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.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Year 2: Part 4: Post 6: Outside Life

I haven't written about Rick in a while. He's still living outside, and we still spend time together every week, tracking. He comes with me sometimes to do trail work, too.

I would have thought he'd welcome summer, since he doesn't have to worry about freezing anymore. He says he doesn't, though he likes that food is easier to find.

The thing is, summer is full of mosquitoes. I hadn't thought about this, but the rules he's following--almost no gear he couldn't, in principle, make himself with local materials--he can make himself warm clothes and blankets, but he can't make mosquito mesh. When he goes back to camp at night, the mosquitoes follow him.

Rain is hard for him, too. In the winter I noticed him doing everything he could to keep his clothes dry because getting wet meant getting cold--it was dangerous. It's less dangerous now, but there's so much more water. Once his gear gets wet, it can't get dry again until we have a couple of days of dry weather in a row--there's no inside place he can hang things. We've had stretches of a few weeks at a time when we never had three days in a row without rain. All his stuff grew mold.

Rick doesn't complain. The only reason I know all of this bothers him is that the other week it was ridiculously hot and I said to him something like "well, at least it's not too cold anymore. I bet you're glad it's not winter!" And he explained why he wasn't.

"Did you notice I'm always barefoot now?" he asked.

"Yes," I told him. "I assumed you were taking after Charlie." I'd started going barefoot more, too. There's no rule against it, not even in the Dining Hall, except we have to wear shoes to do certain kinds of work--digging in the gardens, for example. Rick smiled.

"I might have," he explained. "But mostly I don't want my feet to rot. Most of my socks got wet."

"It sounds like a giant pain in the neck, what you're doing."

"Worth it, though, for what I'm learning."

"Yeah? What are you learning?" I asked him. He didn't reply immediately. Sometimes I'm not entirely sure why he hangs out with me. He doesn't seem to like humans, and I definitely qualify. And yet, here I am and here he is, and we're still hanging out together.

"I'm learning what it's really like to do the things I imagined doing," he said, finally. "This is real. Rotting socks are real. Logistical hassles are real. Mosquito swarms are real. My inside matches my outsides." He smiled at me. He looks more alien, somehow, when he does that.

"Oh?" I wasn't sure I knew what he meant, though I wanted to. I wanted to be the guy who could understand him. I'm kind of fascinated by Rick.

"Yeah. I imagined living out here, like this, for so long. I never stopped imagining it. Now I'm really here. My thoughts match my reality."

"Do you ever imagine not being around people at all?" I asked him, smiling, but there was a question underneath my question and he heard it and grimaced, embarrassed.

"No, I like people, in moderation," he explained. "I just wish there were fewer of them."

"You make it sound as though you're not one."

"I sometimes feel as though I'm not one. That's the other way in which I'm outside. I don't mind. Only, I wish others didn't expect me to belong when I don't. That's the only time I feel lonely."

I was surprised to hear Rick share with me on that level. Also, I wasn't sure I knew what he meant. How can you feel lonely only when people think you belong? But that wasn't quite what he said.

"Like, when they expect you to be what you're not?" I guessed.

"Exactly."

I suppose that Rick likes being outside, both literally and otherwise, mosquitoes notwithstanding. But the outside of a thing is still part of a thing--if a box, say, had no outside, it wouldn't be a box. I'm not sure what it would be, actually. Everything has an outside, and outside is how and where he belongs.

Maybe this has something to do with why he likes hanging out with me.





Sunday, July 20, 2014

Year 2:Post 4:Post 5: Second Sight

I can't remember if I've written about Ebony yet. She's new this year. She's not in my dorm and we don't share any classes, but I noticed her because she's blind--the only blind student here and, I think, the first blind student the school has had (rumor has it her tuition has been waived for the first year in payment for her having to teach the school how to accommodate a blind student). Anyway, she's also REALLY pretty. I noticed that, too.

I keep hoping she'll ask me to lead her somewhere. She'll take me by the arm, and I'll be all suave and helpful and heroic. Of course, I'm sure if she knew I was thinking that way she'd feel all insulted and everything, and anyway I'd probably walk her right into a wall by mistake or something. So, obviously I haven't talked with her much, yet. She does hang out with some of my friends, so if I can quit being Awkward McDork I can get to know her a bit.

