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, July 31, 2014

Year 2: Fourth Interlude

Hi, Daniel-of-2014 here.

I've been posting only once a week, and I think I'll continue doing so, but I've just realized that Lammas is TOMORROW and that sticking with once-a-week postings would have me post the interlude on Monday and then the Lammas post the FOLLOWING Monday, a week and a half after the actual holiday. And that seemed no good.

So, I'm doing the interlude now, so I can do the Lammas post on Monday, and return to once a week postings. Of course, by the time I get this posted, Lammas will be today. It will be Friday. So, happy Lammas!

It's strange that I only realized my posting predicament today, given that I've actually been preparing for Lammas for a couple of weeks. But the mind can work on multiple levels at once, and the levels don't always communicate with each other very well. I've been thinking of Lammas as a thing to prepare for, in the world of here-and-now, my every-day life, and when I'm thinking about my social and religious life I'm seldom thinking about my writing or other work commitments--and vice versa. The two don't usually intersect, except from a time management perspective.

Except, this week, they do.

We're planning to get together with the others from the School, of course. So far, I've spent all of the Sabbats that way since the School closed, and I expect I'll continue doing so, circumstances permitting. This way, Carly gets to be a sprout, among other benefits. She's almost old enough now for such things to matter to her, and it already matters to us. Most of her clothes and baby gear are hand-me-downs from other School families.

But for Lammas we're making a special effort to all get together, everybody local, at least all of us with a green ring, anyway. In my Lammas post for last year, I implied all the masters went somewhere together on this day, and in this year's post I'll be sure of it--and, in fact, I was right. Everyone with a green ring who can does get together and do something on this day. But I don't think I'll tell you what it is, yet. I don't know how long I'll do this blog for, but eventually I'll make it a book and either way I kind of want what we do on Lammas to be a surprise.

Not that there's any actual reason for it to be secret. I can say that--we don't do anything nefarious, or even all that unpredictable given who and what we are. But some of the School's secrets have always been like that--apparently for the sake of secrecy alone. And it seems our community is going to maintain the tradition.


I've been pleasantly surprised at the response I've gotten to my introduction of Ebony. No one has commented here, but my editor, Caroline, has forwarded me some compliments from people I don't know--always a pleasant thing. In this case it is doubly pleasing, because it seems Ebony isn't alone in a way she really feared that she was. She is grateful, by the way. I've hidden her real identity pretty well, but she does exist and is still part of our social group. I probably shouldn't say more about that.

What I do want to say more about--I really have no way of introducing the subject without jumping the gun a bit, so I'll just say it.

Ebony considers herself "transabled." I'll explain what that it in a future post, but it is a deliberate echo of the term "transgendered." Transability has nothing to do with gender or sex, it's just that, in a possibly analogous way, her self-identity doesn't match how she inevitably looks to others.

And the thing is that as I got to know her better, as we all did, we went through a phase where we were really exploring the idea of trans-ness of all kinds--because that's what we did at school, explore ideas together. We had these really fantastic conversations about it, mostly that winter, the winter of 2001/2002.

For example, remember how I brought up, last post, that Rick doesn't really identify with other humans? A couple of other people on campus didn't either, though none were...quite as strange-seeming as Rick. I mean, Rick isn't weird in any obvious way, I don't want to over-play this, only that his body-language is slightly off. He stands out, somehow. As far as I know he actually is human, but if an alien came to this planet trying to pass as human, you'd expect them to stand out in the same undefinable way. Rick has never claimed to be not human, and he doesn't get involved with thinking up what else he could be--it just doesn't interest him. But it does interest the others, five or six people who were there on campus that year who identified themselves variously as Otherkin, changelings, or, actually, space aliens.

I don't mean to make it sound silly--I mean, yes, I did think it was silly that Steve thought he was a space alien, and, honestly, so does he, now, but that's not the point. The point is that all these people felt themselves to be different than what the people around them saw them as, and they were trying to explain their experiences within the context of their understandings at the time.

