To begin the story at the beginning, read "Part 1: Post 1: Beginning Again," published in January, 2013. To consult a description of the campus, read "Part 1: Post 14: The Greening of Campus," published in March, 2013.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Mastery Year 1: Part 2: Post 5: Delays

So, I've felt really conflicted about Steve. Remember, I'm supposed to be teaching him to connect with the out-of-doors, but he's not talking to me, so how can I? Something is bothering him. He's spending a lot of time off-campus, he's per-occupied, and he's barely talking to me socially, let alone making himself available to me as a student.

The reason I feel conflicted is that I don't know whether I'm supposed to reach out to him or not. I don't know if I'm supposed to insist--I'll feel remiss if I don't, since it's kind of my assignment, but at the time time, I've never been the sort of person to force others to talk to me. Maybe that's one reason people do talk to me?

I talked to some of the masters about it, but they gave me conflicting or even cryptic answers.

Charlie shrugged and said "you can't make someone learn from you, Daniel."

Allen said "what if having people who will insist is one of the advantages of being here? In most places, no one will ask if you're ok unless you're bothering someone."

Greg said "why would you feel remiss? That's the interesting part, for me."

Joy said "use your intuition. You'll know what to say and when."

And Kit, whom I spoke to last, said "I've had this idea for a divination methodology. Flip coins of several denominations, heads are yes, tails are no. Then imagine each of the presidents on the coins and why he'd say yes or no. You don't need to do what they say, but their comments would be food for thought, yes?


It's springtime, which means it's a time of transition. Kit always says this. So does Charlie. It's one of the few places where they agree. Whenever anyone complains that spring keeps coming and going, they say, each in their own way, that coming and going is spring. When warm weather is here unambiguously, that is summer. I kept this very carefully in mind late last week when we had three days of all-but-literally freezing rain. It is spring, it is spring, it is spring.

Today has been more obviously springlike, warm and sunny and perfumed by flowers. Some of the shrubs are starting to leaf out, but hardly any of the trees have broken bud, yet, except for the flowers of the maples. The forests still look largely winterlike. But I think that is about to change. Next week, or perhaps the week after, the leaf-out will begin, and once it does, it will go fast. I will wish it could slow down so I could watch it properly. So far, it has mostly seemed slow. Every year this happens--spring seems to take forever and then as soon as it springs, I forget, and I think of it as a more or less brief season, until the next year, when I am reminded that it isn't.

And Steve is missing all this. He's not paying attention. That I'm sure of.

In other new, I had lunch with Eddie the other day. As you might remember, part of his assignment is to find a dog he considers impossible to train and then train it as a therapy animal anyway. His assignment, too, seems hung up. He seemed pretty droopy about it.

"Are you still hung up with wanting to train all of the trainable ones?" I asked. He had told me about that earlier this spring, how he sees all of these great dogs in shelters and rescue places, some of whom he doubts anybody else could train, but the very fact that he knows he can bring out these dogs' potential means that he can't make the attempt right now. It sounds very hard.


"No, that's not it," Eddie told me. "In fact, there's this dog...."

"That's great," I told him. "So what's the problem?"

"Well," he said, "I really like this dog. And I don't want to think that I can't help him."

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Mastery Year 2: Part 2: Post 4: Returning

Steve is back. Sort of. And he has Sean. But Sarah isn't here, and he won't say where she is. He won't say much of anything, which is why I said he's only sort of here. He's barely talking to any of us--though he seems to be spending a lot of time with Greg and Allen, so maybe he's talking to them.

I might wonder why he's back, except that he has classes to teach. Spring classes started up after Ostar, and Steve now has two out of the four that Greg used to teach every spring. Last year, three different allies took Greg's classes, and reportedly were somewhat uninspired, but Steve actually cares about and has expertise in his two--American History of Religion and American History of Dissent. A single ally is teaching the other two. In the almost two weeks Steve was out, Greg subbed for him. I can't help feeling sad that they're not really Greg's classes anymore, like the newer students are missing out, and I suppose they are, but he has earned his retirement. And Steve is, reportedly, very good. Another example of impermanence, I suppose.

But between teaching, caring for the baby--Steve often does both at once, delivering lectures while carrying his sleeping child strapped to his chest--and continuing to work part-time with his law firm, I don't think he's doing anything in the way of learning to deal with the anger that sent him back here. And if I'm supposed to act as his master, I suppose I'm supposed to do something about it, intervene, somehow, or at least make sure he knows what he's doing. But I don't know what to do or say....

