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Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Friday, 14 July 2006
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It is unwieldy, I know, to look at what people have posted in reply to what I have posted...but I do want to call your attention, especially those of you who are teachers, to the posting that follows a recent one titled "Perhaps it was only an echo" because it comes from a teacher...as many other postings do. I love hearing from teachers: how they use my books, or any books; and here is an example of how someone responded to my brief discussion of an E.M. Forster quote that another teacher had sent. It is so wonderful when one thought, one snippet, one insight, connects to another...and then, although we haven't met and in many cases I don't even know where you are...still, we begin to forge something together.

With that in mind....and guessing, too, that many of you majored in Literature, as I did, and therefore will know this already....let me point out the most famous quotation from Forster (part ofwhich he used as an epigraph to his novel HOWARD'S END)...."Only connect! ....Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer."

Our connections to one another are the most valuable and unbreakable and at the same time most fragile bonds we have. Our world is so fragmented now, and our children so victimized by the fragmentation. We have to connect to each other, and to them, and to the greater world; and I think we can do it partly through books.

I'll end this blathering with one more thought from Forster, and it relates, I think, to that final scene in THE GIVER:

"The present flowed by them like a stream. The tree rustled. It had made music before they were born, and would continue after their deaths, but its song was of the moment. The moment had passed. The tree rustled again. Their senses were sharpened, and they seemed to apprehend life. Life passed. The tree rustled again."

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Oooh! I'm soo scared!

Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Friday, 14 July 2006
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Early this summer, I hired Dave Bell again. Dave Bell is a guy with heavy equipment who knows how to use it. (Why does that sentence sound vaguely obscene?) In the past he has come in with backhoes and other-things-I-don't-know-the-names-of, and he has moved chunks of granite around, and once, two summers ago, he tried to dig me a pond. But when my pond-to-be was ten feet deep, it still had not encountered water; and I found myself murmuring a mis-quoted line from an old Monty Pythion episode: "Madam, this is a dead parrot." So Dave Bell went into reverse and filled it back up.

Anyway, Dave Bell came again this summer, and he dug up a long wide strip between my lawn and my meadow. Then...after the worst of the rain finally stopped...we planted mixed wildflowers in that strip.

The wildflowers should be coming up now. They are not. I think they are not coming up because early every morning, that wide strip of turned, planted earth is populated by crows, deer, and wild turkeys.

Yesterday I went into the scarecrow-making business. So far I have created two scarecrows.

One is wearing a red hat that was given to me by the writer Susan Goodman. Susan Goodman had heard me make some derisive comments about the ladies who wear purple clothes and red hats and line up en masse to attend events - theater, concerts, etc. - together. I am all in favor of female bonding and I have many, many wonderful women friends but for some reason I am creeped out by the red hat phenomenon. Susan Goodman came to visit me here at the farm last summer and she brought me, as a joke gift, a (very large) red hat.

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But perhaps it was only an echo...

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 11 July 2006
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The last line of THE GIVER refers to something that Jonas hears in the distance: music, perhaps, which he has never heard before.

I am thinking about music and literature because of a post that I received this morning that included a quote from E.M. Forster. While I have said that I can't use this space to get into lengthy back-and-forth conversations....I do want to thank that reader/poster for alerting me to these words frm Forster:

"Not rounding off but opening out. When the symphony is over we feel that the notes and tunes composing it have been liberated, they have found in the rhythm of the whole their individual freedom. Cannot the novel be like that?"

She sent me that paragrpah because of my feeble attempt to describe, in my last post, the role that I feel an author - and/or a book - should play in the mind of the reader...not to tie everything up neatly but instead to open up the world of possiblities.

Reading the Forster made me think of a lecture I heard some years ago, in Boston, by Robert Levin, the pianist, music theorist, and Mozart scholar (when still an undergraduate at Harvard, Levin composed an ending to the Requiem that was unfinished when Mozart died) He was talking (and I will mis-remember this, I'm sure; it was a long time ago) about how a piece of music often begins with a pleasant harmonious sound, a comfortable place for your ears and mind...and then, stealthily, it introduces something that the listener needs to worry about. Something is askew; there is a sense of unease, or dissonance. Then the rest of the symphony, or whatever kind of music it is, works toward the resolution of that.