Are these people, then, transspecies? We wondered. We stayed up late into the night that winter, drinking hot-chocolate with wintergreen liquor (a taste that sticks in my memory from that year--we drank it all that winter, almost all of us, but hardly ever before or since) discussing where identity comes from and how it is made and what it means when it becomes paradoxical in some way.

But identity is such a difficult, personal thing. It is the personal thing. And I can imagine so many ways my writing about this could go so very wrong. This is not, after all, campus, where we all knew each other and had a common cultural framework so we knew how much we could risk in telling each other or asking each other whatever we had to say. If we messed up, our mistakes were private and easily amended, not posted on the Internet for all the world to see.

So how much of those conversations do I post? How much do I say, even given that I've hidden my friends' identities pretty well?

For example, there were two transgendered community members on campus that year, Joe, the security man, and a student. The thing is that the student was not publicly "out"--he was openly living as a male, but, except on campus, and sometimes even with some people on campus, he made a point of passing as a cisgendered man--a guy with a Y chromosome, in other words. Like me, I mean. I've hidden everybody's identities pretty well, so his privacy is quite safe, but if I write scenes about him talking about being transgendered, that violates the illusion that I'm a twenty-year-old college student blogging about events as they happen. And I end up making my twenty-year-old self sound like some exhibitionist voyeur, the sort of prick who would go and blog about other people's medical histories and anatomies.

But if I don't write about those conversations, there is a lot that you, as the reader, will not get. You won't get those late-night conversations over wintergreen hot chocolate.

I don't know yet what I'm going to do to resolve this, but I'm going to have to figure it out soon, because the conversations that culminated that winter began in the late summer and fall as I finally started getting up the nerve to talk to Ebony. No matter where I decide to err (and err I'm sure I will) I think it's fair to expect that if this subject comes up in the blog--except in relation to Ebony, who has the advantage of being in on this project--I will write very carefully and that what I write maybe rather more different from the truth than normal--the truth being the original conversations which occurred within the safety of friendship.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Year 2: Part 4: Post 6: Outside Life

I haven't written about Rick in a while. He's still living outside, and we still spend time together every week, tracking. He comes with me sometimes to do trail work, too.

I would have thought he'd welcome summer, since he doesn't have to worry about freezing anymore. He says he doesn't, though he likes that food is easier to find.

The thing is, summer is full of mosquitoes. I hadn't thought about this, but the rules he's following--almost no gear he couldn't, in principle, make himself with local materials--he can make himself warm clothes and blankets, but he can't make mosquito mesh. When he goes back to camp at night, the mosquitoes follow him.

Rain is hard for him, too. In the winter I noticed him doing everything he could to keep his clothes dry because getting wet meant getting cold--it was dangerous. It's less dangerous now, but there's so much more water. Once his gear gets wet, it can't get dry again until we have a couple of days of dry weather in a row--there's no inside place he can hang things. We've had stretches of a few weeks at a time when we never had three days in a row without rain. All his stuff grew mold.

Rick doesn't complain. The only reason I know all of this bothers him is that the other week it was ridiculously hot and I said to him something like "well, at least it's not too cold anymore. I bet you're glad it's not winter!" And he explained why he wasn't.

"Did you notice I'm always barefoot now?" he asked.

"Yes," I told him. "I assumed you were taking after Charlie." I'd started going barefoot more, too. There's no rule against it, not even in the Dining Hall, except we have to wear shoes to do certain kinds of work--digging in the gardens, for example. Rick smiled.

"I might have," he explained. "But mostly I don't want my feet to rot. Most of my socks got wet."

"It sounds like a giant pain in the neck, what you're doing."

"Worth it, though, for what I'm learning."

"Yeah? What are you learning?" I asked him. He didn't reply immediately. Sometimes I'm not entirely sure why he hangs out with me. He doesn't seem to like humans, and I definitely qualify. And yet, here I am and here he is, and we're still hanging out together.

