and Silvia clearly has a reason to come back and do me in. I again peeked out the blinds, and there, just below my window was a deer walking, pausing, walking, pausing.