Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Part 1: Post 2: Arrival
I found something today, and I don't know what it is or what it means.
Curiosity tugged at me. Then I passed a second driveway and sign, evidently a second entrance to whatever it was. Curiosity tugged harder. I didn't have anything else to do, so I turned my car around and drove in. I didn't read the sign.
The grounds of the campus I drove onto looked very vaguely collegiate, and I saw several groups of people walking through the snow. Mostly, they looked to be about my age, some older, both men and women. The thing is, a lot of them wore hooded, black capes. They looked...like Hogwarts students, something from Harry Potter. They all ignored me, except to step out of the way of the car. One of the buildings had a car port in front and a formal-looking entryway, so that is where I went. I can't begin to explain what I was doing or why I was doing it. I'm kind of in between things right now and, well, why not. The slate steps were icy but well sanded and the door had weight when I opened it. It seemed real.
The office inside was warm and smelled like wet wool and melted snow. There was a large desk, and a woman behind it looking at me, and all sorts of knickknacks around, little statues and hangings and what-not. The woman--she was slim and kind of ageless-looking, like you'd want to call her ma'am but you couldn't be sure she wouldn't take offense. She was wearing an electric blue top, I don't know why I remember that. When she asked can I help you? I simply opened my mouth and said the first thing that came to my head;
"What is this place? Some kind of pagan seminary?"
I'm not usually that abrupt with strangers, but her eyes twinkled and she smiled at me.
"That's exactly what it is," she told me. I was stunned. What does "pagan seminary" even mean? I had some Wiccan friends in high school, so I know a little, but it's not really my thing. On a whim, I asked how to apply. The woman asked if I wanted to attend the school. I said I did, which was suddenly quite true. I want to have something to tell my parents besides that I quit school so I wouldn't fail it. I want some sort of plan B. And I want to belong to this strange place where people wear Harry Potter robes to class.
The woman smiled and said I'd just been accepted and that new student orientation begins in two days.
"Hold on," I told her, "two days? What am I going to tell my parents? How am I going to pay for this? What is this place?" I mean, I normally do things on a whim, but I like to research the whim some before I jump into it. I like to know where I'm going. She smiled and handed me a pamphlet and told me to sit on a couch and read it and come back with any more questions.
And while I was sitting there, the oddest thing happened. Other people started coming in, just like I had. I think four of them at least, all having some version of the same conversation I'd had. Mostly I was reading my pamphlet when the others came it, but one girl caught my attention because she looked so young. Her hair was half purple and badly cut and she was in the middle of some argument with her mother, who called her Nora. I didn't mean to evesdrop, but I listened anyway. I do that a lot.
"But she's sixteen!"the mother said to the woman in electric blue, "she has to finish high school!"
"Oh, and does Nora like school?" the receptionist asked, brightly. "Does she get good grades?"
And the mother just drooped. Her words fell out like pillows from an overstuffed closet. It was like she was making a confession. She told the receptionist all about Nora's failing grades ("and she's such a bright girl!"), her late nights, her sleazy boyfriends...Nora saw me looking at her and we locked eyes for a moment. I smiled sympathetically and she half-smiled back and rolled her eyes. In the end they worked out some kind of deal. I think Nora is starting school here, too, but she's going to have to complete some sort of adapted curriculum and go home every weekend.
The next one caught my attention because he was old. Old-er, anyway. His hair is all grey. He came in, looked around carefully, and said "this is a pagan seminary, right? Non-denominational?"
The receptionist seemed a little surprised and asked him how he knew. At that moment, I am not even kidding, two people wearing black robes walked out from a door behind the desk, talking to each other about whether it was better to take magic with Allen or with Kit. The latter, apparently, gives more homework. When they saw us in the office, the two people excused themselves and walked out through the front door.
"Yes, aside from that," said the receptionist, trying very hard not to laugh.
"It takes one to know one," the man said. "I've been a Wiccan priest for forty-five years. My wife and I were in a coven for twenty. You've got signs up all over the place for anyone with eyes to see. I'll get to the point; how do I apply?"
"You just did--as a student,"the receptionist said. "We don't hire outside faculty." When the man assured her that was alright, she asked him why he wanted to be a student.
"Beginner's mind?"he suggested, then grew quieter and explained that his wife had died less than a year ago and he didn't want to be alone. "And I'm not ready for one of those damn nursing homes."
He got a pamphlet, too, and some sympathetic words, and joined me on the couch. I asked him what signs he was talking about and he pointed out the symbolism of some of the knickknacks. His name is Arther.
I gather that all students come this way, they just walk in, and if they guess what the school is and say they want to enroll, they are admitted. From what the woman in blue--her name is Sharon--told me, they trickle in over the year, but most show up in the last couple of weeks before orientation. They start the school year in February, not September here. I guess it's an entrance test--you have to be intuitive enough to find the school--and I passed!
Look, I'm not as flighty as all of this makes me sound. This is really fast, but I've read the pamphlet and asked questions, and I actually know almost as much about this place as I did about my old school when I started. No matter what else it is, this place is a fully accredited liberal arts college. I don't have to take on any more debt to go here, and I can pay as I go so if I decide I don't like it I can leave without really losing anything. I'll think about it for a few more days so I can be sure.
But I've got a good feeling about this.