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Once more

Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Sunday, 09 July 2006
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Since - as evidenced by one more post-to-the-blog - email that came this morning, there is no way that I am going to be able to convince people that i can't answer their individual questions here (and they should email those questions by clicking on the e-mail button on my website) I will try today to answer the one queston they keep posting and posting and posting.

I KNOW the ending to The Giver is ambiguous. And it disappoints many readers because they have become interested in the story...which is great (not the story; their interest)...and they would like to know exactly where Jonas is, what happened to him next, etc. etc.

You (the reader) have several options. You can create your own ending in your mind. It requires the use of your imagination. I do it every time I finish a book myself...think about the characters, and what happened to them next. I enjoy that process.

So you, the reader, can say to yourself at the end of The Giver, using your imagination: Bummer. He's dead. Back at the community maybe they will perform a ceremony of loss and his name will be given to another newchild; or because of his crimes, his name will never be spoken again.

Or (using your imagination) you can say to yourself: Cool. He is now in a small town like maybe in Ohio, and he meets a family that gives him warm clothes and cocoa and they adopt both him and Gabriel and he goes into eighth grade and gets a girlfriend and eventually goes to a good college.

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How May I Help You?

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Friday, 07 July 2006
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Yesterday I thought I would call my cable company, the one that provides my internet access in Maine, to inquire about creating internet access in another room of the house here...a room that we call "the studio" which is between the house and the barn, attached to each, since this is one of those old New England farmhouses whihc were built in a way to make it easy to get to the critters during a blizzard. The studio is quite separate from the rest of the house, and very quiet, and I thought that it would be a good place to work when there is a lot of company, or when there are grandchildren running around. But although the studio is heated and has electricity and a ceiling fan and a couch and pictures on the wall, and is quite comfortable, it does not have cable access.

And so I called.

I was aware, before I called, that there might be a problem at least as far as wirelss access. The studio, like the barn, has a tin roof. A brand new one, in fact. And for that reason, my satellite radio doesn't work there, nor my cell phone. So perhaps what i would need would be a whole separate modem in the studio.

I was put on hold for a while, of course. One expects that. After I listened to several rounds of a Brandenburg Concerto (I think the 5th, actually) I got a human. A woman. I explained...make that tried to explain...my inquiry.

Hmmmm, she replied. She didn't know whether wireless would work under those circumstances. She would transfer me to the tech department.

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Busy, busy

Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Thursday, 06 July 2006
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I'm aware that it has been a while since I have updated this (and also aware that world is hardly waiting breathlessly for the update) but time flies past, seemingly more so in the summer. I always think that when I get to Maine where it is quiet and I am often alone (though until this year, that meant alone-with-dog), the time will pass at a leisurely, unhurried pace and I will get lots of work done. And for a while, here, this summer, that was true. But then the pace picked up and now the days are whizzing past.

First, I began to contact Tibetan Terrier breeders with the hope of finding a puppy available in late October, the first time whe it will work for us to take on a new household member who will need attention. (For those who don't know the breed, I'am attaching a photo) Brindle_tibetan

And now we are awaiting the birth - next week - of the litter which will include, we hope, the male brindle Tibetan which will be ours. (If the litter is all black females instead of the brindle male we want, then we'll have to go back to the drawing board, I guess). All the breeders I've talked to have agreed that the male of this breed is more affectionate than the female. Wonder why? Our Bandit was a male and certainly it was true of him, but then we have not really known a female well. At any rate, we hvae a deposit down on a little boy and have been going through the difficullt process of name-choosing. (And have learned that it is a mistake to ask others to help in the process! EVERYONE has an opinion!)

In the midst of that, I drove over to the coast of Maine overnight to do a book-signing in the lovely little bookstore called Left Bank Books in Searsport (and had a conversation with the owners, at dinner, abut how tough it had been for them to choose a name for the store! Probably worse than naming a dog!)

