Twenty-four oval spots of light shimmered energetically on the shaded back wall of the classroom. Lined up in four slanted rows of six, I knew they were the sun’s reflections off the watercolor bowls the teacher’s aide had set near the sink. She had silently entered toward the end of Mrs. Miller’s third grade main lesson in math, and was helping by set up for painting. As she squeezed a dab of yellow pigment into the bottom of each bowl, its shining reflection suddenly shattered across the whole expanse of ceiling, and slowly coalesced again to become the same spot it had been in the first place. Each of these bowls was for one of us children, and mine was in the back right corner, just where I sat in the classroom. What intrigued me most, was that my reflection was the lowest and smallest one on the wall. It was the last bowl to be filled and the last shimmering spot to settle down.
The morning sun itself, usually streamed in through the huge set of windows that overlooked the trimmed hedges and garden just outside. I spent a lot of time in that garden, though I never entered it. That morning was no exception. I was startled, as if awakened from a dream, by Mrs. Miller’s voice calling my name. By its tone, it was not the first time she had called me. It was a math question. I had no answer. My math was still on the wall, in the angles of the sun’s reflections, in the association of the sun, the patterns of the bowls and the classroom seating arrangement, and in the twenty-four souls enthusiastically settling into their places from out of the great expanse.