Juneau in August.

bella cran glacierBy what crazy accident of birth am I so blessed?

This is the thought that came to my mind in June, when I was making this trip to the Pacific Northwest for the first time this summer.  As our plane approached Seattle, I could see all the way down into California to Mt. Lassen and Mt. Shasta, on up to Mt. Hood in Oregon, followed by Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier in Washington state.  Five perfectly formed volcanic mountains, n all their snow capped glory, for me to see.  Now, maybe for other people this is commonplace, something they are used to, but as for me, it made me catch my breath and whisper a prayer of thanksgiving.  And ask the question I posed above.

And here I am again, asking that same question.  The Pilot has been making this trip to Seattle and Juneau all summer, and while I was able to accompany him back in June while our children were at camp, this is the first time the kids have been able to come along.  For me, there’s just something about being able to share these experiences with my children.  From the perspective of homeschooling, of course, it is indeed a unique educational opportunity.  We saw salmon spawning in the rivers, bald eagles wheeling and calling out overhead, and saw the flukes of humpback whales as they prepared to dive, all from a boat on one of the channels that leads to Juneau.  We saw seals vying for our attention, swimming and playing near the pod of whales that held us enthralled.  We learned more about the natural world around us in one afternoon than we could in weeks of reading and studying.  But I think the true educational value goes beyond that.  I hope that their hearts were stirred by what we encountered yesterday in a way that will change them forever, make them more connected to why we’re here and what our place in this world is.  I realize that may not happen for them right now, but perhaps it will in the long run.  I know that I am changed by what I saw and experienced yesterday.

I can’t imagine how you could be that close to some of the earth’s most amazing creatures and not have your heart, some part at the very core of you, moved beyond words…

So I’ll back up a little to the basics of how we got to that place.  Here I am again, in Juneau, Alaska, in the summertime, tagging along on one of the Pilot’s trips.  It has a very different feel to it than last time I was here, due in part to the fact that last time there was a Native Heritage celebration going on and the town felt more connected to its native roots, with both the good and bad that come along with that.  This time, the town was quieter, more connected with the intense beauty of the natural world around it instead.  The salmon are running right now, and I saw more than one person carrying a freshly caught, freshly cleaned salmon, wrapped up and cradled like the treasure that it is.  Impossibly green, the mountains around us rose into the crystalline blue skies, which was another of yesterday’s astonishing gifts since most of the time it is cloudy and rainy here.  The cruise ships weren’t docked on a Monday morning, so I had the town to myself, without the usual press of cruise passengers hurrying to shop and dine, as I walked around looking for a place with green tea and Wifi.

We had flown in from Seattle the night before, and after spending a little time in the local saloons (yes, they call them that) and making a late night stop for tater tots (not kidding, and they were delicious), we turned in for the night and woke up early to begin a morning of hiking for everyone but me.  I chose cafe sitting and people watching instead; I love my family, but sometimes I just need my peace and quiet.  But then, early afternoon, we met back up and caught a shuttle to the docks outside the town of Juneau, where we boarded a boat called Big Mike and met our curmudgeonly boat captain.  He then took us, at a brisk clip, out into the channels around Junuea in hopes of seeing whales.  We were assured that we would see some, either humpback or orcas, possibly both.

We were not disappointed.  Whales were everywhere.  I truly had no idea what to expect, thinking that I wouldn’t really be able to experience these enormous yet gentle creatures; they are underwater and I’m, well, not.  But then I saw the telltale spouting above the water of our first whale for the day… my reaction, completely involuntary, brought me out of my seat and caused me to squeal with delight.  All of us onboard (save the captain, who was obviously very jaded to the delights of whale watching) ran outside the boat’s cabin to try to get a better look.  As it turned out, there were about five of the cetaceans, hanging out together because that’s what families and friends do.  They would surface together, and five moisture-filled puffs of air would suffuse the air above the water.  They would spend a little time milling about there, giving all of us time to ooh and ah and snap photographs, and then you would see the “hump” of their backs flex and bend, followed by their tails lifting out of the water as they prepared to dive.  This was followed by several anxious minutes (at least for me) as we waited for them to return, keeping our eyes glued to the spot where we’d last seen them but knowing that they could come up anywhere.  Thankfully, they came up repeatedly, and we were able to watch them for at least an hour.

