Friday, February 22, 2013
Part 1: Post 9: Getting Ready for Spring
It's been warm the past few days, so the snow's getting a little slushy and soft. When it freezes again, everything will go to ice. In the meantime, it's been nice being able to walk around outside without cloaks on. We've been spending more time outside, too, horsing around in the snow, since the weather's been nice. It's bad for tracking, though; I tried going out in the woods after lunch today, and found a lot of the prints are sort of muddled-looking and vague, since they've been melting a bit. After the snow refreezes there'll be a crust on top, so I don't think there will be any new tracks at all until the next snow.
It feels a bit like spring, though I know it will probably freeze up again next week. It's not just the weather, though; the whole campus is getting ready for the new year.
Of course, we've been getting ready for spring academically the whole time I've been here, though I never really thought about it that way before. That's the point of not starting classes immediately, to give us (and the school) time to get ready for spring semester. So many of us start out with at least something of a head start on the graduation requirements, in part because a lot of the students are older--I'm one of the few people here under twenty, and I'd say most people are over twenty-five. So between that and the way new students keep coming in until the last day before Brigid, they don't know who is going to take what classes until several weeks in to the year. I like this system better than the way my old college did things--there, I had to make a lot of major decisions, like registering for classes, before I really knew anything about college.
We have a new student, by the way. She's in my dorm--she's new to the school, but not new to campus. It's kind of a weird situation.
Her name is Kayla, and she's the daughter of Sadie, the head cook. She's lived here for years, I think maybe her whole life. I'd seen her around campus a few times, and she's a charming, pretty little kid, a bit pudgy, with long, straight blonde hair. She'd twelve.
And the thing is, she just had a baby, around Brigid. Yes, I know how the child was conceived,and yes, it's a horrible story, and no, I'm not going to tell the story. It's not my story to tell. But nobody knew she was pregnant, not even Kayla. She's a little pudgy as I said, and she's one of those people who hardly shows at all--I have cousins like that. And the baby was born premature. And of course nobody had any idea that she even could be pregnant.
She's in my dorm now because the masters, who I guess are like family to her, decided that the best way to respond to this really horrible loss of her childhood is to start treating her like an adult. When I first heard this I got really angry, I thought it was just about the worse thing I've ever heard, but I'd heard it wrong. It's not like all of a sudden she's expected to act like an adult. It's that now that she's had an experience that other kids can't relate to, they thought it would help her to spend more time with older women who can help her kind of process through what has happened--and what's continuing to happen. I mean, in one sense, she's a mother now. Sadie has custody of the boy and is going to raise him, but Kayla is going to help--and even if he was given up for adoption she'd still know she had a son out there. I can't imagine having a kid now, let alone at twelve. It must be really confusing. So that's why she's here. And of course, being twelve, she'd want some space from her mother soon, anyway. I think the masters are just doing the best they can for her by giving her what they have. She's homeschooled anyway, so I don't think much is going to change for her academically.
Kayla is going to take some classes, and eventually she'll graduate college here, if she doesn't decide to leave first, so the masters are going to put together a curriculum for her. It's just a more extreme version of what they're doing with the rest of us. There's Kayla and Nora on the one end, who haven't even finished high school, and Arther, who knows enough he could probably teach here on the other. And me in the middle. I'm probably one of the few likely to spend an ordinary collegiate four years here, but I'm still going through the motions of trying to document advanced standing. It's not like I'm in a hurry to get out of here, but it would be nice to know I've got at least a couple of credits under my belt.
I don't have any transfer credit, because I failed all my classes last fall, but I took a battery of tests yesterday and today I did an interview with the masters.
The tests cover the six academic areas where we have to show competence, they're mostly sciences, which was a surprise, plus history. I don't think I did very well, but then I wasn't expecting to get much of any credit that way anyway. We'll get the results next week.