Anyway, I've been thinking about her recently because of this thing she did the other day.

She was in my dorm hanging out after dinner and a few of us were sitting around talking--Ollie and Willa, Andy, Joanna, and me, and Ebony was curled up in the big armchair shuffling a deck of cards as she talked. She was telling this long and very funny story about the failures of the disabilities services office at her previous school. But I was thinking about those playing cards, I mean, can she really play cards? Are they Braille cards? I couldn't figure it out. I kept watching those cards to see if she got any of them backwards by mistake, but she never did.

But as I watched the deck seemed to get thinner. There were fewer and fewer cards. I couldn't tell if it was really happening. At first I wasn't sure the deck was getting thin, and then I wasn't sure it had ever been thick. And then it seemed to start growing again.

Andy spotted what she was doing before I did and cried out in surprise. Then I saw it and laughed. The thing is, she had started out with blue-backed cards and now over half the cards in her hands were red. She was switching them out.

When Ebony knew we had seen her trick, she smiled, this really sweet, spontaneous-looking smile, even though her face is usually neutral.

"Did you think I wasn't playing with a full deck?" she asked.

People do sleight-of-hand all the time around here, so we're all used to it, which is a problem--stage magic doesn't work if there's no element of surprise. The magicians here, Allen and Ollie and the others, are always trying to outdo each other or set up their tricks so we don't expect them. Ebony doesn't have that problem, because I don't think any of us thought she could even do sleight-of-hand. So, it was actually kind of a double-trick. We all willingly promised not to tell anyone until she'd played it on everyone else.

I should have known she was studying stage magic, though, because of what happened a month or two ago when she started attending Philosopher's Stone Soup.

Allen was doing his tricks, as always, and some of us were laughing, so Ebony asked what was so funny. Someone explained it to her and she laughed, too. But Allen frowned. He went to go stir the pot, bubbling away on the grill, and when he came back he seemed subdued. He sat down and didn't talk much for a while.

"Your magic show stopped," Ebony observed. Allen grimaced a little, like she'd caught him at something.

"You're very hard to perform for," he admitted. "I do magic all the time. It's what I do, I trick people. But I can't trick you. I just hadn't thought it would matter so much to have even one person in the audience just not care what I'm doing."

"What makes you think I don't care?" Ebony asked him.

Allen looked completely thunderstruck. I think it's the first time I've ever seen him be the one rendered speechless by a question. Then he smiled a little, intrigued, like he'd just seen her for the first time.

"My ignorance of you made me think you don't care," he said, finally. "Clearly I don't know you very well, yet."

Ebony is only going to be here two years, so she has to choose all her masters this year. I don't know which ones she needs, spirit and magic, probably, since most people do, plus whatever else. I guess she's working with Allen.





Sunday, July 13, 2014

Year 2: Part 4: Post 4: Faith

I'm starting to make progress in "manifestation," the form of magic I finally settled on taking.

It's a lot like positive thinking in that basically you think about something a lot and then it happens, but there's more to it than that. I mean, clearly, it isn't a rule of the universe that if you think something is going to happen then it will (how boring would that be?). Instead, the basic idea is to make room in your life for something to happen and follow intuition. In one sense, I think manifestation is about getting better at recognizing and taking advantage of good luck, not so much creating good luck that wouldn't happen anyway.

But some good luck that happens seems suspiciously good.

For example, when they were starting this school, they needed money to buy the property that became the campus. The school wasn't founded by the masters alone but also by a group of people who might loosely be called students and alumns--the school evolved out of a group of friends who studied together. So, they asked everybody in their little community to contribute what they could--and that was the same week two community members won the lottery.

I'm not kidding.

Now, it's not like either of them won millions--I think one got a couple of hundred and the other won a few thousand--but it did really help. They weren't calling it manifestation back then, but apparently they were trying an equivalent form of magic. Things like that happen a lot, here. The thing that someone needs just happens to show up at the right time.

But the thing is, it still isn't predictable. You can't just manifest a winning lottery ticket, it won't work. You can manifest a solution to a problem, but not usually the form the solution will take. And even then, the solution doesn't always arrive--it just arrives more often than it seems like it should.