At one point, they were so close to our boat that I could hear one of them groaning in some sort of communication with his friends.  Wouldn’t you love to know what they were talking about?  Because I know that they were talking.  I just know it.  I’m not one of those arrogant humans who thinks that we have the corner on the market on communication.  No, these guys were enjoying their day, just like we were.  Who knows- maybe they were watching us right back!

But as they moved around us in their quiet choreography, our group became progressively more hushed.  What had inspired leaping and shrieking in me initially gave way to a more meditative state of mind, and I didn’t want to talk or even really to take any more photos.  I just wanted to revel in the feeling of something larger than me, something that would get me out of the crazy swirl that my thoughts can sometimes be and certainly have been lately.  The ocean always does that for me, but this took it to a new level and I sensed my body and mind slowing down, as I felt the ocean and the whales inhaling and exhaling right along with me.

For the first time in a long, long, time, I. Just. Breathed.

The best part?  At one point I glanced at my children seated behind me, and I could see from their faces that they were feeling the same things that I was, even if they didn’t have the words to give those feelings voice.  And that is the most valuable type of education that I could ever give them.

Learning how to be.

Learning how to breathe.




Travel in the name of education.

IMG_3985Travel in the name of education.  What a brilliant idea.

Recently I got the opportunity to do exactly that with my 13 year old daughter.  We took, together, a trip to London and Paris along with a group of high schoolers and a handful of parents from the school that she attends one day a week.  It’s not the way we usually travel; it was way more organized, much more planned out, and consisted of a busy, packed-full schedule that goes against our typical café-sitting, hanging out, people watching style.  But it was an incredible trip in spite of, or perhaps because of, all that.  It’s good to depart from your usual way of operating, I believe.

The trip started out with my daughter and I barely getting on a flight to London, each forced to travel sitting bolt upright in a middle seat between, ahem, larger people on a packed plane, but also each just happy to be on the flight because we know it’s a privilege and blessing to be able to travel the way that we do.  We arrived a few hours earlier than the rest of the group because we needed to take the flight that we were most likely to get on, but that allowed us time to get in the British groove by sitting with a couple of pots of hot tea while we waited.  The wait was a bit nerve-racking, having never met most of the people that we had to find, hoping that we’d recognize at least somebody!  Or our guide!  We’re seasoned travelers, and I had the name and address of our hotel so that if necessary we could find our way, but really I just wanted to be able to drift along with a group with somebody telling me the way to go.  And that- the drifting along with somebody telling me where to be and how to get there, was one of the best parts of this trip we took.  Often, an arrival in Europe means me herding two kids through to the rental car counter and a harrowing drive out of Paris.  This time, I got to follow somebody else to a train station, where they put a ticket into my hand and pointed me in the right direction.  Insert a sigh of relief here…

And then- not a moment to waste-  the learning through experience began in earnest!  The very first night in London, we found ourselves enjoying Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral, followed by dinner in a French bistro near our hotel. Let me say that again:  Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral.  What an experience.  I’ve always loved to visit the churches of Europe, and considered it a treat to accidentally catch a Vespers service or get a glimpse of monastic life (Vezelay and Abbbaye de Senanque are a couple of my favorites).  But it seemed different to have planned to be here, and having front row seats did contribute to my enjoyment.

The next morning, we hit the ground running by attending a Sunday morning church service (did I mention that this tour was run by a group called the Christian Heritage Tours?).  Afterwards, we toured the Tower of London, and then my daughter and I indulged our café sitting, people watching obsession in a nearby square; for the record, London is good for some spectacular people watching.  We also managed to take the obligatory photos of her in front of London Bridge, and after a brief yet torturous visit to Speakers’ Corner, squeezed in a ride on the London Eye…  I’m not sure I got as much out of that as my husband would have, but I couldn’t let the opportunity for fabulous views of the city of London pass me by!

