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.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Year 2: Part 2: Post 10: Spring

I tweaked something or other in my back the other day, so I decided to go to zazen this morning, instead of Karen’s exercise class. I suppose I just could have stayed in bed, but I’ve tried that a few times and it just feels weird. My day just begins by six, anymore.

I hadn’t been to the morning meditation group in months, and no, I haven’t sat zazen on my own either, and yes I sometimes feel guilty for that even though Greg says there’s no point in that. It felt strange, but familiar, too. I mean, it felt strange to do something again that felt so familiar. Or something.


I went in, among all the yearlings and a few other senior students, sat down, the bell rang, and I pretty much automatically started counting my breath, just like I used to. My mind cleared and…it was amazing, just this weight lifting off me, like a vacation from myself, and I thought why don’t I still do this? I should really start doing this regularly again (I didn’t realize until later the silliness of daydreaming about how I should start meditating again while I’m supposed to be meditating). And then I followed my breath some more. And then I got excruciatingly bored. I think a grand total of two minutes had elapsed. Fifty-eight more minutes to go.

I don’t not meditate much anymore because it’s boring. Everything is boring sometimes, and everything, including meditation, is enjoyable sometimes. I’ve drifted away from it because there are other things I’d rather drift toward. And, as Greg suggested might be so, I really don’t see the point of Zen meditation…I’m not Buddhist, and meditation isn’t the answer to any of the questions I’m asking at this point in my life. But I do kind of miss it.

Afterwards, Greg spoke to me, which was kind of surprising, because he usually doesn’t speak unless spoken to, unless he’s teaching.

“Welcome back, Daniel,” he began. “And I’ve heard you’re returning to the Island, too, this year?”

“I’m only here until my back heals up,” I told him, somewhat apologetically. He smiled a little and nodded, a kind of little bow with just his head, in acknowledgement. “I don’t think my trip to the Island will be a repeat of my yearling experience, either.”

“No, it won’t be. Experiences generally don’t repeat. And you’re helping Charlie this year, aren’t you?”

“Yes. For the first of several years, I think.” But something occurred to me. “Greg, why don’t you go to the Island? You never go anywhere, do you?”

“I visit my sister sometimes,” he told me. “I run errands occasionally. But no, I rarely leave campus. Somebody has to mind the shop.” I helped him clean up the room. Everyone else had already left.

“Don’t you ever need a vacation?” I asked him. He just looked at me for a moment until I realized staying on campus was his vacation, since the others took all his yearling students away for almost two weeks.

“I do like it here,” he said. “I guess I’m kind of in a rut, but it’s one that I enjoy.” He smiled, picked up his bag, and stepped outside. I followed him out the door, since I didn’t have to shower before breakfast and planned to go for a walk, but then I almost bumped into him on the porch. He’d stopped and was standing still, looking out at a deciduous magnolia covered in huge pink blossoms. It isn’t native, but it predates Charlie on the property and he has allowed it to stay. It has long, heavy branches like reaching arms and its flowers smell very faintly of lemon. It's gorgeous. 

“See?” Greg told me. “How could any sight-seeing trip improve upon that?”

I went for my walk. Spring has sprung, although, as I noticed last year, spring always seems to be just now arriving. It begins slowly, subtly, and continually gets more and more obvious and present so that every week or two for months you look around and think yes, spring has finally sprung. Kit would say that arrival is the nature of spring and that when the growing season is finally, unambiguously here, that is summer.

The red maples have finished flowering now, and the tiny detritus of their male flowers litters the ground here in there in tiny red drifts. But the female flowers are busy producing samaras and the leaves are coming in red—Nature’s first green may be gold, but red maple’s gold is definitely red—and the oaks and some of the other trees are in flower, so whole trees, even large parts of the hillside behind campus, have gone fuzzy with delicate red, yellow, and green.

The trees in the orchards won't start flowering for another week or so. I expect I'll miss most of it  again. A lot of the forest wildflowers are getting going, but for the most part spring is subtle...but that's ok.

The weather has been warm, the soil is dry enough for Sarah's farming crew to work, the Dining Hall has started adding fresh dandelions to their menus, and Sharon has a bowl of home-made candied violets available to anyone at her desk. I think spring should be a thing to look for, maybe.

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