“Is anyone else missing today,” said Eric as if there was a zombie apocalypse going on. Sydney will be gone the entire week because she is going to a boat show at Gull Lake, Minnesota.
“Hey, did everyone read the email?” asked Tal. Everyone said yes in a monotone.
“Here’s the way to read the notes,” said Tal. You look through and find your own name. If you don’t find yourself in there, you’re probably going to be bored.
“These notes were definitely funny,” said Rose, commenting on Owen’s notes. I saw Catherine’s foot next to me, her blue and chartreuse sneaker playing with my pleated black chiffon skirt.
“There are two way to learn to write,” Tal said, “one is to do it, one way is to read other people’s.” Tal tells the people who ask about the school to just read the notes we write and they will understand everything.
“After the soccer game on Friday I had a lot of fun with Hannah and Rosemary, just talking about little things. Having a seventh grader as a friend didn’t seem possible, because our ninth graders weren’t that friendly with us,” said Marina.
“Probably anything was more pleasant than what was happening on the field,” Tal said, smiling. We had lost 14-0.
“It was my grandmother’s chihuahuas’ birthday, so her grandmother gave them ice cream. My grandmother always tries to give me stuff, and this time it was clothes. She is dealing with death, and passing parts of herself on so she’s not truly dying,” said Leeya. “She gave me a coat and other things that are part of history.”
“That would make a good place description,” said Tal.
“It wasn’t as specific moment, though,” said Leeya.
“Okay, forget about it,” said Tal. “Actually, forget I even exist.”
We were getting our piranha back that afternoon from Kelsey’s mom.
“We need to figure out what to do with our piranha,” said Tal.
“The piranha lived in the science room because no one wanted it anymore. The science faculty got together and said they didn’t like it,” said Eric. Something else came up, and then I heard -
“Donna does not want a piranha,” coming from both Tal and Eric.
“It was determined by the students that we had to have a piranha at this school,” said Eric. Now are trying to decide what to do with ours.
“Okay, I’ll put it in my office instead of that computer that is ten years old and doesn’t work,” said Tal. Catherine’s foot was tapping impatiently behind me. She was reading the poem that day, so she was already nervous.
“I was in the car in Pennsylvania, and Yana told me, ‘I was responsible for feeding the piranha, and that’s why it ate it’s friend,’” said Leeya. The dead piranha was named Jesus.
“We’re wobbling all over the place,” said Tal. “Write a response to Eden’s speech.” WE all wrote about the last speech we had heard on Friday afternoon.
“When you were actually being yourself, when you were crying, that’s when I loved you the most. She wasn’t trying to get us to like her,” said Merry.
“You’re fitting in by talking in carpool about how you’re confused, you’re fitting in most when you’re not saying you love North Branch more than anything else because that wouldn’t be true,” said Maxine.
“I can’t imagine how hard it would be to be a ninth grader who is supposed to know everything but being new,” said Wren.
“You get along with everyone, even the younger kids. You have a calming presence and your speech was amazing,” said Maxine.
Poem - read by Catherine
Caged Bird, by Maya Angelou
The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.
But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill for the caged bird
sings of freedom
The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.
But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
At break, I played badminton with Sam, Merry, Henry, Griffin, Jack, and Will. We played sevies versus eighties. Unfortunately, according to Sam, we cannot use overhand serves, which I passionately refer to as the death smash.
At lunch, the sevie boys and I created a new sport - we call it Anything-Goes Badminton, although it could also be interpreted as Extreme Crazy Smash Apocalypse Badminton. We had two birdies and going on the other side of the net was a regular occurrence. More than half the school tried this. It was at first a theoretical idea... but it went farther than that.
After lunch we had two speeches, both by girls in my class. Merry’s was about finding a utopia, then thinking it childish, but finally figuring out it really is important. The second, by Kelsey, was about finding happiness and being positive.
At the end of the day Tal asked if anyone had any insights. “I actually managed to do homework at lunch today, and I’ve never done that before” said Wren.
“So, what are you going to do with the extra free time?” asked Tal.
“I’m handing out fliers for a quaker meeting about the international day of peace,” said Wren.
