A spiritual experience in Amasa Stone Chapel - part 1

The first thing I did after dropping my daughter off at preschool on Friday morning was to drive to Borders to pick up copies of the books by Anne Lamott, which I hoped to have her sign after her keynote appearance at the end of Case's Humanities Week. All day I was giddy with anticipation.

I walked over to the chapel just before 3:30, and as a Case community member I was allowed to enter. I was chagrined to discover that they had books for sale in the vestibule, and had worked with Joseph-Beth to arrange these sales. I knew that I was going to need to do penance for spending money on Anne's books at a "non-independent" bookstore... and sure enough, during her conversation with Tim Beal, Anne reminded us more than once to go look someone up at Amazon, but buy our books from an independent bookstore. In penance, I'm posting a link to this about.com listing of independent bookstores in Cleveland, which includes my favorites, Appletree books and Mac's Backs. I promise to buy all the books that Anne recommended during her visit, and to buy them from one of these stores.

(click through to read more)

When I arrived, there were already about 20 people from the greater Cleveland community waiting outside in the drizzle, cheerfully, and I should have felt a twinge of guilt as I whisked past them into the vestibule -- but I didn't. I felt virtuous, because I had arrived early and would get a good seat! I settled myself into the third row on the right, just below the pulpit, leaning against the great column that ends the row. I searched through my purse for my iPod's recording attachment -- the iTalk -- and was saddened to realize that it was not anywhere in the purse. Alas, I could not record Anne's comments and conversation with Tim and the other attendees verbatim. I vowed again that I would fix this event in my memory, with out the aid of any electronic devices.

I took out my knitting to calm my jitters. Three times already this week, I have made strange outbursts in public, and I knew I would need something to help me rein myself in if I was going to conduct myself with the proper decorum while in the presence of this great writer, this terrifyingly honest soul, this lovely, lovely woman.

I kept making eye contact with the other early arrivals, and struck up conversations with several. Someone admired my knitting bag, and I offered to send her an email with the source of the pattern. I met a delightful sophomore who is an ESYS or EECS major, and who is currently enrolled in Tim Beal's class with Ed Hundert -- her name is Kristin, and she attended Beaumont, the Catholic girls' high school in Cleveland Heights.

The outside attendees were welcomed into the vestibule at 4 pm, and there was a second surge of people coming up to the front pews, asking if they could sit next to us. There was plenty of room up front, and Kristin kept standing up, hoping to spot a friend for whom she was saving a seat. In between, we talked about what I was knitting (unspun silk, dyed in shades of blue, green, pink and purple) and about her experience of Case so far.

I knit for almost an hour, as the pews behind us filled, and periodically some other die-hard fan would walk right up to the front and take a seat in one of the two unreserved rows in front of me, or would scoot into my row. Suddenly, there was a bustle of hosts and hostesses, the last of the VIPs arrived in the very front row, and applause started -- I dropped my knitting to applaud as Tim and Anne came out on stage.

I'll write up part 2 tomorrow, I promise -- but I have students who need feedback on papers and a dinner party to prepare for at the other end of this day not yet dawned, and I could probably post more unedited rhapsodizing and totally lose my reader base between now and 6 am!

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