I was reminded of how much I love small independent bookstores...what a pleasure it is to be in such a place where everyone, owners and customers, all share a love of the smell and feel and touch and wonder of books. Thank you, Left Bank Books, for inviting me there!!!

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Grrrrrrr

Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Friday, 30 June 2006
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Well, I'll try once again to remind people that if they have questions, they should send them to me by clicking the E-MAIL button on my website. I can't answer questioons on the blog. Sorry about that!

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How do you get your ideas?

Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Saturday, 24 June 2006
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It is very, very hard to answer the question about the origin of ideas, because for me...and I assume this is true for almost all writers...ideas just APPEAR in the imagination, sometimes triggered by something you have seen, thought, read, or imagined.

Loisbyrhys

Here is a scenario that just appeared in my mind, triggered by something that happened three days ago. A writer from the Bangor newspaper was here for an interview (hi, Kristen, if you are reading this!) because I am doing a bookstore thing up in that part of the state next week. So that she didn't have to bring a photographer, I had emailed her a couple of photos.

But shortly after she left, my son Ben arrived here in order to install my window air conditoners, something I can't do myself, weakling that I am, and he brought his two little boys with him. It was a lovely evening and I got out my camera to take some pictures of the grandsons.

Grey, age 7, found an interesting bug that he became involved with. But the younger boy, Rhys, age 5, wanted to use my camera. It made me a little nervous because it is a $1000 camera, but I told him as long as he kept the strap around his neck so that he couldn't drop it...and I showed him what to look through, and how to press the shutter.

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Work Space

Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Friday, 23 June 2006
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Fold1
Where do you work?
is a question I am often asked. I'm not sure why people ask it. But I confess that if I were to be allowed a peek into the day-to-day life of an author I admire - say Ian McEwan - I would want to peek at where he works. Much less interest in where he sleeps or eats.

Fold2

This, then, is where I work. At least in the Maine house (as opposed to the "main" house which is in Massachusetts). At home, I have a room which was once a doctor's office, because the house had been owned by a doctor who had his practice there. So it is easy to call that room my "office."

Here in Maine, though, this room, where I work, is used for other things as well...the TV is in this room, for example...and it was oddly nameless until we gave it an acronym for a name. We call it the FOLD. Family room, Office, Library, and Den.

And the Fold is where I work.

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Let There be Light

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 21 June 2006
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Maine_rainbow

I got home (to Cambridge) Monday night from New York and yesterday drove to Maine to find that Highland Road....which I usually drive across to get to my own road...was closed because a huge thunderstorm ("monsoon" someone called it) the previous night had taken some wires down.

No surprise, really, then, to find, when I reached my house by a different route, that I had neither cable nor telephone.

Well, I thought, I can live without phone or internet for a while. In fact, I remembered, I had some Netflix movies piled up; and though I couldn't watch TV from this rural hillside without cable, I could still watch a rented movie tonight. And in the meantime, I could still work on my computer, though I would not be able to e-mail off the piece of work (foreword to an anthology) that I had almost completed. But surely by tomorrow, I thought, all would be working again.

I sat down on my porch with a glass of iced tea and did the NY Times crossword puzzle. It began to get windy and dark. Uh-oh. Another thunderstorm. And indeed it was. HUGE thunder, which made me remember how terrified Bandit, our dog, would have been. He would have scuttled into the nearest hiding place.

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Eureka!

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Friday, 16 June 2006
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I just discovered that if you click on the teensy photo, you can see if full-size. Try it! Click on that one where the helicopter (me in it) is but a dot in the sky, and wow! You can really see it.

Stan Foote, the theater director from Oregon who was with me for three days last week so that we could do the neceassry prelimary discussing before we collaborate on an adaptation of GOSSAMER to the stage, said he had never seen a wild turkey. I told him that he certainly would see one while he was with me in Maine because they are always out there pecking around where food has spilled from the bird feeders. Last summer I once counted 22 of them on my lawn.

But no. Not a one appeared while Stan was there, and he told me he was quite certain I had made the whole thing up.

Of course the day after he left, I looked out the window and...voila. So I took a picture.