I still can't say whether it really works, whether there's really a cause-and-effect relationship going on, but honestly I'm not sure I'd like it as much if I was sure. I mean, I can get twenty dollars out of an ATM machine and buy my mother a birthday present, and that's very cut-and-dry. Or, I can manifest the means to buy a birthday present for my mother and find twenty dollars in the bottom of my backpack that I could have sworn wasn't there before--it probably actually fell out of my wallet, but it feels magical because there is an intrusion of doubt, of possibility. It's like that white chick in the hospital room Ollie told me about--evidence that the world is bigger than it seems. If manifestation was as sure and as comprehensible as an ATM machine, it would feel no more magical.

Anyway, the thing is I'm starting to succeed in my manifestation projects, and the weird thing is I know when I'm going to succeed and when I'm not. This feeling comes over me and I just know that I can make something happen, whether that's driving all the way home to my parents' house without catching any red lights, getting enough rain this week so the sweet corn plants don't get stressed, or getting my dental appointment rescheduled so it doesn't conflict with one of my classes. And so far, that feeling has always been right. The lights are all green when I get to them, the rain comes, the dentist has a cancellation and offers me the spot.

When I don't have the feeling, the thing doesn't happen.

So, what I want to know is, does that feeling mean I can make something happen, like I suddenly have an ability I normally don't, or is that feeling what happens when I put myself in the path of something that's going to happen anyway? Am I manifesting the event, or only my place in it? Or is it manifesting me?

I was thinking about the concept of faith the other day. Faith is a big part of manifestation, not only because you have to have faith that the manifestation will work, but because part of the idea is making yourself a servant of God. I'm not sure I quite understand this yet, I don't think it's quite as straightforward as it sounds, but Joy says if you are doing God's will then things happen to assist you. Becoming willing to do God's will is part of successful manifestation.

Growing up, I was taught to treat "faith" as a synonym for spiritual dedication and to regard belief as the heart of religion--if you want to know what a religion is about, you ask what adherents believe. So when Jesus said that faith as small as a mustard seed would move mountains, that supposedly meant that is you believe in God you can work miracles, like Jesus did.

But Charlie doesn't really like belief. He's always trying to uncover the truth underneath what we think it is and he's never satisfied to think something is true just because he wants to. Kit says something similar--"in Wicca we do not believe. We know or we do not know, and if we don't know we can find out." And yet, Kit works magic and Charlie...Charlie's life is magic. I think everything he does might be a prayer.

So where does faith come in?

I was thinking about this, how to have faith in a friend doesn't exactly mean believing in something. It's not believing the friend exists, because that's obvious. It's more like trust or support. And being faithful isn't quite about believing anything, either. It's more like loyalty, keeping promises.

So, if faith is a relationship of trust, loyalty, and dependability, can faith the size of a mustard seed move mountains...because the mountain cooperates? Or because the faithful person knows the mountain so well as to plan around its movements?

Because mountains do move, that is unquestionable.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Year 2: Part 4: Post 3: Independence Day

Nora is turning 18 this week.

She was sixteen when she got here, and it hasn't been two years, but such is the magic of birthdays in the summer. She has her GED now, too--she took and past the test in May, and next spring she'll take the various placement tests that yearlings normally take and find out how much longer she has until she graduates. In theory, she's on a six-year plan, since she's been taking half as many credits each semester as we do, but she thinks she'll be able to reduce it to five. Not that she's in a hurry to leave, of course.

To me, it's kind of neat, seeing her grow up. When she first arrived, it seemed like she was a lot younger than me, but she's closing the gap--which I suppose means that she's maturing faster than I am? More likely, what's doing it is spending time away from her mother. She's not rebellious anymore because she doesn't have anything to rebel against.

But now--I guess the rebellion has succeeded. She's 18. I didn't think it was that big a deal when I turned 18, it didn't change my life all that much, but I don't fight with my mother, either. I don't think Nora's mom's a bad person or anything, and she obviously means well, but she does seem a bit controlling and she treats Nora like a little kid. Of course, if I had a teenager who dated college guys and drank vodka and dyed her hair blue, all of which Nora used to do, I suppose I might get a little controlling, too....

The main thing is that Nora's mom was always threatening to take her out of school and send her back to normal high school or maybe to some remedial program for kids who act up and now she can't do that. She can decide to stop paying tuition, but then Nora would qualify for a campus job. She could stay.

"Anyway, my Mom paid ahead to the end of this year," Nora pointed out.

