Learning Outside the Classroom
At our Northern California Writers’ Club meeting yesterday, a woman thanked me for getting her started on her book. “You told me to stop taking writing courses and to just write, so I am,” she said. That got me to thinking about some of my best teachers. They were not from classrooms.
I taught in Jackson, Michigan during my fourth year of teaching. I lived with my pen pal Kay and her family for a year. During the summer, I helped Kay can and freeze vegetables and fruits. We filled the basement shelves with jars of tomatoes, beans, corn, rhubarb, peaches and pickles I watched them disappear throughout the year. I took that back to Hawaii with me and canned fresh bamboo shoots from my mother’s bamboo grove, and ohelo berry jam from berries picked from the National Volcano Park. Today I proudly line the basement shelves with canned pickles and jams and tomatoes from our garden here in Sacramento and I feel like the original pioneer woman. I wish I could make my own bacon by hanging strips of wild boar where the wolves can’t get them.
Growing up country with a pair of chopsticks as flatware, I learned all the social graces of dining right when I worked as a live-in maid during my college years. That was the best education I had without attending finishing school. Today, I know where the soup spoon goes…
A first generation 86 year old Japanese immigrant gave me the lst thought of a person’s right to his or her body.
Uyeki-san taught me how to play the Japanese board game “Go.” He was known to be the best Go player in the village but I devised a way to always beat him. He’d say “Goddam, she beat me again.” I never gave him my secret. Nice girl disappears during any competitive game. During one of these games, he told me of his knee surgery and how he refused painkillers. “Me body, Me boss,” he told the nurses and simply refused to open his mouth.
I wonder who’s going to be my teacher tomorrow.