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.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Part 2: Post 10: Wildflowers

Things are finally sprouting here. For the past few weeks I've noticed a kind of swelling on some of the tree-buds. Some of them have grown what looks, at a distance, like red fuzz. It's kind of pretty. Some of the shrubs have been flowering, too. But today I noticed that some of the trees and most of the shrubs have put out little sprouts of green leaves. Little flowers are up in the grass, and the grass by the side of the road is getting green and tall. Most of the grass on campus is still brown, though. Odd.

And I've got another assignment from Charlie. It's to go along with the growing ears thing, which I think it winding down, now. He's given me three different squares on campus, each about three feet on a side, marked with stakes, and I'm supposed to check each of them once a week and write down all of the plants that are flowering or fruiting when I visit. I don't think I'm supposed to do anything with this information; I'm not even sure I have to turn my list in. Maybe this time I'm growing eyes. Of course, I don't know most of the plants, and I certainly don't know their scientific names, but there are guide books I can borrow from the herbarium.

Have I mentioned the herbarium yet? It's an awesome place. It's in the Mansion, on the other side of the martial arts/yoga studio, and it's kind of an extension of the library. If we need to borrow anything, or need help finding something, we're supposed to come get the librarian. There are guide books and reference books for just about everything that lives and a few things that don't--insects and minerals and such, not just herbs. There are pressed samples of just about every plant that grows in the region. There are binoculars and magnifying lenses, microscopes and telescopes, flagging tape and very long tape measures. All sorts of good, sciency supplies. You'd think that all of this was here for Charlie's more sciency students, right? Wrong.

I mean, it is for us, but it's not just for us. There are also a lot of people studying the magical properties of plants and psychic communication with trees and so forth,and they need to know their plants,too. The place doubles as a supply room, with  big jars of leaves and roots and powders variously labeled for use in medicine, magic, and even cooking. You can come in here and get stuff for tea, if you want to, though not everything in the jars is edible. There is no presumption here that science should be devoid of spirit or magic, nor does anyone here seem to think that spirit or magic without science would be very smart.

So, an update "growing ears" with Charlie.

We got up every day for something like a week to listen to birds before he finally decided I'd gotten good enough that we didn't have to do it anymore. Not that I could always match his count, usually I couldn't, but I'd get it right once or twice in a row pretty often, and I'd get three times in a row sometime before breakfast. So he let me go. Great!

For three whole days, I could get up and go to zazen like a normal person, but today I blew it. I was sitting outside after lunch, enjoying the day, when one one of the senior students from another dorm, someone I don't know very well, looked up from her book and said, casually, "hey, that one's really pretty-sounding. Has it been singing the whole time?"

I looked up, kind of startled, and said "What? Huh? Oh, I don't know." And she looked at me like I was a total doofus.

"I'll go tell Charlie," she said, and got up.

Damn it, now I've got to grow ears again tomorrow before dawn. I bet normal college students don't have to deal with their professors sending spies.

Speaking of which, did I really just write "get up and go to zazen like a normal person"? Since when has this crazy life I lead been normal? I went home for this past weekend, the first time I've been home since I've been here, and my Dad said I've changed.

"Changed how?" I asked him.

"I don't know. I can't tell yet," he said.

"Ok, good or bad?"

"I don't know--but since this is you, let's call it good."

As far as I can tell, it's everything else has changed. Everyone here is so wasteful. My parents recycle, but I don't see why they buy so many cans and bottles to begin with. It's like they don't notice they're buying the cans and bottles and packages, only the soda and water and food inside. They drive to places they could easily bike to, and they do have bikes. My Mom drove five miles to the gym the other day, where she probably rode the Exercycle. They leave lights on. Intellectually, of course, I know they haven't changed; I have. And I haven't said anything yet. I don't want to come off like a jerk.

And it's not just that. My old friends are obsessed with stupid things and bored by what I find exciting. I'm used to talking about books and ideas and so on, and they aren't. Look, I don't want to give the wrong impression; my parents are not bad people, and my friends aren't stupid. My parents do recycle and have as long as I can remember, and they buy organic most of the time. And if my old friends like insipid and oafish things sometimes, well, so do I. But it's a question of emphasis, and mine's changed more than I'd realized. I even feel weird not wearing my uniform for so many hours on end. I guess I don't belong on the outside anymore....

I mentioned this in group therapy the other day, because it's kind of bothering me, and Allen said that yes, we do change here, and yes, some of the change is permanent, but feeling like we don't belong on the outside is temporary.

"You won't be again what you were before," he said, in his mild way, "But at your age after four years you wouldn't be the same, anyway. The outside is a big place, and you will find your place in it again, maybe even before you leave here."


Anyway, I'm glad I waited to go home until after I'd had several weeks of classes. I guess my parents had been worried that I'd end up mostly learning spells and fluff, but I showed them my course syllabi and my books and my notes and they're impressed. As my Mom said, she didn't take ecology and physics as a freshman. My Dad says he doesn't know how what I'm learning from Charlie relates to spiritual development (I think he'd rather I just go to church more often), but that I'm building a foundation I could build a living on in any of several different ways. I think he sees graduate school in my future. My Mom said money isn't everything, and not to worry how everything might relate to a career, just so long as I'm growing as a person.

I think I pretty much lucked out, as far as my parents go.

[Next Post; April 22: Easter]

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