I could keep going on about the sights we saw, but really, that wasn’t what made this trip special.  What was unique about this trip was the people that we were with and the people that we were able to meet.  Well, that and getting the chance to see Phantom of the Opera with my girl, but even that was made more special by whom we were with.  I continue to be impressed by the quality of people I meet through my children’s school, and this group was no exception.  I think that we’ve made some lifelong friends, and that makes me happy.  I’ve been needing more friends in Atlanta; we’ve been here over 6 years now, and the list is not long.  Or at least, it wasn’t long.  That has now changed.  I’ve also got new friends on a global scale, which is something I love to be able to claim.  Our guide to the British museum, for example, is someone I hope to run into again, not just because he was so charming, but because I intend to find a way to get the Pilot on one of these tours.  He’d love it.  And our guide who met us at the airport and accompanied us throughout the week? I know I’ll meet her again!  And I can’t wait!  She is  the sort of person who takes joy from every little thing in life, and what fun it is to be around someone with such a rosy outlook.

A day trip to Cambridge was one of those times where one of the people that we met colored the entire trip.  Our guide for a walking tour of Cambridge was like a living, breathing encyclopedia of the history of the place, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing his perspective on that charming city.  I wish I hadn’t been so chilled that I couldn’t push thoughts of a warm, cozy place to sit out of my mind enough to fully concentrate, but lucky for me, that warm, cozy place to sit materialized in the form of Cambridge’s most popular English pub, where our little group packed into booths for a bite of lunch.  A hot lunch and a few hard ciders later, and our retired teacher turned tour guide became our private lecturer on the history of England.  Does it get any better than that, really?   Not in my book.

Of course,  I haven’t even gotten to our time in France.  I’ll save that for another day.  France is too dear to my heart to lump in with any other place, and writing about things is the way that I am able to savor them once again, to turn the events and moments that stand out over in my mind and examine them.

However, suffice it to say that this educational trip was even more of an education, in so many ways, than I could have anticipated.  I hope that my child got as much out of it as I did, though even as I write that I know that there is no way that she could have, not yet.  She will understand the importance of what she’s done and seen as she gets older- so many things are lost on the young!

For now, the one who is really benefitting, the one who is truly getting a world-class education from all this traveling, is me.


IMG_4005 IMG_4045


IMG_4255As my one faithful reader (thanks, Mom) may have noticed, I’m doing a little revamping of my blog. Polishing it up a bit, changing the format, adding some more pictures- not a lot, but I hope just enough to add a little spice.  That’s kind of what I’m doing in my life as well:  a little rethinking, a little polishing, a little reframing.  It’s summertime, after all, so since we’re taking a break from homeschooling, I have extra time for myself.  Sometimes, it’s necessary to do a little housekeeping in order to keep everything from feeling a little, well, stale.

Or maybe that’s just me.  I admit it:  I get a little bored sometimes.  While most people really don’t like change, I rather thrive on it (Mostly.  Nothing too drastic like a move to Utah.  I draw the line there).  But the fact is that life changes around us whether we like it or not, so we can either embrace it or not.  So it is with everything, even educating my children.  When I set out on the journey of homeschooling my kids, I confess that my ideas about it were much more limited than they are now.  A dear friend told me early on that the worst mistake I could make was to try to make it look like public school, and she was so, so right.  But even knowing that, when public school is all you have ever known, it can be hard not to compare yourself and your progress to the very thing you have left behind.  I’m trying to stop that.  To quit comparing my teaching style or my kids’ learning styles, or even our day to day schedules and routines… and accept that we’re doing pretty well, thank you very much.

But even that’s not the real struggle for me.  The real struggle for me has been more about who I am in all this.  What is a homeschooling mom?  What am I becoming?  Am I giving up part of who I am?  Do I have to wear no makeup and long denim skirts and let my armpit hair grow?  That’s what my friend in California is doing, after all…

When I first took on homeschooling and was telling some of my old friends about my intentions, I was quick to tell them that I was NOT going to be one of those.  Silly, I know.  But looking back I can definitely see that I was afraid I’d have to give up some part of me in order to teach my children.  I feared giving up the part of me that likes getting her nails done and having good hair and makeup.  And yes, even fashion, which I have to confess that I love (though mall shopping or shopping in crowded places is still completely out of the question.  Don’t even ask).  Sadly, though, I have given that person up, to some extent, for the last several years.  So I’m trying to rethink that.