"I'm learning what it's really like to do the things I imagined doing," he said, finally. "This is real. Rotting socks are real. Logistical hassles are real. Mosquito swarms are real. My inside matches my outsides." He smiled at me. He looks more alien, somehow, when he does that.

"Oh?" I wasn't sure I knew what he meant, though I wanted to. I wanted to be the guy who could understand him. I'm kind of fascinated by Rick.

"Yeah. I imagined living out here, like this, for so long. I never stopped imagining it. Now I'm really here. My thoughts match my reality."

"Do you ever imagine not being around people at all?" I asked him, smiling, but there was a question underneath my question and he heard it and grimaced, embarrassed.

"No, I like people, in moderation," he explained. "I just wish there were fewer of them."

"You make it sound as though you're not one."

"I sometimes feel as though I'm not one. That's the other way in which I'm outside. I don't mind. Only, I wish others didn't expect me to belong when I don't. That's the only time I feel lonely."

I was surprised to hear Rick share with me on that level. Also, I wasn't sure I knew what he meant. How can you feel lonely only when people think you belong? But that wasn't quite what he said.

"Like, when they expect you to be what you're not?" I guessed.


I suppose that Rick likes being outside, both literally and otherwise, mosquitoes notwithstanding. But the outside of a thing is still part of a thing--if a box, say, had no outside, it wouldn't be a box. I'm not sure what it would be, actually. Everything has an outside, and outside is how and where he belongs.

Maybe this has something to do with why he likes hanging out with me.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Year 2:Post 4:Post 5: Second Sight

I can't remember if I've written about Ebony yet. She's new this year. She's not in my dorm and we don't share any classes, but I noticed her because she's blind--the only blind student here and, I think, the first blind student the school has had (rumor has it her tuition has been waived for the first year in payment for her having to teach the school how to accommodate a blind student). Anyway, she's also REALLY pretty. I noticed that, too.

I keep hoping she'll ask me to lead her somewhere. She'll take me by the arm, and I'll be all suave and helpful and heroic. Of course, I'm sure if she knew I was thinking that way she'd feel all insulted and everything, and anyway I'd probably walk her right into a wall by mistake or something. So, obviously I haven't talked with her much, yet. She does hang out with some of my friends, so if I can quit being Awkward McDork I can get to know her a bit.

Anyway, I've been thinking about her recently because of this thing she did the other day.

She was in my dorm hanging out after dinner and a few of us were sitting around talking--Ollie and Willa, Andy, Joanna, and me, and Ebony was curled up in the big armchair shuffling a deck of cards as she talked. She was telling this long and very funny story about the failures of the disabilities services office at her previous school. But I was thinking about those playing cards, I mean, can she really play cards? Are they Braille cards? I couldn't figure it out. I kept watching those cards to see if she got any of them backwards by mistake, but she never did.

But as I watched the deck seemed to get thinner. There were fewer and fewer cards. I couldn't tell if it was really happening. At first I wasn't sure the deck was getting thin, and then I wasn't sure it had ever been thick. And then it seemed to start growing again.

Andy spotted what she was doing before I did and cried out in surprise. Then I saw it and laughed. The thing is, she had started out with blue-backed cards and now over half the cards in her hands were red. She was switching them out.

When Ebony knew we had seen her trick, she smiled, this really sweet, spontaneous-looking smile, even though her face is usually neutral.

"Did you think I wasn't playing with a full deck?" she asked.

People do sleight-of-hand all the time around here, so we're all used to it, which is a problem--stage magic doesn't work if there's no element of surprise. The magicians here, Allen and Ollie and the others, are always trying to outdo each other or set up their tricks so we don't expect them. Ebony doesn't have that problem, because I don't think any of us thought she could even do sleight-of-hand. So, it was actually kind of a double-trick. We all willingly promised not to tell anyone until she'd played it on everyone else.

I should have known she was studying stage magic, though, because of what happened a month or two ago when she started attending Philosopher's Stone Soup.