“On the weekend I went to the Shoreham apple fest. I went with Amalia and her friend and there was a ton of pies. There’s also a kiss the pig contest and the most hated person has to kiss a pig,” said Marina.
“Yesterday I had play rehearsal, and all the way home with my brother I was singing for a play at Mount Abe,” said Aidan.
Then Tal went in a long lesson. “You were born to express something, to not be boring,” said Tal. “Don’t minimize what you’re saying, you’re not a wallflower.”
After that Wren talked about spending time with her da d.“…and then my dad started to teach me cribbage, and it was fun because I hadn’t gotten to spend some quality time with my dad in a while,” said Wren.
“When I was in the car with Yana on the way to Pennsylvania, I figured out what goobers meant,” said Leeya. “It’s from a slave culture in a textbook Yana is reading.” She put a pack of peanuts (goobers) on the table. The language is Gullah.
“Wyatt came up with the idea of closing our eyes in carpool,” said Althea. “It’s almost like we see a different world.”
Merry wasn’t there, so Leeya read a quote from a book Tal gave her from the NBS bookshelves. It was called “The Wisdom of Meerkats.”
IN Lit We read scenes about the first time in the morning we said good morning and when we read our lit.
It was a Thursday afternoon. I tilted my chair back and stretched my arms. I didn’t have any other homework, so I decided to read my lit. I read the first two pages of chapter two, and I didn’t want to read any further. This boy is so dang violent! I can’t believe I thought my sixth grade reading material was violent - this took it to a whole new level. I knew that there was a point to it though, and there must be some reason why a ten year old boy was violently disemboweling a bird and not caring about the life that was so important to it, so I kept reading.
At lunch, I once again joined half the school in a battle between my and Griffin’s badminton teams. We didn’t keep score, and there was a lot of smashing and unfair calls. It was still fun, though.
Note to self - never tell Tal you’re bored unless you’re prepared to do a lot of extra work! As a result I spent most of study in Tal’s office typing up some facts that everyone in the school said they learned this year.
Here is a partial list:
Thoreau had two chairs in his cabin
The Earth is not a perfect sphere
Chartres took 55 years to build, and was begun in 1194.
People sold LSD for a dollar at Woodstock
Ellis Island was used for private hangings before it was an immigration center
The Pythagorean Theorem = a2 + b2 = c2
Fruitland was a Utopian community where they only ate fruit.
“Gabilan” means hawk in Spanish
Americans spend 7.5 hours a day looking at a screen
No one knows for sure what’s in the Earth’s middle core
Shakers dance in two lines
Zenith is the highest point above your head
The Black Panther Party had a document called the “ten point program”
Henry David Thoreau didn’t know much about carpentry
A guy and his turtle went over Niagara Falls, and only the turtle lived
15 people went over Niagara Falls (5 died)
What utopia meant
The red pony in The Red Pony dies
You have to use an ax carefully, and make sure your fingers are out of the way before you swing
How to saw a board
“Thalweg” means the deepest part of a stream
The dimensions of Thoreau’s cabin
You only have 650,000 hours to live
John Steinbeck was born in 1902
Utopia and eutopia mean different things
No circle is actually a circle
Everything is infinitely long
Gary Paulson went over Niagara Falls in a barrel
It only took 23 days to build Walden Cabin
The Earth’s surface is 71% water
There will be crocuses growing around the Buddha
How to sharpen a knife
We are going to plant hostas behind the buddha
Thoreau’s cabin was 15 feet long and 10 feet wide.
Chartres was saved by one man who is known and another man who was not.
A fractal is a pattern growing infinitely
Knee braces should be cut at a 45 degree angle
There is a word for murdering your teacher: magistricide
There are 7000 feathers on an eagle (about)
The continental crust is thicker than the oceanic crust
September 28 is the end of the world! Look forward to it! (Blood moon!)
“Good morning,” Rose whispered, as she got a chair for morning meeting.
“I’m going to read it anyway,” said Catherine peering over my shoulder, when I she saw I was a little annoyed by it.
“There’s so much stuff out there, we don’t know what to clean,” said Eric, referring to the patio.
“Here’s the deal: Eric told me that Donna told him that Donna said she was going to do all the dishes,” said Tal. “I heard the ninth graders think this is unacceptable.”
