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.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Part 2: Post 8: Finding Dumbledore

So a group of us got talking the other day at breakfast, arguing about which of the masters is Dumbledore. Of course, none of them really make a good parallel, but that's a really boring way to answer the question, so we kept arguing about it. Each of the masters had somebody arguing for them. I think it comes down to definitions, I mean, nobody looks like Dumbledore, or even acts much like him, but Dumbledore is the most central, most Hogwartzy of the professors in Rowling's' books. So the analogy we were all groping for is who is the most central of our teachers; who best epitomizes our school?
And everybody has their own answer because the school is different for each of us. For Andy, this school is about becoming a true Christian, while for Nora I think it's about becoming Wiccan--about finding something spiritually significant in being female, anyway. It's like each person sees this place through a different filter, and that filter structures what they learn here. It's like there are actually many different schools here, each with its own central figure or figures, depending on your perspective.

I think this is a way to think about something I've noticed, that even though us novices usually work with several masters, most of the senior students also seem to have a master who is particularly theirs. I guess that is their Dumbledore, the central figure of the school as each person sees it. Maybe this is why I've been thinking so much about what masters I'm going to work with, even though I don't actually need to start deciding for months. I guess I'm trying to figure out what sort of school this will be for me.

I'm not alone, either. Of course, some people have to choose now; Arther is only going to be here a year, so he had to pick a master almost immediately. He's working on nature writing with Charlie. But a lot of other people, like me, are simply thinking about it early. Nora doesn't have to pick at all for a few years, because she's on a six year plan, but she's already gravitating to Kit. So I guess trying to find a teacher is just in the air.

 Meanwhile, I'm continuing to help Charlie, when I can get the time and when I can find him before lunch. He seems to like my company, or at least he doesn't totally dislike it, and I like working in the gardens with him. It reminds me of helping my Dad in the yard when I was little. I don't mean Charlie reminds me of my Dad, particularly, or that he's getting to be a father figure for me. It's just that helping out in a garden feels right. And Charlie seems to actually know everything, the way you think your parents know everything when you're little. He might find some little chewed place on a leaf and he can tell what chewed it and when and why, and what other animals might chew the chewer. And he gets such a kick out of it. The other day, he accidentally dug up an ant nest and he called me over so he could show me the little white eggs and pupae the ants were carrying around. And his face just shone, no griping or growling anywhere, just Then he left the nest alone for a while to give the ants time to finish moving. He speaks kindly to spiders. He treats plants with respect. And yet, according to reliable rumor, he keeps the woodchucks out of the farm fields with a bow and arrow. The deer skins in his bedroom, I'm sure, came from animals he killed himself.

Officially, he's the craft master; besides his academic classes, he mostly teaches the craft of ecologically responsible landscaping. He also teaches chainsaw operation and maintenance, as a craft. Like the others he can teach other mastery areas, too, like writing as an art, and I've heard of a few students who had talked him into teaching horticulture as an art, too, instead of as a craft. But there are also rumors that he can teach spiritual development—and nobody seems to know who has studied that with him, or what exactly they learned. Whenever anyone asks about his spiritual practice he growls or refuses to respond at all. But I’ve noticed that persistence goes a long way with Charlie. And I’ve seen his library.

So, today I just asked him if he would teach me. He said he didn’t know what I was talking about and tried to walk away, but I followed him. He told me he didn’t know anything I couldn’t learn on my own and to stop bothering him. Then he walked away faster.  But I’d deliberately asked him when no one else was around, because I had a plan to say something I didn't want just anybody to hear.

“I want what you have, and I’m willing to go to any lengths to get it,” I said to his receding back. It’s a slight paraphrase from the AA Big Book, one of the phrases I've heard them say ritualistically at the meetings I've been to. I knew he'd recognize it, and as soon as I said it he stopped where he was, but he didn’t turn around. “Hey Lao Tsu,” I added, “what, are you trying to make me ask you three times?” I’d heard somewhere that Lao Tsu wrote the Tao Te Ching only after someone had asked him for his wisdom three times. I don’t know if it’s true, but I added a third request of my own, just in case; “I dare you to teach a young numbskull like me!” And Charlie turned around and came back to me.

“Alright,” he growled, “but let’s get this thing clear. I’m not your buddy, and I’m not your cheerleader. I’m the bastard that’s gonna make you do the things you don’t have the balls to make yourself do. I’ll meet you tomorrow at the Martin House twenty minutes before dawn.” And he spun on his heel and walked away. I let him go.

For a man who ostensibly hadn’t wanted to teach me to begin with, it took him a surprisingly few number of seconds to come up with a lesson plan.

[Next post;April 15th; bird song]

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