I think it won't be long until Nora has her own income source, anyway. She's making all the candles for the campus now, including a lot of scented and colored candles--they're in jars in the herbarium for anyone to use, in case a spell calls for such a thing. This year, she's also experimenting with making soaps and various cosmetics from different combinations of goats' milk, beeswax, honey, and herbal essential oils. For now, since she's using campus materials, all of her products go for campus use (I found a jar hand-labeled "Goat's Beard Soap: Shampoo for Your Goatee" in the bathroom the other day. Mine's more of a Van Dyke, but the stuff works. It smells nice, too) but I expect she'll start a business one of these days.

She still loves bees.

Of course, Nora's isn't the only Independence Day this week. Nora turns 18 and the nation as a whole turned 225. I didn't go see the fireworks. I remember being, of all things, slightly bored by them last year, as though the rocket's red blare was less important to me than the lake was less important than the lakewater and the night sky the display interrupted.

So, this time I didn't go. After class I went swimming down at the lake (Allen was there when I arrived--I think the man is part otter) then came back, did my homework, and tried to nap (despite the sound of fireworks in the distance) until it was time to meet Charlie and the others in the grape arbor for Dead Poet's Society.

With the campers here, of course, we had to wear our uniforms and keep our hoods up so we'd look mysterious and hard to identify, and we spoke only in poetry. Sequoia, Megan, and May, Charlie's grand-nieces, had sneaked their friends out of camp to come join us, neglecting to mention, of course, that sneaking out for poetry wasn't exactly against the rules. It's more fun if they think they're being subversive. This happened all last summer, and I expect it will happen all this summer.

But this time, after opening the meeting as he always does, Charlie did something I haven't seen him do before; he recited The Star-Spangled Banner like a poem.

He made it come alive. He made it really clear, you could fel the tension, of this man on the deck of the ship, watching and waiting in the dark, and sometimes a bomb would go off and in the light of the explosion he'd see for a moment, that the flag hadn't fallen...yet. But then darkness would fall and there would be no news, just blackness, until the next explosion. And then, in the morning, he can barely stand to look, so he asks someone else--is the flag still there?

And we never actually hear the answer to the question.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Year 2: Part 4: Post 2: Carrie

So, my sister went home, the other guests all left, and on Monday we all went back to class. Litha doesn't start a new semester, so in some ways everything is back to normal.

In other ways--well, of course the summer campers arrived on Saturday, so campus is now full of shrieking children again and we're back to wearing ordinary clothes outdoors so the campers don't see us looking like wizards in our uniforms. Kit says summer begins at Beltane, but I still maintain it has just begun now.

The weather's been pretty hot of late, mostly over 90 degrees, so I'm glad not to have to wear my uniform all the time. Everyone looks more comfortable, except Allen, who still wears a suit, or at least a collared shirt, whenever he isn't in uniform. Lately he's looked damp with sweat. I used to think he was just a really formal person, but he's totally not. So, why does he dress like that?

"I like suits," he told me, when I asked. "And when in doubt, I dress up rather than down."

When in doubt? Is he always in doubt then? If so, of what?

A few weeks ago I attended Calalloo, Kit's open-mike without a mike, and saw a woman named Carrie sing. This is her third year here, but she's a mastery candidate in Snake Dorm, so I hadn't really spent any time with her before. That she's a motorcycle mechanic, that she expects to win her ring this year, and that she's gay were pretty much all I knew about her (she's very pretty, so I was asking around about her a little last year, before someone explained I had no chance). But then she sang at Calalloo and I was really impressed. I said so, and we started talking.

She sang "Unknown Legend," that Neil Yong song about the woman riding a Harley Davidson. She sang it beautifully, with this rich, wonderful voice, rather like Kit's, except that Carrie isn't self-consciously flirtatious on stage, the way Kit is. I couldn't tell whether, as she sang the song, she was imagining herself on that Harley (her hair is blonde, like the woman in the song), imagining some other woman she knows, or both, or neither. Either way, it was beautiful.

The thing is that in talking with her I've learned that she's only twenty-three--and this is her third year as a candidate. Being a candidate, she must once have been a novice, and she must have had a period of Absence between getting her degree and coming back. That means...she got he bachelor's degree when she was seventeen?

"What, did you start college when you were fourteen?" I asked her the other day. She laughed.

