I'm tired of writing about being sick. So I'm not going to do it today. Except to say that it's really not like an epidemic erupted here on campus or anything. It's just a bug going around, the same thing happened last year--except last year I didn't get sick.
Anyway, I've been expecting Charlie to pull me aside an issue one of his edicts--and I'd be stuck doing some crazy thing, like counting every blade of grass on campus twice or learning to identify birds by their disembodied feathers...but he hasn't said anything. It's kind of creepy.
So, I said something.
"So, what should I do?" I asked bluntly, when I found him in his place by the stove in the Great Hall. I wonder if he gets cold or something? Anyway, of course he responded with mild sarcasm.
"Anything you like."
"No, I mean, what do you want me to do next? What's the next lesson?" He didn't respond initially. "Jeeze, Charlie, you're making me nervous."
"You want another lesson?"
"Good." He paused again. But I'm glad to hear he thinks it's a good thing I'm still in it. I suppose he didn't want to just keep telling me what to do for years and years. He wanted me to make sure I'm still into doing this. "Technically,"he began, "you're still working on the last lesson. You have your reading and your tracking, yes? And you'll be doing trailwork this spring and summer. I think I told you that already?"
"Good. I want you to win the egg hunt this year."
"You remember the egg hunt?"
"Of course!" He means the search for real eggs and nests at Ostara, the spring equinox.
"Well, I want you to win it this year."
"But...I'm your student. Everybody knows that. Don't you think people will think...." I stopped. It occurred to me, kind of belatedly, what I was implying about Charlie's reputation, but it was too late. Why can't I think before I talk?
"Then you'll just have to so well that no one will question my integrity. Won't you?"
"Ah, yes, I guess so."
"Good." He started to return to his reading and then spoke again, just as I turned away. "I'm going to send out spies again, you know."
"For birdsong? Growing ears?" I asked. Last year he had me listening to birds and if I couldn't say how many species I had heard within five minutes I'd have to get up at dawn the next day to practice listening better.
And that was that.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have someone else as primary teacher. Mostly I wonder that when Charlie's just given me some insane project to do (how am I supposed to win the contest when I still know nothing about birds?). But sometimes I wonder also when I see other students on their assignments.
On full moon nights, Kit's students all go somewhere and have some kind of ritual together. The rest of us aren't invited. It's a teaching coven, and she has all sorts of rules for who can join it, when. They meet on new moons, too, but less predictably, I think.
I don't know exactly what they do on the esbats. "Esbat" is a lunar celebration, just as a "sabbat" is a solar celebration, like Brigid or Ostara. I do have some idea of what they do, because a few times Kit has staged demonstration ceremonies, and she's recommended a few books, which I've read.
It's not exactly that I want to be part of Kit's teaching coven--if I did then I could probably go about joining. It's just that I'm aware that these people are learning something I am not learning, because I'm busy doing something else. It's a trade-off that happens. I've been thinking about this, some, how, to become one thing, you have to give up all the other things you could have become instead, at least for a while. But that beats becoming nothing at all, I suppose.
It's not just the teaching coven people, that do something for the moon, though. There are solitaries who do something for the moon, there are other religious groups, I think Joy and some of her students do something....I could do something, too. Maybe I'll talk with Charlie about it.
We don't do anything for the esbats as a campus, the way we have campus sabbats, but we don't quite ignore them, either. I remember, last year, the professors would assign less homework over the esbats, since they knew a lot of people would be busy. We don't schedule parties or other events on those evenings, since a lot of people won't come. They make pumpkin or zucchini bread for a kind of reception at the end of each ritual--they call it communion, though I don't think it has much to do with Communion in a Christian sense. Anyway, there are usually left-overs, so the next day there's a plate of bread and a jar of honey on a table in the Great Hall. It's not the same recipe they use for the Dining Hall bread, so it's kind of festive.
So, the thing is, even though I don't celebrate the esbats, it's gotten to the point where I keep track of the lunar phase the same way I used to keep track of the days of the week. I mean, I still do keep track of the days of the week...but it's strange to think I used to let whole months go by without thinking of the moon at all, unless I happened to see it.
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