Why does homeschooling so often seem to be about my own education more than that of my children?

I’m also rethinking the title I came up with three years ago for this journal that I’m keeping.  I’m learning, each year more and more, that while I may be able to use the events of my life as a story, it’s certainly not a tidy story line or one that I can predict.  I can’t point to its beginning or to its ending.  For goodness’ sake, I can’t even say where I’m going to be from one week to the next sometimes.  There is no “once upon a time,” “happily ever after,” or “the end” going on in my world.  And I may not be done with my title selecting yet, either.  Delicious ambiguity.  I like it, for now.  It seems to define life, or at least my life, quite well.  I’m not sure what’s going to happen next, or where I’m going to be or even, perhaps, who I’m going to be.

Now, here’s the etymology behind my title change.  Ambi: Latin meaning “around, about, or both.”  Ambiguity:  “the quality of uncertainty in meaning.”  Delicious:  From Latin deliciae, meaning “very pleasing; delightful.”

But in this case, it really just means me trying to delight in and enjoy the fact that I don’t have a clue what life’s going to throw my direction next.  With homeschooling or anything else.

The Accidental Homeschooler Tourist Travelers

I snapped this on our last trip to Paris while out for breakfast with my girl at Laduree tea room.
I snapped this on our last trip to Paris while out for breakfast with my girl at Laduree tea room.

I often feel like so much of my life has happened by accident, by chance.  I talk to many people who’ve planned for everything, while for me, it just hasn’t been like that.  I mean, these people know they are going to homeschool before their children are even born!  Before they’re even MARRIED!  I didn’t even get to LIVE with my husband for a while after I married him (thank you, US military)!  Maybe I’m just feeling a “grass is greener” sort of thing- in other words, I only think that others have things figured out while I feel like I’m wandering through life like Mr. Magoo…   Lucky them if they do- my life sure hasn’t allowed me to get so comfortable, that’s for sure.  We seem to be constantly living by surprise!  As in, surprise!  You are going back to New Mexico with your infant daughter, even though you just moved to the Gulf Coast (thank you again, US military)!

But here’s what I mean.  I never set out to join the military.  I stumbled into it when I wasn’t hired by my first choice in career directions.  Of course,  then I met the Pilot, which was obviously meant to be.  I only have to look at my amazing little family to know that.  Also, I never set out to homeschool.  In fact, I’d say it never actually even crossed my mind until my daughter was in the first grade.  And even then it took a mighty shove to get us to make the leap, which we didn’t even do till 4 years later when my son was struggling.  Okay, yes, I see it.  This was obviously meant to be as well- I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We set out last year, thinking we were meant to relocate to the West, and yet it was so, so wrong for us and here we are now, in a community back in the Atlanta area that we absolutely love.  We couldn’t have planned it better if we’d tried.  And we did try, and yet, it seems that this was meant to be as well, this thing so opposite of what we thought was going to happen.

So here’s the latest example of our living by surprise:  My daughter and I have stumbled into a last minute trip to London and Paris.  How in the world does that happen, you ask?  Well, the school the kids attend one day a week had a trip for the high schoolers planned that had a few cancellations and they needed someone to take the spots who isn’t affected by last-minute airfare (we excel at last minute airfare, thanks to the Pilot).  And so, my girl and I are off this Friday to London for about a week, followed by a few days in Paris.  I still haven’t quite wrapped my brain around this fact.  Of course, since we only decided to go a few days ago, I suppose being in a bit of shock is to be expected.

And do you know what the best part of this particular surprise is?  The things we are going to be visiting and seeing in England all tie in with the history that she and I have been working on this entire past semester.  I wrote last month about how incredibly our trip to Alcatraz had worked out for us, having just read a book about Alcatraz and all.  Well, I think that this one is going to work out even better.  Talk about an educational experience- read history, then go see the history.

I couldn’t have planned this one better if I’d tried, either.