"No, when I was sixteen. I tested out of a lot."

"How did you do that?" I was incredulous. She shrugged.

"I'm really smart," she explained nonchalantly. Then she colored and looked away.

"Really smart?" I got curious. "How?"

"How did I get really smart? I suppose I was born like this. It isn't something I make a big deal about."

"No, I mean, what kind of smart? What's it like?"

She shrugged again.

"I don't know, I just get bored easily. I learn fast."

"Is that why you left high school? Because you got bored?" I'd heard of such things. But her face changed and I wondered if I shouldn't have asked.

"I left school because I left home." I waited to see if she wanted to tell me more. Sometimes people want and need to answer difficult questions. Sometimes they don't. I wish I could tell the difference. "I left home because I overheard my Dad telling a friend of his that I needed some man to 'cure' me." She looked at me hard for a moment, to make sure I knew what she meant. "I left that night. When he woke up the next morning, I was already gone."

"He knew you were gay?" I clarified. She nodded.

"I'd told him."

"Wow," I said. I had a hard time figuring out what to say. "The more women I make friends with, the more men I want to kill." She laughed and took my hand for a moment.

"You're sweet, Daniel," she said, "and potentially useful, but you don't have to commit murder for me."

Actually, there are only two guys I feel really murderous about, Aidan's dad and now Carrie's, though there are a lot of other guys I'm not exactly pleased with because of things they've done to various friends of mine. But I haven't met any of these people. What would I do if I did?

I mean, I don't actually think I should commit murder. I'm no vigilante. But would I really be tempted? It's easy to think all kinds of things about people I've never met and never will.

I'm thinking again of how Karen carries a knife with her everywhere she goes. I mean, it's a serious knife, made for hurting people. She does it so that she can't fantasize about violence she doesn't intend to commit. She has to confront whatever violent tendencies she has honestly.

It does sound,though, that people like Nora, and maybe even Kayla, are not that unheard of here. I mean, that they aren't the first high school-age kids to come here. There haven't been many, I don't think, but there was Carrie, and I've heard that before Karen the athletics master used to be a rock climber named Jane Spider, and she originally came here as a teenage runaway. Some of the windows in the Mansion can open from the outside, and I've heard that's because Spider Jane used to literally teach people to climb up the walls.

That must have been something to see.


Next Post: Monday, July 7th: Independence Day


 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Year 2: Litha

This time, I invited my sister, Cecilee, to Litha on campus.

Actually, I invited the rest of my family, too, but my sister's the only one who came. I'm kind of glad, because it meant I could still hang out with other people's families, too. If my parents and brother had been here, too, I would have been entirely occupied playing host.

As I explained last year, the summer solstice (Litha) here is a giant all-day picnic where everybody's families and a lot of graduates come to visit (yes visitors have to pay for food, but it's only $10 for basically two meals). There's a big wicker figure, the Man, out on one of the lawns and we stuff notes into it with wishes and hopes and prayers written on them. At sunset, we light the Man on fire and he takes our wishes and messages with him to the other side.

It's a symbolic sacrificial ritual, obviously, but I think the Man is also supposed to symbolize the sun, something like that.

While the Man burns, and afterwards, there's music and dancing all night long. Literally. At least a few people dance the sun up. There's no classes the next day or anything; the summer semester doesn't start until Monday, so we basically get a four-day weekend this year*.

I had a hard time explaining all of this to Cecilee--the Man and the dancing and everything, the symbolism and all of it. Mostly because I don't clearly understand it myself, because nobody explains things like that around here. Nobody except Kit, I mean. She likes explaining symbols and usually does so readily, and our picnic blanket was right next to hers, so, I asked her. But instead of explaining it she just asked my sister if she was having a good time. "Oh, yes," was the answer.

"Then that's what it means," Kit replied. Then she went back to feeding her husband little shreds of roasted pork.

We were sharing our picnic blanket with Sadie, Kayla, and Aidan, plus Nora and her mother and Andy. Andy doesn't have a family, so Sadie adopted him for the day. My sister and Nora's mother were both still having a hard time understanding what we do here at school--we seem to puzzle them--and I was doing a poor job of explaining, so Nora took over. Kayla tried to help, too, but she's lived here all her life so she doesn't have a very good basis of comparison. My sister also seemed really curious about Aidan. She's the same age as Nora, and doesn't know any other teen mothers, so I suppose Kayla seems exotic to her. After we were finished eating, Kayla, Nora, and my sister all wandered off together and disappeared into the crowd.