I'll have to talk to Charlie about it.

In the meantime, I'm still teaching workshops, although attendance has dropped way down, since regular classes have started up, and I subbed for Charlie when he had his spring cold--that was planned, so I'd been kind of shadowing him, learning to teach those classes, so I'd be ready to step into them. I'm still doing that, in case he gets sick again. There's really not much he does that I can't do, now, other than, of course, being Charlie.

That's the thing about the masters--they teach classes and lead activities and make this college run, but really their primary jobs are simply to be themselves. I keep reminding myself that no matter how much Charlie trains me, he can't teach me how to be Charlie. I've got to be Daniel. And there is a version of me that is a master--and it is that version of mine I have to find. Except I really don't know what that might look like. I've obviously never seen it.

Spring continues, despite the dusting of snow we got yesterday morning. Among the trees the signs are still subtle--the red maples are flowering, but that's about it--and the native grasses are still brown as ever. Much of the greenery is exotic and is therefor off-campus. But Sarah Grimm's team is plowing the fields, the frogs and toads are breeding with gusto, the birds are arguing musically in the trees, and some of the spring wildflowers are up.

It's hard not to feel the warmth as some kind of victory.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Mastery Year 2: Part 2: Post 3: Missing

Steve is gone.

I don't mean he's died, as far as I know he's perfectly fine, he's just not here on campus and I don't, as of this writing, know why. All three of them, Steve, Sarah, and Sean are gone. They left in the middle of the night.

Everything seemed normal with them when we went to bed--though, maybe I missed something somehow. They did make some noise at night--woke me up--but nothing that sounded like them leaving. When I first heard the sound, I thought it was sex-noises, an irregular, almost rhythmic, half-voiced sound. It was clearly coming from Steve and Sarah's room, and however sex-positive we are around here, it doesn't mean I want to hear the people in the room next to mine going at it. But within a few seconds I realized it was crying. Someone was crying hard.

June was awake next to me.

"Should one of us go over?" I asked, whispering.
"No, wait until we're asked," she whispered back. "It could be private."

But however private it might be, we kept listening, ears peeled in the dark.

A voice spoke, Steve's, but we couldn't hear his words. Sarah replied, also unintelligibly. It must have been she who was crying. Her voice, as the two spoke, rose, became wild, almost panicked, but I still couldn't make out more than the occasional word, nothing I could make sense of. The crying started up again, escalated, something went THUMP. Steve spoke, soothingly, the crying abated, silence returned. It took a long time for June and I to get back to sleep.

We woke again to pounding on the door.

"What's the matter?" I half shouted. June and I were tangled up in the covers. I felt confused, muddle-headed.
"What's happening? What time is it?" asked June at the same time.
"It's almost six," the voice, I realized, was Mason's. "Steve is missing. Steve and Sarah and Sean are missing. Their door was open, I looked in, they're not there. Do you have any idea where they went?"

His panic was contagious, but I couldn't see the reason for it.

“Maybe they went for a walk, or went to the bathroom?” I suggested.
“Went for a walk before dawn with a newborn? They’re not in the bathroom, I’ve just been there.”
“You have a point.”

June and I got up. She started fumbling into her clothes and I went to the door.

“Why me?” I asked. “What do you want me to do?” I wasn’t complaining, I just didn’t see how I fit in to the situation.
“I don’t know,” he answered, “your door is right here and you’re a mastery candidate.”

I guess he figured I knew what to do. And I kind of did.

“Ok, you go to zazen, I’ll handle it.”
“Ok, thank you,” and he ran off.

I went downstairs, into the still-dark office, and found a phone list. I used it to call Waverly, who is the new security head now that Joe has retired. The security head is on call, and therefore wouldn’t mind being woken up before dawn. I heard a sleepy voice on the phone and explained the problem. A few seconds went by while she woke up more fully.

“You’re right to ask,” she assured me. “But in this case everything’s ok. They left campus last night, Allen’s with them, there’ll an announcement at breakfast.”

Ok, then.

But at breakfast, Karen’s announcement (she’s the current head of the masters’ group) was only that the Kellys had left campus temporarily because of a family emergency, that she wouldn’t give details out of privacy concerns, but that personal friends of theirs could call Steve on his cell phone and ask him. Sharon had the number.