Now, it’s not that we’re not planners, or that we don’t at least attempt to plan.  We do, we genuinely do.  Or at least I do.  I don’t think the Pilot is upset by our wanderings at all.  For me, however, there is a certain level of stress that comes with things being up in the air so often, which leads me to my envy of others whose lives seems so calm and ordered, so well-thought out.  Our jaunt out west, for example, led to a roaring case of shingles for me, on my face, no less.  Obviously the stress of it all does indeed get to me sometimes.

Of course, there’s the chance that I am only imagining that others lives are tidier than mine.  Or perhaps the lesson here is one in trust.  Truly, I couldn’t have planned so many things that have happened to me in my life better than they have worked out.  And for all that disorderly, chaotic, messy, delightful, stressful fun, I am truly grateful.

As Robert Burns put it, the best laid schemes of mice and men do often go awry.  But here’s where I don’t entirely agree with Mr. Burns:  It doesn’t always lead to grief and pain.

Sometimes, it leads to joy.





Alcatraz ArrivalBeing married to an airline pilot has its perks.  In fact, I kind of think that the Pilot has the Best Job Ever, and I should know, since after all he’s spent 17-plus years in the military as well.  Why is it the best job ever, other than the fact that it means he no longer has to spend months on end in places like Afghanistan or Iraq?

Because sometimes he gets trips to terrific places and his family can tag along.

So recently, tag along is exactly what we did, on a trip to San Francisco, California.  We didn’t fly out with him- we went out a little earlier so that we could meet up with family and have dinner with them, which we did, at an Italian cafe in North Beach, not far from our hotel.  (Okay, well, we didn’t actually eat there- we ate Chipotle before we got there.  That’s one of the bummers of being gluten free…  most Italian food is effectively ruled out, but the glass of wine I had was delicious!)  And do you know what the best part of the evening was, besides seeing family?  That we walked everywhere we went.  At night.  And were (mostly) safe because everybody else was out there walking too.  I love Atlanta, you know, but a walking city it is not.

But San Francisco is very much a walking city, and I’d bet you we probably put in about 10 miles in our two days out there.  I could certainly live that way!  And one of the things we did while ambling about the city was to go on a tour of Alcatraz.  Now, touring Alcatraz is not something you do on a whim.  We had to order tickets about a month in advance- apparently, everyone wants to tour the place, making it a very popular tourist destination.  Which typically makes me not want to do something.  But, this is an exception- one of those things you really have to do if you’re visiting San Francisco- kind of like going up the Eiffel Tower if you’re in Paris.  Yes, everybody’s doing it, but that’s because it really is that cool.  And so, into the very long line we shuffled, and onto the boat that takes you out to the island.  In my opinion, anything that gets you out onto the water is worth doing- I love being on the ocean even for short rides in the harbor (I have been known, back when we were spending lots of time up at Whidbey Island courtesy of the US Navy, to ride the ferry boats just for fun).  And this one is a very short ride out to the island that houses the famous prison.  In no time at all, you are stepping out onto where some of history’s most notorious criminals were housed in the early part of the 20th century.  That the ride is short is in itself significant:  these criminals really were being kept very, very close to the city, teeming with normal life, all happening right there almost in front of them.  But they were also worlds away.  You could see how strong and swift the current was, and feel the chill of the cold, cold waters of the Pacific.  They are pretty sure that nobody who tried to escape ever actually made it.

The prison itself is a fascinating place to walk through.  You are given a headset to guide you, and you get to learn about the cells where the different individuals were held, where they ate their meals, and everything about their strictly controlled lives.  You learn about who tried to escape, who was held there, and yes, that does mean Al Capone.  And the best part of the tour for us was the fact that we just read a book together called “Al Capone Does My Shirts” by Gennifer Choldenko.  Things don’t always come together that smoothly for me- it sounds good in theory to read about a place and then go visit it, right?  Actually making it happen, however, is more complicated than that.  But we pulled it off this time, and as we walked around the island, we were imagining Moose and his sister Natalie and where they might have lived and what they felt like, living there on the island with all those convicts, taking the ferry across to the city in order to go to school or whatever else they needed to do.  Having just read their story brought the island to life for us.