I saw them a few times after that--they seemed to have formed a group with Mary, the oldest of Charlie's grand-nieces. Sometimes David seemed to be tagging along with him, but most of the time he was with the younger kids. I guess this is how sprouts grow up--they kind of separate themselves and start hanging out with older teens.

It's not just the older sprouts who are moving on. I remember that last year the littler ones, the toddlers and Aidan, who was a baby, mostly stayed around their parents. Allen carried Alexis around pretty much all day, grinning this besotted pride. It was really sweet.

Now, all of them are running around and playing in their own little group, which is a little strange, because they're only a year older. I mean, last year Julius, one of Charlie's grand-nephews, was four, and he stuck with his mother, June. Now, he's five, and old enough to run around freely. But Alexis and Billie (one of Sarah's kids) are four now, and they're running around with Julius. So is Aidan, who's only 18 months old.

It's perfectly safe; they're all surrounded by adults, and somebody keeps an eye on them.


I didn't mind Cecilee running off, partly because I really do want to get to know the school a bit better and making friends here will help with that. But also, it meant I could go hang out with other people's families some, people I hardly ever get to see. Like Charlie's sister, Maria. I remember her from last year, and I really like her a lot. She's just this wonderfully mantronly person. This year she hugged me, which was wonderful.

This year I also managed to ask her how is it that two kids in the same family have virtually the same name--the other brother is Mario. I knew Maria's name is really Mary (she's trying to return to her Italian heritage), but still.

Turns out, Mario and Mary are both middle names. Maria's first name is Theresa, though she says she was always called Mary as a kid. Mario's first name is Anthony, and he went by Tony growing up. He switched to his middle name when he joined the army, though Maria doesn't know why.

Anyway, so I had a great time at the picnic, but, once again, I wasn't there when they lit the Man. I was up in a tree, watching the sunset. I think I'm going to make that a tradition of mine. Charlie wasn't in the same tree, the way he was last year (an accident--I nearly fell out of the tree when he spoke to me). He was in the next tree over. I spotted him and waved and he waved back, but then we both went back to watching the sunset.

The sky turned tangerine in places and shadow stretched over the campus and moved up the tree towards me and past me. I felt the temperature drop as the sunlight drained away into the sky. Below, on the lawn, they lit the Man and fire bloomed up, orange. Music started up, but it sounded very far away.

When I finally climbed down, it was completely dark, no moonlight. To my surprise, Charlie had waited for me. I suppose he wanted to make sure I made it safely down--last year I needed his coaching to climb in the dark, after all.

"Are you going to the dance?" He asked me, conversationally.

"I suppose so," I told him. "Are you?" I think he shook his head. "I get the feeling I'm supposed to go," I explained. And there are things like that here--not exactly required, but if you don't go you miss something important.

"Sometimes doing what you're not supposed to do is important," he told me. "The first night I ever stayed out in the woods--I was a city boy from Boston, you know. But I went to Boyscout camp. One year, a buddy of mine and I sneaked out, spent all night in the woods, running around. At dawn I saw mist coming off the pond. I saw a great blue heron, first one I ever saw, down by the boat ramp. Thing was as tall as I was."

I tried to imagine Charlie as a city kid and failed. But I could imagine him as a child, seeing that heron for the first time. When he spoke again, his voice sounded almost impish.

"Come on. I won't tell the teachers if you won't."

And so I skipped out on the dance entirely and Charlie taught me how to follow trails in the woods in the dark, with no flashlight, feeling where the trail was by touch through my feet, navigating by memory and the touch of a hand on landmark trees at trail crossings and the shape of the occasional glimpse of sky. We didn't talk much, except when he stopped to explain something, but it wasn't like hanging out with my teacher. It was more like being eight and playing hooky from something. I have no idea why Charlie invited me to go with him--why he didn't just go by himself, or why he didn't choose a different companion. It's possible I just happened to be there at the right time. Barred owls hooted in the distance and frogs sang and, weirdly, the occasional few notes of music floated up from campus on a puff of wind.