Sounds innocuous enough, but nothing that causes the head of the masters’ group to make an announcement at breakfast is ever good. And I can’t get Steve to answer. His phone is going straight to voicemail.

Sounds trivial, and it’s honestly not my primary concern, but I can’t help thinking that he’s supposed to be my student, and he isn’t here, so how am I supposed to learn to be his teacher?

Monday, March 26, 2018

Mastery Year 2: Part 2: Post 2: Beliefs

Note: in 2008, the year this is set, Easter was on March 23'rd, which is why the discussion quoted below refers to Easter as having already happened. On the other hand, Passover--which begins later this week--occurred mid-April that year.--D.

"Well, how was Easter around here?" I asked at breakfast.
"Miraculous," Steve, with his customary smile. Sarah sat next to him, nursing Sean, but she said nothing. She has seemed uncharacteristically quiet since they got back to campus.
“Aside from that,” I said.

“Pretty quiet,” Steve explained. “Ollie lead a service, a dozen or so attended, a group of us had dinner together….”
“Yeah, what did you have?” asked June. She and I spent the weekend with my parents, as we usually do, and got back well after dinner.
“Excuse me,” interjected Aimee, a yearling, “I don’t mean to be rude, but do you really believe Jesus rose from the dead?” Aimee is an agnostic and is somewhat scientifically inclined.

Steve shrugged.

“I suppose so,” he said. “I don’t see how the early Christian movement would have come up with the idea if he hadn’t, and a lot of people did claim to have seen him risen. But if somebody proved to me that he hadn’t, I wouldn’t live my life any differently than I do.”
“You suppose so?” exclaimed Diana, who is also Christian, but takes a much more literalist approach. “That Jesus was killed and rose again on the third day is the whole point!”
I think the point is that He was alive in the first place,” countered Steve.

I don’t understand you,” said Freydis, speaking to Diana. “We’re friends, and we have lots of things in common, and then you say something that makes we think we’re living on different planets.”
I believe what I believe,” said Diana, a little defensively.
I know,” said Freydis, “and that’s what I have trouble believing.”

Aimee spoke up.

You’re the one who sacrifices animals, though, right?”
Lots of people sacrifice animals,” Freydis said, a bit defensive herself. “To hunger, to convenience, to money, to fashion…. I sacrifice animals to the gods.”
Yes, but do you really believe Odin demands goat blood, or something?” Aimee persisted.
No, I believe Odin—and the others—appreciate being asked to dinner. It’s not like paying my taxes, or something. It’s sharing, it’s giving something back because they have given me so much.”
But do you really believe it?”
Of course, I do!”
Then why aren’t you angry that I don’t?”
If I never invited Charlie to dinner because I didn’t think he exists, I’d expect Daniel to get mad.”
The idea of Charlie as Teutonic deity made me laugh into my scrambled eggs. Oddly, the idea kind of fits. Freydis had nothing to say. She just sat there, looking puzzled. 
At the end of the table, little Sean had fallen asleep. Sarah reattached the cup of her nursing bra and lowered her shirt. She had been watching the whole conversation carefully and returned her attention to it, but I realized she hadn’t been eating. Her plate contained nothing but a blob of ketchup. Something seemed “off” about that.

But spiritual beliefs don’t work like that,” put in Apple, a yearling with New Age affiliations. “How each person conceives of the Archetypes is up to them.”
And those are your beliefs,” insisted Hawk, the rather aptly-named falconer—he gave himself the name, of course. “Diana wouldn’t call them ‘archetypes.’ I wouldn’t. You can’t really speak on religious diversity if you don’t accept that other people’s paradigms are different from yours.”
Yes, even the stars have their own beliefs,” said Sarah, and I saw everyone else at the table frown slightly. Steve looked frankly alarmed. Again, I had a sense of something being “off.”

Well, what do you believe,” said Apple, challenging Hawk, perhaps. Hawk is Wiccan.
I don’t have any beliefs,” he replied. “I know things, or I don’t know them. And if I can know, I find out.”

Monday, March 19, 2018

Mastery Year 2: Part 2: Post 1: Ostar

Note: I posted about Sean's impending birth on March 6th, but he was actually born March 1st. Since the equinox was on the 20th (I'm posting one day early), just like this year, that means he was almost three weeks old at Ostar, a difference that matters at that age. -D.

Steve's baby is entirely cute. You'd think that wouldn't need saying, given that human babies essentially define cuteness, but it's hard not to. The reason I can speak authoritatively on Baby Sean is that I met him today. He was born at the beginning of the month after THREE DAYS of labor, and his first day out among people was today, at Ostar.

