Friday, 31 May, 2019

 Next School Bus Stop:
Rim of Heaven

In April, sixty children, parents, and tutors visited Cornelia at her farm in Malibu. Ducks, donkeys, plants, pizza, painting, drawing, scavenger hunt. A Sunday in nature for city kids, and the fist event hosted by Cornelia's foundation.

Photos: Michael Orth

"Seven? You think seven is enough?" Cornelia asks. "How many are coming? About sixty? So maybe a few more pizzas. Ten, maybe …"

It's just after nine a.m. on a Sunday morning in late April and everyone's already been busily working for a while to finalize the preparations for the first big event of Cornelia's Rim of Heaven foundation.

"Shortly after I moved from the city back into nature, to Malibu, in 2017, I'd had this thought of Rim of Heaven and that I'd love to invite children here for a nice day and workshops. Many children. I want to bring them here so they can experience what played such a big role in my childhood: spending time in nature, without schedule or obligations. And now it's finally happening."

  Happy and excited faces peering out of the school bus as it pulls into Cornelia's farm.  The little boy and his dad look forward to their day with Cornelia.

Two more hours until the bog yellow school bus from Venice will bring sixty children, parents and caregivers to Cornelia's farm in Malibu.

For this inaugural event, Cornelia has picked the organization 826LA. "I used to volunteer for 826LA," says Elizabeth Dragga as she pours an armful of paints onto the table where the children will later be coloring rocks and twigs. Elizabeth regularly meets with Cornelia and her assistant Angie to figure out who the Rim of Heaven can support. 824LA is a nonprofit that supports students who are struggling by tutoring them and nurturing their creativity.

"What I like about 826LA," says Elizabeth, "is that their primary focus is to help children find joy in creativity. For example, they encourage their students to find their own voices through creative writing."

A perfect fit for the Rim of Heaven Foundation, through which Cornelia wants to support nature and animal conservation, as well as visual arts and storytelling.

  Dafne deeply engrossed in her work. A few days before the event, Cornelia sat down and drew notes for the treasure hunt. Esperanza and Zorro are hoping the kids brought lots of carrots!
  Picking their snacks at Laurel and Larry's organic farm next door. Question No.3 on Dylan's treasure hunt: How many palm trees do you see? Painting stones with dad. Cornelia had collected them just that morning.

But today is not primarily about writing, but about everyone being together and having a good time with the animals, sketching and drawing, and doing a scavenger hunt all across Cornelia's farm and the fields of her neighbors' Laurel and Larry's organic farm.

"Where can we find an avocado tree?" Dylan asks his buddy as they study the map Cornelia has drawn for the scavenger hunt. They already found the cacti field, and they learned that Cornelia named her donkeys Esperanza and Zorro. John and Samuel are still by the donkeys' paddock, drawing and scetching with the others. Some are using paper to create their art, and some the stones and twigs Cornelia had collected for them beforehand.

  The parents also had their fun turning twigs and stones into art. Where can we find that cactus garden? 

"This," Samuel is putting down the red crayon, "is Spiderman. The one next to him", he points at a sinister looking guy with a very angry face, "is Venom." Oppsite Samuel John is copying a bird from a guide book.

  Samuel's spiderman looks ready to jump off the paper. John's glorious bird spreads its wings. Samuel is proud of his spiderman portrait.

On the lawn by Cornelia's barn two girls are playing boccia while the grown-ups are having a lot of fun playing cornhole.

When Cornelia suggests taking the donkeys to their meadow, everyone drops what they're doing to join Cornelia as she leads Esperanza and Zorro to the big meadow up the hill.

  Esperanza is getting a head start to the meadow. Off to the meadow! Several gates make sure the donkeys stay safely on the farm.

"Don't walk too close behind them," Cornelia warns. "They don't like that, and they can kick very hard with their hind legs. The coyotes know that as well, which is why they leave the donkeys alone when they come through here at night."

Back from the meadow, Cornelia grabs a few crayons herself to draw the dragon Firedrake for her visitors. Every one of them will get a dragon to take home as a memento of their visit. Ricardo wants a red Firedrake, Araceli would prefer a green one, and Dafne's favorit color is blue – and so they all get their Firedrake in their favorite hue.

  Cornelia paints souvenir dragons in her garage (which no longer is a garage but a studio).  
  Watching an illustrator at work is also a special adventure! The kids get to choose the color of their dragon.

Just after two o'clock Joel, the director of 826LA announces they should stat heading back to their bus. "Already?" one of the children cries. But there's still time for a group pic. Everyone gathers on the lawn, standing, crouching, or sitting for the camera, and every face, Cornelia's included, beams with joy from the wonderful day they all had.

And here are some more impressions from the amazing 826LA visit at Cornelia's farm.

  826LA director Joel and some kids sending their croquet balls through the air. Painting stones was a favorite. For the kids …
  … as well as the parents.
  Being creative is hungry work!
  Cornelia shows the kids her house and the terrace where she always drinks her morning espresso before she heads to her barn to write.
  Exploring the farm. Alone … … in pairs … … and with Cornelia.
  Picking berries on Larry's and Laurel's organic farm.
  The artist Helena from Somerset in the UK spent a month living and painting on Cornelia's farm. Here she is showing the kids her home in the 'Owl House' And then there's the garage, where Cornelia does her painting.
  Cornelia hopes eveyone will have some wonderful memories from their visit. Bus driver Mauricio also had a blast.


Rokin on 27 December, 2020

I wish I were there !

Reihaneh on 8 July, 2020

Amazing and nice

VC on 4 March, 2020

wow they sure are lucky to go to your place

Rose on 13 January, 2020

This event is a great idea! I appreciate you providing this experience for these families, my daughter and I would have loved to attend! Looking forward to reading Pan's Labyrinth Cheers!

Dandy Bro on 26 November, 2019

Thank you for all you do for these darling children. I adore your books and am crazy for YA writing.

Grace on 26 June, 2019

Looks lovely