We went uphill, mostly, since Charlie pointed out that would make it easier to get back if we did get lost. Dawn found us on the top of the ridge above campus, deep into the land conservancy property where we aren't supposed to go, looking out over the valley, the campus, the lake, and beyond that all the way to the next ridgeline over, all in shadow, though we could see the sun through the trees over another curve of the ridge. The birds sang around us and I heard every one of them. Charlie didn't ask me to prove it, but I could have. It's weird to think--this is the high point of the year--literally, considering I was thinking this on the top of a mountain--and that means it goes down from here. It gets darker. The Man burns brightly, because he is going away.

Then I followed Charlie back to campus, and he turned into a teacher again, closed in on himself somehow. But I don't think he told anyone what we had done. He didn't tell the teachers. And I certainly didn't tell.

[Next Post: Monday, June 30th: Carrie]

*The summer solstice was on a Thursday in 2001

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Year 2: Third Interlude

Hello, from 2014, again,

Dropping down to just one post a week was the right thing to do, though it still feels strange. It's not like I spent a lot of time writing that second post every week, only an hour or two, usually, but those two hours have really made a difference. I feel busy still, but saner.

You know, thinking about being busy, everyone I know from grad school is horribly busy (or unemployed, or both). I think we all got busy in order to get our homework done on time in school or something, and we haven't gotten around to getting un-busy. Like,we're just waiting for there to be less to do. But that's never going to happen. We could be horribly busy for the rest of our lives, if we let ourselves be.

And most of us probably will, I think. It's seductive, busy-ness. There are a lot of things you don't have to think about, when you're busy. And you get to feel so bizarrely virtuous about it. I think, sometimes, of the words of one of the prayers Charlie used to say, I think he got it from AA, asking God to relieve me of the bondage of self that I might better do thy will. And I wonder if that's what some of my friends are doing, giving their wills and their lives over to their careers...I wonder if that's what I'm doing.

Right now, I'm writing this outside in my flower garden with my daughter asleep on my lap and every few minutes I can hear the hummingbirds buzz behind us to get to my columbine patch. Life is good. Life is very good. I don't want to ever be too busy to do this.

And when she wakes up she's going to want to explore the garden. She's going to want to ask me the name of every single plant in the garden and then every blade of grass, every leaf, in the yard. Fortunately, I know all the names. Charlie prepared me oddly well to have a sixteen-month-old. And we'll look for salamanders and worms and I'll try to keep her from touching any of them. And then we will have dinner and I will try to feed her even though she's in this phase now where she'd much rather feed me. I don't want to be too busy for any of this, ever.

When I was on campus, at the school, I mean, not grad school, I almost never felt busy, even though I was actually doing a lot more than I am now. Part of it was simply that my life was very structured, so it was easier to move from one task to another. But part of it was that all the things I was doing added up to a whole life. There was both intellectual and athletic activity, there were always friends around when I wanted to hang out, it was just a full life. I was never too busy to do anything I really wanted to do, because I was already doing all the things I really wanted to do. I'm sure the masters did that on purpose, structuring the school so it would be like that.

I used to ask them, sometimes, what a master was, especially when I was working to become one. I asked more than once because I got more than one answer--from each of them. But one of my favorite answers was when Allen told me that "a master is a whole human being."

Am I a whole human now? I certainly have been; I wear the green ring for a reason. But am I one now? I think at this moment, in the garden with the hummingbirds and my daughter, I am. I am thinking about what I'll be in the next moment, though, and the next moment after that, and all the moments after that as she grows up so I can be a whole human being.

It's Father's Day today. Last year I wished my Dad Happy Father's Day and he wished me the same thing and I about fell over. This year I'm more used to me being the Dad. My wife went off somewhere and left me with Carly all day as a Father's Day present, which is, curiously, the same thing that we did on Mother's Day. Everyone had told me that I should give her a day away from the baby, buy her a trip to a salon or a spa or something, so I did that, except my wife isn't exactly the spa or salon type, so I sent her birding. She enjoyed it.

But for Father's Day this is what I wanted. To fallow this little bundle of energy and questions around all day, without interruption or other responsibility, so when a female hummingbird tried to pick a fight with her (that's what hummingbirds do; they're ridiculously aggressive little creatures) I could be there with my daughter to tell her what it's called.

"Hum!" she repeated. "Humba!"