I emailed him the photo.

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Viewpoints

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 13 June 2006
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Helicopter3
This is not a Med-Evac situation, folks. It is just a local guy who happens to own a helicopter and who landed last evening on my lawn and took me for a sunset cruise, as it were.
Img_3255

So there I am, looking down on my own chimneys.(hard to see, in these small photos. But the 'copter is above the roof, to the right of that tall tree) Defintely a new and different view of my own life.

Writers are always looking for new viewpoints. One of the most astounding in recent years was the tour-de-force called "The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold, in which the story is told by a dead fourteen year old girl who looks down and relates the effect of her murder on the lives of everyone who knew her. More recently, "The Book Thief," which I'm told (I haven't read it yet) is narrated by Death.

Whose story is this? Who should tell it? are the questions I ask myself when I begin a new book. Often the answer is straightforward. Other times, less so. Long ago, a book called AUTUMN STREET which remains one of my favorites, the story (a mostly-true one from my own childhood, actually) is told through the perceptions of a very young child but in the voice of a grown woman looking back on the events.

More recently, I wrestled with point-of-view when writing THE SILENT BOY. The title character is a boy about fourteen, but he doesn't (can't) speak. Who should tell his story? Eventually I decided that it worked best if the events in the plot are told by someone who doesn't completely understand them: a little girl. The Unreliable Narrator, this is called in writing courses. It is an intriguing challenge for the writer, and often a remarkable experience for the reader (most notable example coming to my mind at the moment: "Why I Live at the PO" by Eudora Welty)

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mutual admiration

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 12 June 2006
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Today, after what seems endless days of rain in Maine, the sun is shining at last and everyone's flowers are lifting their heads as if to bask in it.Img_3241
Img_3242

Except my peonies, which are in full bloom but have pretty much quit trying to use good posture and are sprawled now, looking like women who got all dressed up, strutted briefly around, then drank too much and fell over and are lying there, bruised, past their prime, but still wearing their gaudy finery, smeared eye shadow, and too much perfume.

There is a garden that I admire, in this smalll town (I don't know whose garden it is but it's next door to the house that has two Clumber spaniels behind a picket fence) in which all the flowers are blues and purples. Everything so carefully chosen and arranged.

I admire it, like looking at it, without envying it. It is always amusing to use the phrase peony-envy but in truth I think most people simply enjoy looking at other people's gardens without feeling an iota of envy. It's like going to a wonderful pot-luck dinner to which everyone has brought something special. You don't think, on tasting something, "Rats. I wish I'd made that," but instead just take pleasure in that fact that everyone brought their best creation.

I've been thinking these thoughts for two reasons. One, I watched the Tony Awards last night. Of course, everyone nominated wanted to win. Why wouldn't they? And yet there seemd such genuine admiration and joy as each winner was announced. People in the same profession were taking pride in the accomplishments of their peers.

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Sigh

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Sunday, 04 June 2006
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Maybe this is a lost cause. But today there is another post to the blog, asking a question about sequels to THE GIVER.

Reminder: I cannot answer questions on the blog. if you have a question, send it through the website e-mail. Before you do that: please read the FAQs.

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To Soar

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 31 May 2006
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Irisschweben

I am about to leave for Maine, for the summer, so am packing the car and realizing sadly that I no longer have to worry about leaving room for the dog to sprawl. He loved riding in the car. Mostly he slept, curled in the back seat, but somehow magically he could tell when we were about to arrive at a place he loved - either of our two homes, for example; or the kennel where he stayed when we went on a trip; he was always very happy there. Somehow, though he seemed sound asleep, as the car made its final turn toward any of those destinations, His eyes would open, his ears flick, and then he would be on his feet and at the car window to supervise the arrival.

No more.

I realized, while going back and forth to the car, that the bearded iris in my garden here in Cambridge are bursting open. They are among my favorites, and I'll miss the apricot colored ones unless they decide to come to life in the next hour. But the deep almost-black are in full bloom now, and the light blue-violet ones as well. I got my camera back out of the car in order to photograph them.

