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.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Part 4: Post 3: Curious Assignments

Kit is a surprisingly normal teacher, I’d say. I mean, I would have expected that her classes would be full of music and mystery and glamour. A lot of her workshops and talks are, and she’s always
dropping these hints, like she knows this magical secret and if you just follow her a little farther, you’ll learn it, too. So you’d expect her to begin her class by opening up a box full of live fairies or something. Maybe she does that in one of her other classes, but she didn’t in Anthropology. The class has been going for about a month now, and it’s a fairly straight-forward survey course covering the variety of known human culture. She assigns a lot of reading, and while she does not require a lot of writing in terms of word counts, she does demand that it be nearly flawless.

“If I can learn to spell, so can you,” she told Dan, in tones suggesting she expected him to learn it by the following week.

The only perhaps unusual thing about the class is she uses Wiccan symbolism to organize the syllabus; each of the eight homework assignments is organized around a different stage of human life and a different facet of human experience as per the Wiccan ritual mandala she taught us back in February. Not that she ever mentioned the connection, and not that I spotted it myself. Nora pointed it out to me. I can’t tell if Kit is surreptitiously trying to introduce us to Wicca, or if she just doesn’t notice there’s any other way to organize things anymore. If the latter, that would be ironic, as the whole point of this class is clearly to impress upon us that there is more than one way to organize things, more than one way to think.

I’ve never taken classes straight through the summer before, and I kind of wish I wasn’t doing it now. Chapel Hall is not, of course, air-conditioned. Nothing on campus is, and while we’ve only had a couple of really hot days, the building tends to get hotter and much stuffier than the outside air. It’s worse than the Mansion is, because we’re in the Mansion at night, so we can keep the windows open and let it cool down. In the morning, we shut all the windows and draw the curtains before we leave, and that helps. It has excellent insulation and all new windows, so that keeps the temperature inside fairly stable. Also, I know the Mansion was rebuilt when the school started, because it had been damaged by fire. Chapel Hall was not damaged, so it is in its original condition and that makes it hot in the summer and frigid in the winter.  I mean, it’s stick-to-your-chair hot. Sometimes we go outside for class, or at least into the Chapel where it’s cooler, but Kit usually needs the whiteboard, so we have to be in the classroom part of most class days. She brings iced coffee and fresh fruit to class for us, to help us stay awake.

A Variety of Grasses
Speaking of learning things, I’m still doing that assignment for Charlie where I’m surveying everything that’s growing and flowering in a couples of squares of ground every week. It’s not like the “growing ears” project, where I had to do well enough to be allowed to stop doing it; I suppose I’ll keep at this until the end of the growing season, whether I do ok at it or not. And since Charlie isn’t checking my work, as far as I know (I file my completed forms in the Herbarium, but he’s never mentioned reviewing any of them), I’m not sure I can tell for sure if I’m doing well or not. I think I am learning, though; I’m getting much better at using the field guides, and I’ve decided to get copies of my own—probably from my parents for my birthday, in September. And I’m starting to really notice wildflowers and grasses. I never really did before, unless one were startlingly pretty or something, or if it’s related to a garden flower I’ve handled. Now, I’m starting to spot new things when they start blooming like I’d spot a stranger on campus.  If this is “growing eyes,” I want to do more of it.

And of course, no sooner had I thought that then I got another assignment, in addition to continuing the surveys. I’m supposed to label the trees. All of them on campus. I’m supposed to put a little label on or next to each one listing both its common and its scientific name, both spelled and capitalized correctly. I asked Charlie what counts as a tree, since there are a lot of woody shrubs and saplings around, and he seemed to think it was a good question. He had a ready answer.

“Anything with a woody stem at least three inches DBH,” he answered.


“Diameter at breast height.” He seemed hurried, answering my questions. We weren’t having one of
Where Foresters Measure Diameter
our talks, we’d just bumped into each other and he’d taken the opportunity to give me more work.
“Breast height?” I asked, “whose breast?” Charlie smiled and rolled his eyes at my question.
“Some forester’s. Calm yourself, Daniel. It means four and a half feet.”

So, I’ve got to name every tree on campus except those less than three inches across. That cuts out most of the saplings and such, which is good, but still leaves me with something like three hundred trees to label. A challenge. But most of them are going to be doubles, and a lot of them are still in single-species groups left over from before Charlie started planting things, so this sounds definitely doable.

It’ll be fun.

[Next Post: Friday, June 28: The Taste of Summer]

No comments:

Post a Comment