Our major spring holiday was, of course, not Easter but Ostara, the spring equinox, the previous month. I should, maybe, have described that first, but Easter was on my mind the other day, and I wanted to talk about it.
It was always the eight sabbats that were the major campus holidays--the times when we would have some time off, plus scheduled holiday-related activities. That being said, we didn't necessarily celebrate them as Wiccan holidays. The school had no specific religion overall; the practicing Wiccans held their own celebrations, just as the monotheists, Buddhists, and everybody else did. What the school as a whole celebrated was a unique tradition all its own. We never talked about what, if anything, it meant, it was just what we did, and it was usually fun.
For Ostara, we had a picnic feat, we opened and decorated Chapel Hall, where the classrooms were, and we had an egg hunt. We did not hunt dyed chicken eggs.
Instead, we hunted for actual bird's nests. Charlie was in charge of it, and he handed out digital cameras, memo pads, and good binoculars--one of each per team of two--and told us to go take pictures of active nests. We were supposed to write down why we believed the nest to be active, and where it was on campus. Nests or egg masses belonging to other animals were ok, too. We got one point per nest, an extra point if the time stamp on the picture showed we were the first to take a picture of that nest, and another point if the picture was beautiful or artistically interesting. A point would be deducted for a nest that wasn't actually active, or if Charlie found out that we had done anything to stress the animals. The winning team would get a prize, and the best pictures would be printed and hung in the Chapel Hall gallery.
I didn't win, though my team found two bird's nests, one of them first, which Charlie said later was actually really good. We also found a preying mantis egg case, but it was old, and lost us a point. "Good eye, though," Charlie remarked on our memo pad.
The team that did win (three nests, one of them first, and two really great pictures) got a prize--which I'd expected to be a five dollar gift certificate or a chocolate bunny, but turned out to be a pair of beautiful Faberge-style eggs. Charlie had found them in a yard sale, and and paid for them accordingly, but he must have known they were worth a bundle. The things were exquisite, tiny, precious metals and enamel, and apparently a matched set. Charlie told the winners they could give the eggs away, if they wanted, but could not sell them.
I heard later that the prizes were always egg-themed, always a surprise, and always serious pieces of art. The year before the prize had been seven Ukranian Easter eggs, dyed using wax to resist successive layers of dye until the base color was almost black, but interrupted by a marvelous filigree of flower, leaf, and animal designs. The year before that, each winner got a small silver tree from which were suspended nine tiny ceramic eggs, each a different color and pattern. I saw both the Ukranian eggs and one of the trees (the other had been given to the recipient's wife), since the people who won them were still on camps. No one knew where Charlie got the egg trees.
Did any of this mean anything, besides a fun time outside on a nice day? Was there any intended message or teaching, or was the whole activity simply an example of Charlie's fondness for going outside and paying attention to things? A lot that went on at the school had no explanation, it just was, and might or might not have been intended as meaningful.
I do know I liked the egg hunt. It made me feel both very childlike and very grown-up, like the thing inside me that had liked hunting plastic eggs in the living room had grown up, so the game had grown up, but I liked it in exactly the same way as I always had.
It's hard to explain.