“We’re not all princesses, we can eat out of tupperware. We’ve tried this, every time Donna washes them. We should just get rid of them” said Leeya.
“Let’s start by thinning out the dishes and seeing what happens from there,” said Angus.
“No peeking,” I wrote on the screen and showed it to Angus, since he was trying to read what i was writing. He made a weird face at me.
Catherine, looking bored at all this talk of dishes, started pawing at my keyboard.
We finally finished talking about dishes...
“So yesterday I was walking down to the bus, and Althea’s mom was at the bus stop, and I got to know a lot about her, and it was nice not to ride the bus with a lot of sketchy people,” said Griffin.
“Do you want to talk? I talked yesterday!” these whispers filled the room.
Angus and Owen were grinning from opposite sides of the room, sharing some inside joke.
“So what solution did y’all come up with about the dishes” said Tal, hitting a paint brush repetitively against his mouth. He had left the room to talk to Mia.
“We’re going to thin them out,” said someone.
“I don’t think we should keep talking about this,” said Marina.
Enough… with… talk… of… the… dishes… finally…
Rose then said something about Catherine, but will take pity on her and not put it in the notes. (because I’ve already talked about her a lot, and I’m a merciful person)
“Last night I was lying in bed and thinking about how I actually am surrounded every day by a lot of people I like and I feel like there’s not enough time in the day, and it’s kind of awesome that I have people I like that much,” said Leeya.
“This week we played a cover of Let Her Go by Passenger, and the music group is a lot better than last week,” said Marina.
“On a completely unrelated note, my best friend Journey is really interested in this school and she asked to see my speech before I offered,” said Wren. She felt that she no longer had friends in two different worlds, but that Journey was a part of NBS.
Merry read the poem - it was Invitation by Shel Silverstein
Study: Dishes, dishes, and more… dishes… and... we threw a lot of them away.
Griffin leaned over to Catherine’s computer a lot and started typing weird stuff.
Merry, Kelsey, and Marina painted their cubbies and made shelves.
Leeya and Marina stored old dishes.
Kelsey and I dumped some knives, spoons, and a melon baller in the science room.
Science involved a lot of thorn bushes, a hike in the woods. It was a little fun, but very painful. Eric also read some of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
In All Tal we made wooden sculptures based on some made by Picasso. We are going to paint them black and then spray paint it to make it look like iron. Of course, they won’t really look like iron because the back of the sculpture will look like heck (that’s basically what Tal said)—but it will still be cool.
“Last night I went out to dinner with my family and my grandmother said she would give up chemo and just enjoy her life. It makes me sad that she’s quitting but it’s a relief to see that she’s happy,” said Leeya.
“She’s choosing to live for the time she has,” said Tal.
“I was walking past the office yesterday and Mia picked up the phone and the person said 'Good morning' and Mia said 'What a beautiful morning it is,'” said Merry. This was in reference to what Tal had talked about in lit, where we say good morning without being aware of what we are saying or deciding it is good.
“Two days ago I was at carpool and Angus invited me to go duck hunting with him and I've never gone duck hunting with him before and I'm very happy I'm going to get to do that with him,” said Griffin.
“Right now both my parents are sick, my dad's been sick for a while and this morning my mom got sick and I'm a on and off sick, and I've been doing a bit more by myself,” said Wren. “I've started being more self reliant and I've started setting an alarm and painting my own nails.”
“The bus driver said that she wished there was a school like this for grown ups,” said Tal. “Sometimes I talk to the bus driver to make sure you guys aren't being bad.”
“When you ride the ACTR bus you actually think more about the bus driver having a life outside of riding the bus.”
“It made me think about what Tal said about not having to just share our knowledge with people inside the school,” said Marina.
“She is listening to what you guys are saying,” said Tal.
“As Griffin said,” said Angus, “It’s youth weekend for duck hunting and I’m so excited to finally get back out there and I’m really looking forward to hunting with Griffin and Juliette’s little brother, and I guess this time of year is when I always get the happiest and I like being the first ones up in the morning and going out into the natural world.”
“I used to get wild turkeys on my playground in Hawaii,” I said.
“The rednecks call turkeys thunderchickens,” said Angus.