It was Steve's first day back, too. He and Sarah, his wife, and the baby all arrived this morning, right at the end of breakfast. The whole place went silent for announcements right as they walked in, and Steve and Sarah looked pretty confused for a few seconds, before they figured out why everybody had stopped talking. When the head waiter asked for announcements, Steve raised his hand.

"It's a boy," he said. "His name is Sean." And everyone went wild, clapping and cheering.

We'd known that, though. Security Joe didn't stay the whole time, but he kept visiting, as did Sarah's family, during the labor, and he told us about the birth. But we couldn't not cheer.

"Anyone else?" asked the head-waiter. We all laughed.

"You rather stole my thunder," complained Charlie, standing up. "Anyone up for an egg-hunt?"

On Ostar, as you may remember, we hold the egg hunt, which involves looking for real, active nests (not necessarily eggs) and taking photos of them. We hunt in teams of two, and whichever team takes the best pictures of the most nests wins. There's a prize, usually some kind of serious, egg-themed art. I've been on the winning team twice, not that I'm all that better than the other naturalists on campus, but the first time I won because I got a head-start finding nests (at Charlie's suggestion) and also deliberately partnered with an excellent photographer. The second time I got lucky in that one of the other two really good teams got points deducted and the other had a malfunctioning camera.

This time, I wasn't going to compete at all, because I helped organize the hunt. Charlie had me do all the preparation (making sure we had enough working cameras, and so forth) as well as helping judge the pictures. He still worked as the public face of the contest, though, making the announcement, handing out cameras, and presenting the slide show of pictures and the prizes afterwards. He didn't give me any credit. When I helped judge before, in my fourth year as a novice, he didn't give me credit, either, and I wondered why. I thought maybe it was to keep me from standing out among the other students in a negative way, like a teacher's pet, or something. Now, I don't wonder. I know.

Charlie uses his workshops and activities to let yearlings get to know him. All the masters need to do something like that, so that students can make informed decisions about whom to approach for the kinds of conversations that eventually lead to choosing masters in the various areas. With Charlie, it's even more important that he show himself off, because he's not really comfortable with people he doesn't know and tends to growl at people.

One of the reasons Charlie heads up the egg hunt is so that yearlings will think "oh, year, Charlie's the one with the egg hunt." I don't need advertising, therefore I didn't get credit. Neither do the half-dozen other spies he sends out in secret to make sure nobody harasses the wildlife in the course of taking pictures. You get points deducted for that, and the secret spies make it seem like Charlie has eyes and ears everywhere.

But when Steve returned, Charlie pulled me aside and asked me to partner with Steve. As you may recall, he is now Steve's master, but has delegated most of Steve's instruction to me. I'm learning how to be someone's master, and Steve is learning how to not be angry all the time. We've had a few conversations, over the past three weeks, about what that's going to mean and how it's going to work, and I think I understand.

I approached Steve and offered my services as egg-hunt partner.

"We're not going to win, though," I warned him. "I'm judging, so it would look pretty bad if I won."
"That's ok," said Steve, "I wasn't going to win, anyway."

And it's true, he wasn't. He's not a bad photographer, and he likes the out-of-doors, but he knows almost nothing about it. He can't tell a spruce from a pine, and can't see a drey if he's looking right at it. He's a smart man, and there's nothing wrong with his eyes, natural history just isn't a priority for him. And that's ok, really.

So, we spent the morning with me teaching him how to notice things. Like, we'd see a bird and I'd ask him what he thought it was doing and why, and we'd watch it for a while. Sometimes you can find nests by watching birds, since they act certain ways when they have nests or are near their nests. Or I'd coach him through spotting old nests, which are useless for the contest but easier to spot this time of year, because there's more of them and because the leaves they were originally hidden behind are off the trees at the moment. We only got two pictures, neither of them firsts, but we got no points deducted and he said he had a great time. It was fun.

Sarah and Sean spent most of the morning sitting on the Mansion porch, wrapped in a blanket, enjoying the sunshine with Charlie, who loves babies. A lot of people took pictures of them.