And that is what a good story should do.


Spring fever!

IMG_2989Okay, let’s all admit it.  We’re ready to be done for the year so we can go outside and play.  Am I right?  I keep seeing ads for the Georgia barrier islands and they are calling my name!  Or anyplace, really, that doesn’t involve me working (which, for the record, COMPLETELY rules out camping of any sort).  And as luck would have it, next week is spring break.  This seems odd to me- weren’t we just on winter break a few weeks ago?  I guess that was way back in February.  And I am certainly not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

What my children don’t realize, though, is that while they will be getting a break from the structured, once a week program that they attend for math and science, there will still be a lot of learning happening in this homeschooling household.  We have managed to acquire three different museum memberships, you see, and we are going to be full-on museum gluttons next week.

The first membership we bought this year was to the High Museum, which is a terrific for art here in Atlanta.  I have loved going there for years, and knew that I’d eventually get around to purchasing a yearlong membership in our Atlanta museum rotation.  Even getting there becomes an education- in order to avoid paying for parking in the museum’s pricey parking deck, we hop on Atlanta’s public transportation train (yes!  Atlanta does in fact have public transportation!  I know you can’t tell that by all the traffic here, but we do).  It also lets us stay as long as we want without getting antsy about getting stuck on 400 North at 5 pm.  And I just enjoy being at the High.  It’s such an orderly, soothing place, with its clean architectural lines, light colored floors, and white walls.  And of course, there is the art.  The permanent collection is lovely, and there are new exhibits on a regular basis.  There’s even one coming up on cars, which should really appeal to my 10 year old son.  All in all, it’s just a great place to spend the day.  And it makes me, for just a moment, feel like a sophisticated urbanite instead of a suburban homeschooling mom who badly needs her roots touched up…

Our second membership is to the Atlanta History Center.  This is one we have done for several years now- it keeps staying in our rotation because they keep on doing a half price membership drive each spring and I can’t resist the bargain.  And it is truly a bargain, because this place is terrific.  Back when I was working on my Masters’ degree, I used their research library all the time.  Now, we use it for learning about, well, history.  There is a fabulous Civil War exhibit, as well as one on folk crafts of the South and another about the Cherokee who were here first.  And weekend after next, they will be doing their Sheep to Shawl festival.  We can’t wait.

And finally, we have returned to an old favorite for our third membership:  The Fernbank.  We love this place, even though we have a bit of a history with it: When my son was about 4 and we were brand new to Atlanta, we were visiting this museum one day.  It was near closing time, and we were in the museum gift shop buying a Christmas tree ornament when I turned around and my son was gone.  And I mean completely gone.  After 15 minutes of searching the museum- doors all locked down, all guards searching every exhibit, every bathroom all at once, a woman knocked on the mueum’s front door and she was holding his hand.  He’d decided to go on out to the parking lot by himself… even typing those words makes my breath stop at what could have happened…

But it didn’t, and we’ve forgiven the Fernbank and can claim the dubious honor of having shut it down entirely for that 15 minutes.  All that aside, it’s a wonderful place and we love coming here.  It kind of feels like home, really.  Plus, all the security guards still recognize us, a full 6 years later…

So that’s the museum lineup for next week.  Just think of all the learning that is going to be happening, and it will all be disguised as fun!

I feel a little sneaky.

The idea drawer.

Bella, utah
This photo actually has nothing to do with this post, except that it gives me such fabulous ideas… this is my daughter last fall on their hiking trip to Utah. My husband took this- with his iPhone, of all things. So much for my expensive, fancy camera!

I’m slowly working my way through a book titled “Acts of Teaching:  How to Teach Writing”, by Joyce Armstrong Carroll and Edward E. Wilson.  In many ways for me the book is a reinforcement of the way we already do things- process versus product!  Read to learn!  Literature instead of textbooks!  But more than that, and I mean way, WAY more than that is what the book is teaching me.  Naturally, I got the book from my private educational consultant, Ed.D., otherwise known as my mom.  She is, quite simply, the best source of help I could ever possibly want.

But this book, oh, this book.