While focusing, I realized that in the background would be the blurred image of the sculpture that was placed there in memory of my son, whose death also occurred on Memorial Day. Eleven years ago. It seems yesterday.

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Saying goodbye

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Sunday, 28 May 2006
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Bandit_age_13

What can you say about a goofy-looking dog who has been a part of your life for twelve years, who has never been sick, hardly ever been a pain in the butt, who has loved you no matter how grouchy you've been, and who has never asked anything more of you than an occasional biscuit and a scratch under the chin?

And now he is telling you that he is old, and ready to go?

Well, you think back to that line in Charlotte's Web, the one that your seven-year-old son once told you solemnly was the saddest line he had ever read. No one was with her when she died.

And so I am sitting here with my dog and telling him it's okay, and that we understand, and that we'll stay with him.

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Reminder about posting comments

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 23 May 2006
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Just a reminder that I cannot answer questions on the blog. if you have a question, click "E-mail" on my website and send it to me that way.

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the verb "to touch"

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 23 May 2006
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Several years ago I wrote a book that remains one of my favorites: THE SILENT BOY. It is set in the early 1900's and is about a boy who doesn't speak, and today would likely be called autistic. But in those days, there were no such terms, and the boy is referred to as "touched"...meaning "touched in the head," a phrase used commonly at that time. The young child narrating the story, who cares about the boy and understands him better than most other people, always thinks of him - affectionately - as "the touched boy."

So the title, when I finished writing the book and turned it in to the publisher, was "The Touched Boy."

But I was asked by the publisher to change it. It was at the height of the Catholic Church scandal in Boston, and the word "touch" had taken on a nasty little life of its own.

This year a new book of mine has been recently published, and its title, too, had to be changed, and for the same reason. The small sweet creature who is the central character of the book, is one of the "dream-givers"...those elfin spirits who creep silently about at night, gathering fragments of people's lives, extracting them from human belongings while they sleep.

Here's a quote from the book:

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Ark Ark Ark

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 16 May 2006
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Img_3157


I am altogether tired of ark jokes, now that New England has entered its umpteetnth day of rain and there are floods everywhere. Worst, they say, in 70 years.

I had intended to go to the nursery today to buy plants for replenishing the garden, but of course it has been too miserable to go anywhere. So I have turned my attention to my desk (see picture) and its unending mess, much worse than the garden.

And here is what I done so far today:

(This is all a sort-of answer to the FAQ "Can you decribe a typical work day?")

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Remembrance

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 15 May 2006
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Yesterday I was one of several speakers at Boston's annual Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance ceremony at Faneuil Hall. The neo-Nazi protesters who had planned to be there - and because of whom the hall was ringed with police - did not show up, and one wonders if their shaved heads are uncomfortable in drenching rain.

It was a hideous day, a downpour, and I confess to jealousy of the mayor, whose car collected him afterward from the front door --- having driven right up over the cobblestones -- while I (and everyone else) had to make our normal-person way, dripping, to our own vehicles.

It felt as if the world wept. And inside, in the company of Holocaust survivors and their children and grandchildren, it seemed appropriate as we all mourned the unconscionable loss of so many victims.

The speaker whom I found most moving was Dr. Wolfgang Vorwerk, the Consul-General of Germany, who talked of his country's determination to teach their children about the past and its horrors. Perhaps that was especially meaningful to me because my 12-year-old dual-citizen granddaughter is growing up in Germany and I have watched her own mother's commitment to telling her the truth about that time.

But there is so much hatred, still. I tried, in my own brief talk, to tell of my feeling that the time is past for hatred, that the world is small, now, and people interconnected and that though we must mourn what we've lost - and tell each other and our children - our stories, we must also move ahead and beyond. I described my son's wedding in Germany and how I had looked around, as a soprano sang: "Where you go, I will go. Your people will be my people" ... and I realized that in the same month, back in 1945, my son's Jewish stepfather, 18 years old, had been in uniform and with weapons, on the island of Okinawa; and his new mother-in-law, nine years old at the time, had been hiding and sobbing, with other children, in a basement in a German village, because the American troops were entering and they feared for her lives.

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