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, August 1, 2013

Part 5, Post 1: Lammas

Lammas is August 1st. It's a kind of harvest festival, apparently. Actually, most of the people here call it Lughnasadh, but I'm told Lammas is a perfectly acceptable alternative name, and it's much easier to spell.


I'm not sure how big a deal this holiday really is. Not a lot of people talked about it ahead of time--there wasn't a lot of anticipation, except maybe for the feast itself. I'm not even sure what it's about. But it is a day off between one semester and the next, and we did have a big buffet lunch out in a tent in the pasture near the Dining Hall. I liked it, I know that.

I really liked the food. I always do, pretty much, especially since we've been getting fresh fruit and vegetables every day. The cooking is good, I suppose, I certainly have no complaints, but really the excellent food is Sarah's doing. Everything I've had that comes from the farm here is the best of that vegetable I've ever had. Today I was eating stuffed squash--and enjoying it--and I don't even usually like squash. The feast was kind of a way to show off everything Sarah could do, but she didn't really stand out personally at the party. If you didn't know she had made it all possible, you wouldn't know. The party went on for hours. There was a bit of a performance--they made a low stage out of black boxes and had a sort of open mike for about an hour. Then we just hung out and talked. Some people brought guitars or juggled, or just sat around and read. One girl--woman--took a nap under a table.

Oddly, we didn't have to wear uniforms, though some people did anyway. I guess it was too hot. The hot-weather uniforms don't actually look that good. I'm glad they let us be out of uniform, whyever they did it--because I got to see Kit in what is, I guess,her own ritual outfit, the one she wears for her coven's ceremonies. I got to see her sing, too,not for the first time, but I don't ever take her singing for granted.

Kit's ancestry is mostly Greek, I've gathered, though she doesn't look it, because of her coloring. But she has a Greek last name and I guess she identifies strongly with that part of her heritage. Her outfit looked vaguely like something you might see on a Greek statue, this long, white dress with these light, loose layers. She had a belt on over it, I don't know if the belt was Greek or not, maybe it wasn't. It was made out of the wide brass rings linked together with big turquoise beads, so your eye went to her hips when she walked. She wore a cape, a bit like the uniform capes, but dyed green on the outside and red on the inside. When she sang she danced a little, just swaying with the music, mostly, and her dress and her cape swayed as she swung her hips and shoulders and the brass bangles jangled on her arms. I swear, every movement that woman makes she makes on purpose, precise as if she were following invisible marks in the air.

She sang "Harvest Moon," by Neil Young, a song I've never really liked, because I don't like Young's vocal style. It sounds whiny to me. But I like the song now. The music and the lyrics are still stuck in my head, but jumbled, because I don't have them memorized. Let's go dancing in the light...full moon rising...because I'm still in love with you, I want to see you dance again...on this harvest moon.

Allen sat behind and beside her on the little stage and played his guitar to accompany her. He played well, I thought, though he seemed to be really concentrating. He spent the entire time watching his hands as he played, to make sure he got it right, I supposed. He didn't watch Kit. I think he's the only one who was there who didn't.

The masters didn't stay much after the performance, though. They all left early, but they didn't leave at the same time. They slipped out, one or two at a time, like we weren't supposed to notice them going, and the only reason why I noticed is that I watch people. For whatever reason, that's what I do. I don't just watch Kit, I mean. I watch people normally.

I happened to be watching Greg when he left. I’d been watching him much of the afternoon, because I was surprised he was there; Greg doesn't usually attend community events if he doesn't have to.He holds himself apart. But today he seemed to be in an unusually good mood, joking and laughing with some of his friends. Then he left, just stepped out and didn't step back in again. I was watching the door to the tent, thinking, when Allen left. Odd. Were they going somewhere together? I knew they got along, but Greg seemed so separate from the others, it seemed strange to think of him making plans with somebody. I decided to look around and see who else had left, and I noticed Joy was gone, as were both Joes and Chuck, the maintenance man. Obviously the masters were going to do something as a group that we students weren’t supposed to know about. I debated asking one of them directly—a direct question usually got an answer, and the masters sometimes did things mysteriously in order to provoke students into asking. But they also sometimes acted mysteriously for the pleasure of being mysterious, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to spoil their fun—or mine.

But I got distracted from any snooping or questioning I might have done that day, because Kit and Sarah started singing. They weren't performing. Maybe they were practicing. They were off by end of the big tent, by themselves. Sarah was sitting on a tall stool, Kit was standing. Kit had changed her clothes--maybe she didn't want to wear that wonderful white dress to eat--and had on a green dress with mirrored flecks sewn in that set off her hair, just so. Sarah wore one of the simple, grey skirts she sews herself, and she had her hair done up in a yellow bandana. And they sang "I Come to the Garden Alone," Sarah in a sweet soprano, Kit weaving her earthy alto in and among Sarah's tune.

I went over to listen to them--Kit looked at me briefly, nervously, but otherwise they both ignored me, which was fine with me. I would not have thought they were friends, except for these occasional duets. They were both so zealously committed to religions that each excluded the other, not that Christianity and Wicca have to exclude each other, obviously, but that's more or less how both of them do it. And yet they sang duets. I've heard they were once close, when they were students.

Finally, they stopped, embraced, and Kit began to gather her things to leave. Sarah sat down next to me, but she was looking off behind me, watching something. I turned, and saw she was watching Charlie. Here eyes followed him as he gathered his things, spoke briefly to a few people, and left the tent.

"You were his student, weren't you?" I asked. This is common knowledge, but I was being conversational. Also I was being nosy. I wanted to know about the strange, almost but not quite neutral expression on her face as she watched him. She blushed, slightly, but whether it was because she'd been rude enough to completely ignore me (Sarah was usually very conscientious and polite), or because I'd clearly noticed her watching Charlie, I couldn't tell.

"I still am," she told me, quietly.

"Did he always make it so hard to be his student?" He had just made me re-label several dozen trees again, so I was a bit irritated, but Sarah clearly thought I meant his resistance to taking on students to begin with, which is legendary.

"Oh, no. He used to be pretty outgoing, to a fault, if anything. He seemed to think he was God's gift to students. He couldn't wait to teach us."

"Really?" I'd never heard of this. "What happened?"

"If he has not told you, I will not."

"Well, what else was he like? What was he like when you were a candidate?"

"He knew everything, same as he does now," Sarah smiled nostalgically as she spoke. "You know how your parents seem to know everything when you're small? He really did. He made the world seem bigger."

"I guess you're like Allen, then, stuck between him and Kit?" I shouldn't have asked about this, and Sarah shot me a look, but I think it's common knowledge that Kit and Charlie are more or less allergic to each other. But Sarah shook her head.

"It wasn't like that. We were his students together. I found my way to Jesus through him, and she found her Goddess. She admired him as much as I did,"

"What happened?"

"We both grew up, I think," she answered. I must have asked too many questions, though, because Sarah nodded to me in farewell, and abruptly got up and left. It was a self-protective gesture so like Charlie that if I didn't know better I could have sworn she was his daughter.


[Next post: Monday, August 5: Harvests and classes]

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