It’s terrific.  We had already started implementing some of the strategies, such as the daily journaling and just getting your pencil down on the paper and writing. Which I must confess is actually more like 3 days a week journaling because the science and math classes that we take on Mondays and Tuesdays fill those days to the exclusion of anything else.  But anyway, our 3 days a week journaling is quite fun, and has led to a couple of the recent blog entries posted here because when my daughter is allowed to run with whatever she feels like writing about at the moment, I see great things.  My son, however, is having a harder time with it.  His constant complaint:  “I don’t know what to write about!”

As if he doesn’t have anything to write about.

I mean, the kid’s not exactly locked into a white, soundproof room with nothing to do.  No way.  This family does stuff.  We just got back from the Hill Country for our yearly family golf tournament, complete with golf cart crash and ambulance ride to the hospital…  Does this sound boring to you?  Quite frankly, after this weekend I could use a little boring.  I am tired.

But the concept I just came across in “Acts of Teaching” is the idea drawer, which is how one poet that is discussed in the book handles her prewriting.  The idea is that you simply collect up things that move you, or inspire you, or simply remind you of your life and what’s been happening to you in a drawer.  Bits of the stuff of life.  And then you go back to your drawer, and see what becomes something in your brain that you want to write about.  This is, essentially, the prewriting stage.  It’s actually something I’ve done for years, in a way, myself, to inspire paintings.  I take images from magazines or photos and hang onto them until they inspire something that simply must be put onto paper in my own way.

So here’s what I’m thinking for our own idea drawers:  We’re traveling again in a couple of days, to San Francisco this time.  I’m going to require each kid to keep their journals with them, and to jot down things that they see that are interesting or pick up bits of things that interest them, and then when we get home, to deposit these things into their own personal idea drawer (I’ve already got the perfect place).  We’ll let those things stew if necessary.  Then we’ll see what we come up with as we take our ideas (prewriting) and try to organize them on paper (writing).

Wish me luck- I’ve got a seriously reluctant writer on my hands in my ten year old son.  But I think this next stage of our adventures in writing is going to be fun.

More on Autun.

I knew I’d be going back again soon.

While doing a little research on the cathedral that is there, I learned of several more interesting things there in the city- namely, ruins left behind by the ancient Romans.  I had to go see it immediately- I can’t resist a good Roman ruin, and what a fabulous educational opportunity!  Plus, the weather was absolutely beautiful.  A few days earlier, the temperature had barely hovered above zero.  On this day, however, it was a balmy 12 degrees Celsius- we had to remove our coats as we hiked towards the ruins. The Temple of Janus is the first thing that you encounter.  It’s quite spectacular, and rather mind-boggling that this was built in around 15 BC, according to what I read.  I can’t really wrap my mind around that, not really.  From this spot you also have a beautiful view of the city of Autun, and as a wonderful contrast, you can see the brand-new Cathedral Saint Lazare.  Or at least it’s new by comparison.  It’s only from the 12th century or so…

The beautiful town of Autun in November.

Look closely- you can just see the cathedral’s spire through the window of the Roman temple.

There’s a very nice little walk from the temple that leads you along a river to the second Roman ruin that we visited, the Porte D’Arroux.  Also from about 15 BC, it’s simply a part of people’s every day lives here.  As you can see from the photos, a road passes through the middle of the ancient gate, and houses are built right up next to it.  I find this amazing, especially as someone who has studied Historic Preservation in the US.  Adaptive reuse?  But of course.  Why wouldn’t you reuse that perfectly good old stone structure?  The house we are living in, for example, was an old barn that has been turned into a house; perhaps when you build something with walls that are 3 feet thick and made of solid stone, it is actually more trouble to tear it down than to just reuse it.  In  any case, I do wish we in the US could  lose a little of our disposable construction mentality, but I will save that lecture for another day. For now, let’s just enjoy some lovely pictures of a lovely, off the beaten path place in France.

Another view of the city of Autun, with cathedral and the obligatory Charolais cows of Burgundy.
View of Porte d”Arroux from the river.
Porte D’Arroux. An ancient gate as part of everyday life. J’adore la France!
Walking back from the Porte, near sunset.
And I leave you with this one…