“I like that,” said Tal. Then tal Asked angus could he catch a chicken with his bare hands.
“No, they’re really fast,” said Angus.
“What if I climbed up in a tree and just fell down on them and wrestled them with a full nelson?” Tal asked.
“Yesterday was Yom Kippur and that’s when you fast from Tuesday night to Wednesday night and it’s the first time I’ve actually fasted. We were in temple a lot and there was a lot of singing and reading from the Torah. It’s my family’s tradition to after sundown break the fast with pizza,” said Lena.
“This time you did fast, because you’re growing up,” said Tal. “This is the time when you start to become adults and not children.”
At the end of meeting, Donna came in and said the building looked beautifully clean.
Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll is the poem that Eden read.
Tal started out lit class talking about our writing. “First drafts of your writing never appear done in a sacred manner,” said Tal. “You need to see your work completely new. That’s call re revision. We spent lit class talking about how we couldn’t, well, half-ass our work, and how we needed to try a second time before we can be happy and proud of it.
Lunch was taken up once again by a hearty game of badminton.
In study Tal read part of an email Sydney wrote. She said that she went in all five Great Lakes, like William. It was all in all an uneventful study, at least for me. Some people were spray painting Picasso sculptures, others write place descriptions. I was drowned in math.
After study was All Tal, the first All Tal we’ve had on a Thursday this year because the teachers keep changing the schedule. After that we had a very rowdy clean up (we were supposed to be trying to impress our parents with a nice, clean building, but we have yet to see if it will work). Some were playing badminton, some getting ready for clay, some scaring people (or trying to) by turning the lights of in the basement (they failed completely) and about 5 were actually cleaning the building.
In math, we did math, and ate Wyatt’s cherry candy.
In science, we nailed some bent nails, cut some cardboard shingles, and talked about pencil stealing gremlins. We fit the actual science into 4 minutes at the end. Someone also brought up weekly notes and I remembered I was supposed to be writing them.
In meeting Tal started by asking someone if they wanted to do their project on utopian architecture and Bucky Fuller. “Bucky Fuller is the coolest.”
“Last weekend it was really beautiful out and I went on a walk with my mom and I went on a walk with my mom and my dog and I was really happy I was alive,” said Maxine.
“Last night I was starting the new feeding routine because Kermit’s too skinny and Truffle’s too fat,” said Leeya. She was talking about her horse and miniature donkey. “The pond was all misty and it was floating all over our land. I decided I was going to stay up late to do my homework and I played with Truffle and picked a bouquet of sunflowers,” said Leeya.
“Last night we had a babysitter at my house and my sister and my brother and my father went to bed and I was all alone. I was thinking about how my family is so much alike, and we’re all so connected,” said Griffin.
“This morning I made breakfast for my sister and I, and that’s what she did when she was in ninth grade,” said Althea.
The conversation slipped into soccer for awhile, where I couldn’t really follow.
“I was at drum lesson and my teacher and I started talking about college and he said I could make it to all states this year and it’s freaking me out that my parents asked me to research colleges,” said Angus.
“Don’t get freaked out and govern your life with fear of the future,” Tal said. “Govern it with excitement for this now,” said Tal, probably trying to sound like some profound famous poet. (good quote Tal! that is, if it’s yours)
Poem read by Althea: "Auction" by Rumi.
During lunch, we had wiffleball. It was a full on war, split into two games - Drop City vs. Victory City, and New Harmony vs. something-I-can’t-pronounce-much-less-spell (it began with an A, I know that much)—“Arco Santi.”
We had three great speeches in All Tal. And then (Tal ended the day making us close our eyes and he said, “Go home and relax. Then plan how you are going to use the weekend. Make sure you make time to do your work. Make time to take care of your chores and your room and do it cheerfully and with gratitude. Spend time with your family and do something educational, new or creative. Exercise and be outside—and you will come to school next week feeling great. If you live your life like this, you will have a happy life. The secrets to a happy life are right her before you. Don’t be meek. Seek freedom. Live with your doors open. Let people in and don’t be afraid to come out. If you do this, you will be among the most enlightened people in the world and you will know what is right and good and true.”
Then we went to Soccer!... our team is pathetic and we need the practice