December 5, 2008
Before I left Fairhope I participated in the 100th anniversary reunion of the Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education, one of the city's venerable and venerated institutions. People flocked to town from all over the country to celebrate the lives they had lived and thank the school itself for all the possibilities that had been opened for them.
I obliged one of them, Rupert Schmitt, by putting him up in the spare room in my garage. At the recent reunion of the Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education, a.k.a. The Organic School, people came into Fairhope from all over. I expected to have a couple sharing one of the little bedrooms upstairs in my cottage, a student teacher in the other, and a man living in the little room at the back of the garage for the duration. The only one who could make it was Rupert.
Playing hostess to him as well as partaking of all the events of the reunion weekend and giving something of a lecture at one of them (plus reading a chapter from Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree at another) gave an offbeat dimension to my participation in the proceedings.
He turned out to be in some ways typical as a product of our unconventional school, but for the main part, a man like no other. He likes to go which ever way the wind blows him, and this has taken his windblown persona in many directions. A delightful raconteur and observer of details, he carried big blank notebooks with him wherever he went, asked questions of everybody, and wrote down almost every damn thing anybody said. He was quick with a quip, but quizzical about many of the answers he got. I had a wonderful time with him.
Now Rupert has published a book of poetry called The Interview. I commend it to you. Written by an observer of animals and nature, it has cat poems, bird poems, leaf poems, and poems about his family and his outlook on life.
As a writer, Rupert is whimsical, tangential, and utterly charming. He captures many facets of a life lived for its own sake, full of love and the adventure of small events and odd creatures. He looks at the world with wonder, humor, and sometimes anger. He is always original, not always 100 per cent satisfying -- but always delicious. The book can be ordered from amazon.com or iUniverse.com. I searched for a Fairhope poem but found none, unless you count the overarching old-Fairhope tenet that nature is nearby and it is our fairest hope to do our best by it, a mood which pervades all the poems in his book. I'd like to think Rupert learned some of that at the Organic School.