There's no rule that the nests have to belong to birds, after all. Insect egg masses and boxes of kittens have been legitimate entries, and Steve and I appear to have been the only people who didn't think to include a picture of the human baby in the nest of his mother's arms. Charlie let those pictures stand and he and I awarded points as appropriate. Some of the pictures got a lot of extra points for artistic merit. Some we removed from the slide show, at Sarah's request, because they depicted her bare, nursing breast, or because the people taking the picture hadn't said hi to her first or asked her permission. We deducted points from those pictures, as per the rules of the contest, for "annoying the wildlife."

"I never thought I'd like being treated like an animal," commented Sarah, "but from Charlie it's a definite mark of respect."

Monday, March 12, 2018

Mastery Year 2: First Interlude

Hi, all, Daniel-of 2018, here.

I don't have much to say. It was curious writing last week's post on the birth of Steve and Sarah's child, since so my of my reaction to those events had to do with my awareness of not being a father yet. The idea of being on deck, that Steve was the first of us to have a child but that the rest of us would follow. And now, of course, I do have a child, so writing that post just really reminded me of how much my life has changed.

I never had that feeling about the men I went to high school with, or about the men I went to grad school with--that sense of there being an us, a kind of generation or cohort, going through milestones together. I'm not sure why. I mean, I know how, I know the mechanics of the cohesion and its absence. My high school buddies and I drifted apart as we started separate careers and partnered up--I'm still friends with most of them, but barely. I see them on Facebook. We don't talk much except to say how we should talk more. And my grad school friends were never close (except, obviously, June), and most of them were married, or otherwise in committed partnerships, when we met. So there wasn't this before-and-after feeling.

Ollie, Steve, and I were single together. Now we all have families. Andy and Eddie and Rick were part of our group, too, and still are, but haven't taken the plunge. Eddie is still in love with every woman he meets, Andy does not seem to date, and still Rick. But the sense of brotherhood holds.

What I don't know if why moving on from adolescence broke up my adolescent social group, or why I never developed that sense of brotherhood with my friends in grad school, even the ones who were single with me.

I don't mean to make it sound like I'm not friends with women. You know I am friends with women. It's not even that I'm closer to my male friends. Maybe it's that I identify with men more. Or something. I've never had this sense of camaraderie in the face of milestones with the women.

How did I get on this topic?

I have only one "programming note," as it were. Steve's wife's name is Sarah, and she's going to become an important "character" this year, which presents a problem because, of course, Sarah the farm manager also remains a character. We never gave them separate nick-names or anything like that. Usually it was clear from context which was which, and if someone wasn't sure they could ask. But you can't ask, or at least I'd be a pretty sorry writer if I made you post comments to the blog in order to find out who I'm talking about. If I were writing all of this as pure fiction, I wouldn't run into this mess because I could give everybody unique, un-mix-up-able names, like you're supposed to do in fiction, but the fact of the matter is, in the real world you end up with a repetition of names.

So I'm just going to have to use last names more often than we actually did. Sarah Grimm was the farm manager and Sarah Kelly is Steve's wife. They get along fairly well, incidentally.

-best, D

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Mastery Year 2: Part 1: Post 5: Birth

Note; since I skipped last week, you get two poss this week.-D.

When you get used to a place, anything out of the ordinary, out of place, you notice.

That's why, when someone opened the main door of my dorm and ran down the hallway in the middle of the night, I was awake-and anxious--even before I heard Steve Bees cry "HOLY SHIT!!"

He has the room next to mine this year.

His voice woke June and we both got up, put on pants, and poked our heads out the door. Steve's room light was on and spilling out the half-open door into the hallway. We could hear him moving around in there frantically. Other heads started poking out doors.

"Steve? Are you ok?" I asked. No answer.
"He probably got 'the call,'" suggested June. "His wife's in labor."
"Yes, but who ran down the hall?"

The hall door opened again and Cuppa Joe hurried in, fully dressed. Cuppa Joe, you may recall, is the husband of Security Joe, the now-retired campus security chief. Steve emerged from his room, also fully dressed and carrying a full knapsack, followed by Security Joe in pajamas and a red robe, who must have been the hall-runner.

"Hey, there, Dad," Cuppa Joe greeted Steve. "You ready?"
"I'm your driver."
"I'm driving."
"No, friends don't let friends drive anxious at three AM. Gimme the keys."
"What? No."
"Come on, you want your wife to be all alone in the back seat? I'm already dressed. Gimme the keys."
"Oh, alright."

Steve handed over the keys and took off down the hall without acknowledging the small crowd that had collected around his door. Cuppa Joe followed, after a goodbye kiss from his mate.

