Has it really been nearly a month since I posted? While anyone who read the last post will understand why I’ve been distracted this time, this project deserves better. There are other things about this blog I am not happy with, and so I have come to a decision; I am going to start over this winter. I am going to write this the way I intended to originally, as though it were happening to me now. That way you will find out about the school as I did, a little at a time, through people and events and doings. I will probably use a different website for the new version of the project—I will let you know when I get the details sorted out. In the meantime, I will keep you posted.
The fall equinox has just passed. The associated holiday is called Mabon, and I still celebrate it, as I celebrate all of these holidays, in my own way. “In my own way,” this year turned out to be a party. I don’t live very far from the old campus, and there’s a bunch of us in the area who get together every so often. This weekend, we had a party, two dozen or so former students and staff. We all brought food, plus there was a good bit of alcohol, and someone brought a guitar. We sang and danced for a while, and then most of us ended up outside around a fire, wrapped up in blankets and telling stories about the past. I’m not sure what, other than the weather and the hard cider, really counted as seasonal or holiday-related, but we’re all used to doing something special on the equinox. I’m not sure how to explain it. Holidays and other cultural traditions seem arbitrary from the outside, and so they are, but they don’t feel arbitrary from the inside. They feel like a fact of nature, a kind of emotional gravity well. Imagine moving to a new country where they don’t celebrate Christmas. Even if you are not Christian, even if you don’t celebrate the holiday yourself, it might seem kind of odd to treat December 25th like just another ordinary day. For me, the world outside of campus has become a new country. I was born here, in the ordinary world, but I feel like an immigrant in my own land. I’ve either gained a home or lost one, I can’t tell which. I party on certain days because I do not want old habits to die. Not yet.
On campus we celebrated the Equinox in a variety of ways; it wasn’t a major campus holiday (it did not mark a semester break), and there were a couple of events but not everyone participated in them. One thing pretty much all of us did was what we called a “thank you gathering.” We made a big circle—close to seventy people—and took turns handing each other a ball of yarn and thanking each other. You unrolled the yarn as you went, so once you had thanked someone—and you could thank them for anything, large or small—you remained linked by a length of yarn. Then the person who got thanked had the yarn and could use it to thank someone else. Eventually there was a web of yarn tangling everybody together. A kid (it was Allen’s son) was in charge of adding new balls of yarn as the old one ran out and he also ferried the ball of yarn from one person to another so we didn’t get tangled in the web. He could run around under the yarn, if we lifted up the web for him. It sounds hokey, but it ended up being really fun. We used a lot of yarn, but I found out later it was from the weaver who made most of our clothing and all of our wool blankets and rugs. It was the yarn that had come out wrong, spun all lumpy and irregular, mostly by trainees, over the course of a year.
It sounds a bit hokey, but actually it was a lot of fun. We were outside, and the weather was gorgeous, crisp and blue, with the trees just beginning to turn but most of them still green, and people goofing around with the yarn or dancing a bit to no music anyone else could hear, or laughing at the stories being told about why this or that person was grateful to someone else…sometimes someone told a serious story, or handed the yarn over with only a hug, too moved for words, and we all grew still.
Something about making a point of expressing gratitude makes a person think op more things to be grateful for. I’d never noticed, particularly, how much I appreciated what the people of campus, masters and students, did. It was like the feelings moved along inside me when I wasn’t noticing, but for once I noticed them, really noticed all these awesome people I’d landed among. I’d also never known how much other people appreciated me. I don’t think much about myself—you notice I’ve been writing this for months now and you hardly know anything about me—and I sometimes forget that of course other people do think about me, for better or worse. It’s not that I thought people didn’t like me, but I was really touched to find out I actually mattered to some people. It was a warm, fuzzy feeling we wove, along with the yarn that day.
Afterwards, we did not untangle the yarn but we wrapped up the web into a big ball. I asked what it would be used for—I’d noticed that hardly anything on campus was ever just thrown out—and one of the senior students told me it would be used to kindle the fire on Brigid. I remembered the candle light on Brigid, and the ceremony of the candles, when I lit Kit’s candle from my own back when I didn’t know her at all, and it struck me that the light we gave the faculty members so they could light the room for us was actually this gratitude of the community, shining. And it struck me, too, that the candlelight of Brigid was only eight months in the past. I’d only been eight months at the school. It felt like I’d been there forever.