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, March 21, 2014

Year 2: Part 2: Post 1: Ostara

We won the egg hunt.

Jasmine and I spent the past two weeks looking for nests--not just birds' nests, since you get points for other kinds, too--and then today, as soon as the contest began, we ran around getting pictures of all of them, since you get an extra point if the timestamp on the picture shows you're the first one on campus to get it. Then we went around again so Jasmine could get as many really great pictures as she could in our remaining time.

We got pictures of nests for a barred owl pair, a great horned owl pair, two raven pairs (there was only one last year), chickens, and grey squirrels. Jasmine didn't think the chickens counted, but they do; I remember someone got points for pictures of them last year.

We also got pictures of woodfrog jelly, a freshly used deer bed (I'm pretty sure, from the size, that it was a doe and at this time of year she's probably pregnant), and a family of kittens. The kittens were a surprise, since all the campus cats are supposed to be spayed or neutered already, but I guess we've gotten an extra cat from somewhere and she had kittens.

The great horned owl, one of the raven nests, the chickens, the deer bed, and the frog jelly were all firsts, except that Charlie wouldn't accept the deer bed as counting. The ravens, the squirrels, the chickens, and the kittens all got points for being excellent pictures. Not counting the deer bed, we didn't get any nests that nobody else got, and some people found nests (mostly insect eggs--Nora thought to take a picture of the beehives, too, and that counted) but no other team got as many as we did. So we won.

For a prize, Charlie gave us each a little bejeweled wind-up toy; it looks like a golden egg (with a flat bottom so it can sit on a table) but when you wind it up and let it go the egg opens up and a little chick rises up and flaps its wings and opens its beak. He got them at a yard sale somewhere.

I was a little uncomfortable with the prize. I felt kind of like I had cheated, because I started planning how to win this thing weeks ago. I said something to Charlie about it, how I'm not really the best birder, or the best naturalist on campus.

"So?" Charlie said. "The prize isn't for being the best, it's for doing the best. The others could have started a couple of weeks ago, like you did, but they chose not to."

Ok, then.

It doesn't actually look like spring today, since we got six inches of fresh snow two days ago, but the weather's been warm. You could walk around campus in short sleeves today, if you wanted to, and the snow got all slushy and the pools and puddles in the woods mostly melted free (which is how I saw the frog jelly). Now, of course, it's freezing into a crust. But before that there were big patches of open ground, even in the woods, and the frogs sing loudly, snow or no snow, at least during the day. This is a cool thing I've learned recently; wood frogs can not only freeze solid and live, but in the early spring they can spawn in vernal pools by day and be frozen at night. So I guess that's what they're doing now.

When do they sleep, I wonder?

So, it doesn't look like spring, but it pretty clearly is spring, anyway. If you look closely you see it--the maples and the elms flowering, some of the other trees' buds swelling, the animals starting to nest. Maybe that's another reason we have egg hunts? Because spring is something you have to look for?

Anyway, so I was so busy trying to win the contest that I didn't really think about what the celebration is for until afterwards--I remember I was really puzzled by it last year. We had a big feast for lunch, had the egg was fun, but so what? What's the point? This year...the question just seemed strange to me. It's spring, so we did something fun. We had a party. That's the point.

Is it a religious point? The day is religiously significant for Kit and the other Wiccans, of course, and I think I could get them to to tell me what they day is about for them if I asked. I could look it up in one of the books on Wicca in the library. But Kit isn't my spirit master, Charlie is, and Charlie isn't Wiccan. But he lead the campus celebration, so Ostar is important to him in some way--and he did seem to enjoy the party. He seemed happy today. I could ask him if Ostar is religious for him, and if so, what its significance is. He might answer me.

But I tend to think that would be the wrong answer. This is the man who plays love songs to the twilight in secret, who treats ants and flowers with respect. I'm not sure he makes such distinctions.

[Next Post: Monday, March 24th: Classes Begin]

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