The interview was about the other group of graduation requirements, the "mastery areas," as they are called, because we have to pick a master in each area. Technically you need a certain number of credits in each one, but you're not done until the master says you are, so there's no getting a couple of credits to start out with. But you can skip an entire area, just not choose a master at all, if you can demonstrate competence in that area. Two of the areas are art and athletics, and as you have hopefully noticed, I can paint and draw. I also ran track and cross country in high school. We'll get the results for this week, too, but I think I may get out of both areas.
The interview is kind of free-form. You go in there, and you have up to an hour to convince the masters that you're competent in whatever area it is. You can make your argument any way you like, and they can ask you questions afterwards. They've been doing a couple of these things a day for two weeks now, I was one of the last ones to go in.
It's kind of scary, talking to all six of them at once, but I don't intimidate easily. I went in there with my art portfolio and a drawing pad, in case they wanted a demonstration, and my medals and the records I'd kept of all the races I'd run and my times and I placed. They seemed pleased, even impressed--Kit liked my pictures, and Charlie commented that he liked my detail in the botanical sketches. So I'm guardedly optimistic.
But when the meeting ended, I was still kind of confused. It was the last interview they did today, so when we were done they all got up to leave. I just kind of sat there, thinking. The interview was in the Rose Room, off the Great Hall, and I'm allowed to be there when it's not otherwise in use.
Allen hung behind the others, and when we were alone he asked if something was bothering me.
"I think I did pretty well just now," I told him, "but I don't know why. Why does it matter if I'm competent in athletics or healing or some kind of handcraft, or whatever else? It's just...sometimes I don't know why I'm here."
"Well," Allen began, "why are you here?"
"That's what I just said I don't know!" I wasn't sure I was in the mood for Allen's questions just then, questions popping out of questions like those nested Russian dolls. I think I let some anger slip into my voice, which I usually don't do with professors, but he didn't seem to mind.
"Yes you do," he told me. "Or, you did when you came here. Why did you come here?"
"It's silly," I said. Allen shrugged and smiled a little.
"I came here because...I want to learn magic, like Harry Potter," I confessed. I think my ears turned red. Allen just nodded a little.
"What's magic?" he asked.
"I don't know," I told him.
"Ok, what's magical?"
I thought about this. It was a question I could answer at least.
"It's...it's like when you see something beautiful outdoors, or when someone does something you didn't think anyone could do...anything kind of surprising and wondrous."
"Have you ever done anything magical?" Allen asked me.
"Yes," I told him. "A year ago I was in this race...I'd been hurt for a while and I'd just recovered, so I wasn't really in great shape and the race was longer than what I normally do. I was pushing myself too far, and I hit the wall way too early. It was awful, I thought I was going to have to stop and walk for a bit, but I didn't. I kept going...and all of a sudden it was like something else was running in me, it was, like, beyond second wind, I wasn't tired anymore, I didn't hurt anywhere, I was just going. I just went. I won that race. I still don't know how. I can't even take credit for it, it was like something else ran through me...it...was magical."
"Now you know why we require athletics. It's a way in. All these areas are ways in. We require all of them because we don't know which ones will work for you."
"Is that all?" I asked.
"Do you think that's all?"
"Allen! You're...why won't you give me straight answers?"
"Why do you think I'm not giving you straight answers?" He asked this with a straight face, but his eyes twinkled. He was playing with me. He was making fun of himself and he was playing with me! I didn't know what to say. Allen smiled finally, and got up, grabbing his cloak. I got up, too, but before leaving, Allen turn back to me and held up his wand--it's a standard stage magician's wand, black with a white tip, and I don't know where he pulled it from.
"Disarm me," he said, and I didn't know what he was talking about. He waggled his wand a bit and grinned. "Disarm me!" He held his wand out, like a fencer's foil. Did he really mean...like in Harry Potter? I'd brought both my wand and my athame to the interview just in case, so I drew out my wand and pointed it at him with a flourish.
"Expelliarmus!" I shouted, and Allen's wand vanished completely.
"See?" he told me, "you're learning."
[Next Post: February 25, test results]