"Call me," Security Joe said, and patted the other Joe's chest, fondly. They look odd, next to each other, and not because they're both men. It's because Security Joe is so little, not only short but petite, under a layer of aging, working-class muscle. His personality isn't little. Even half-asleep and in a bathrobe, Joe looks like an old cop from central casting, so you don't see his size until he stands next to another man and you realize he's eight to ten inches shorter than you'd expect. Cuppa Joe is as tall as I am, so the effect is even more startling. Plus, I don't usually see masters kiss.

Joe leaned in the doorway watching his receding mate, wearing an odd, almost nostalgic expression. Some of the assembled went back to bed, but Ollie, Eddie, June and I, and True, Nutmeg, and two yearlings, Mason and Jay, formed a cluster around Joe and the doorway.

"Well, that does it for sleep for us," said Eddie, quite brightly, speaking for all of us.
"There's no reason for you to stay up," said Joe. "They'll probably sleep at the hospital. She's not very far along, and first labors usually take a long time."
"Why did you come down?" asked Nutmeg. "Steve has a phone."
"He gave his phone to me at night so extraneous calls wouldn't wake the rest of you up. He wasn't sure 'vibrate' would wake him. I'm used to being on call, so I volunteered."
"And Coffee Joe volunteered as driver?"
"Yeah. When we had Rob, he drove about ninety miles an hour until I threatened to write him a speeding ticket myself in between contractions. We figured we'd lessen temptation for Steve."
"I imagine all new fathers are like that," said Ollie. "You're nervous and you want to be useful."

He and I made eye contact. I think we both had a sense of being the ones on deck, now.

"Not all fathers," pointed out Joe. "I was a little too busy to pace the hospital waiting room at the time."
"Do you miss it?" asked June. I suppose she meant whatever shred of femininity Joe had once had. It's not the sort of question you're supposed to ask in general, and Joe in particular is notably private. He gave her a look but elected to answer anyway.
"Sometimes," he admitted. "But not enough."
And he bid us goodnight with a courteous little nod and returned upstairs.

"It's strange, Steve having to go away to have his baby," said Nutmeg. "Like there ought to be some special School way of doing it. There is for everything else."
"I expect we'll do a welcoming ritual or a naming ceremony for the child afterwards," Eddie assured her.
"It seems...cold," said True."She ought to come here, or they should both stay home. "You wouldn't have a bunch of doctors and nurses and equipment around at the beginning of a pregnancy, why have them at the end? Birth is a sacred, natural process."
There were nods of agreement all around. This is one of the ideas that pretty much everyone around here learns to take for granted.
"You know what's also natural?" said Ollie, who doesn't like to take anything for granted. "Uterine rupture."

And on that rather depressing note, we turned out the light in Steve's room, shut his door, and went back to bed.

So, it seems as though my work as Steve's teacher is going to be delayed. The plan is for him to stay with his wife at home for some weeks, and then they'll decide whether to move the family to campus or if Steve should go back to splitting his time, as Ollie does. Either way, I don't think Steve will be back here until after Ostar.

We did talk that night, after class, about what my responsibilities will be. Charlie will be Steve's master, not Greg, and Charlie will delegate most of the day-to-day responsibility to me, though I'll work under his close supervision and with his direction and support. Partly I'll be repeating what Charlie taught me, just as I repeated what I learned in grad school to Charlie last year--though Charlie says it probably won't be necessary to push Steve so much into the science. He's not, temperamentally speaking, a naturalist. Rather, the point will be get him into the habit of close observation and awareness. And the point will be to teach me how to be somebody's master, though why I'm getting this intervention and no one else, to my knowledge, is, is beyond me. Maybe they think I need extra training, or something? I've never claimed to really know what I'm doing.

But it's obvious to me that all of this is about some kind of spiritual practice. For some reason, Greg and Charlie decided that neither the Christ nor the Buddha is Steve's best "way in" right now, which is why the meditation teacher tossed Quaker Steve over to Charlie for healing. And being a naturalist is a spiritual practice for Charlie. But is it for me? Ostensibly it must be, because Charlie was my spirit master and I graduated, but if so, I don't know what my spirituality consists of. Going outside doesn't feel especially religious to me. I don't have all kinds of fancy ideas about energy and animism, or whatever else, supporting the practice. Does Charlie? I don't know. But aren't I supposed to at least understand a topic before I teach it? Don't I have to have something to give it away?

Although I suppose there is something else that gets given when the person giving didn't have it before: birth.