Allen was doing his tricks, as always, and some of us were laughing, so Ebony asked what was so funny. Someone explained it to her and she laughed, too. But Allen frowned. He went to go stir the pot, bubbling away on the grill, and when he came back he seemed subdued. He sat down and didn't talk much for a while.

"Your magic show stopped," Ebony observed. Allen grimaced a little, like she'd caught him at something.

"You're very hard to perform for," he admitted. "I do magic all the time. It's what I do, I trick people. But I can't trick you. I just hadn't thought it would matter so much to have even one person in the audience just not care what I'm doing."

"What makes you think I don't care?" Ebony asked him.

Allen looked completely thunderstruck. I think it's the first time I've ever seen him be the one rendered speechless by a question. Then he smiled a little, intrigued, like he'd just seen her for the first time.

"My ignorance of you made me think you don't care," he said, finally. "Clearly I don't know you very well, yet."

Ebony is only going to be here two years, so she has to choose all her masters this year. I don't know which ones she needs, spirit and magic, probably, since most people do, plus whatever else. I guess she's working with Allen.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Year 2: Part 4: Post 4: Faith

I'm starting to make progress in "manifestation," the form of magic I finally settled on taking.

It's a lot like positive thinking in that basically you think about something a lot and then it happens, but there's more to it than that. I mean, clearly, it isn't a rule of the universe that if you think something is going to happen then it will (how boring would that be?). Instead, the basic idea is to make room in your life for something to happen and follow intuition. In one sense, I think manifestation is about getting better at recognizing and taking advantage of good luck, not so much creating good luck that wouldn't happen anyway.

But some good luck that happens seems suspiciously good.

For example, when they were starting this school, they needed money to buy the property that became the campus. The school wasn't founded by the masters alone but also by a group of people who might loosely be called students and alumns--the school evolved out of a group of friends who studied together. So, they asked everybody in their little community to contribute what they could--and that was the same week two community members won the lottery.

I'm not kidding.

Now, it's not like either of them won millions--I think one got a couple of hundred and the other won a few thousand--but it did really help. They weren't calling it manifestation back then, but apparently they were trying an equivalent form of magic. Things like that happen a lot, here. The thing that someone needs just happens to show up at the right time.

But the thing is, it still isn't predictable. You can't just manifest a winning lottery ticket, it won't work. You can manifest a solution to a problem, but not usually the form the solution will take. And even then, the solution doesn't always arrive--it just arrives more often than it seems like it should.

I still can't say whether it really works, whether there's really a cause-and-effect relationship going on, but honestly I'm not sure I'd like it as much if I was sure. I mean, I can get twenty dollars out of an ATM machine and buy my mother a birthday present, and that's very cut-and-dry. Or, I can manifest the means to buy a birthday present for my mother and find twenty dollars in the bottom of my backpack that I could have sworn wasn't there before--it probably actually fell out of my wallet, but it feels magical because there is an intrusion of doubt, of possibility. It's like that white chick in the hospital room Ollie told me about--evidence that the world is bigger than it seems. If manifestation was as sure and as comprehensible as an ATM machine, it would feel no more magical.

Anyway, the thing is I'm starting to succeed in my manifestation projects, and the weird thing is I know when I'm going to succeed and when I'm not. This feeling comes over me and I just know that I can make something happen, whether that's driving all the way home to my parents' house without catching any red lights, getting enough rain this week so the sweet corn plants don't get stressed, or getting my dental appointment rescheduled so it doesn't conflict with one of my classes. And so far, that feeling has always been right. The lights are all green when I get to them, the rain comes, the dentist has a cancellation and offers me the spot.

When I don't have the feeling, the thing doesn't happen.

So, what I want to know is, does that feeling mean I can make something happen, like I suddenly have an ability I normally don't, or is that feeling what happens when I put myself in the path of something that's going to happen anyway? Am I manifesting the event, or only my place in it? Or is it manifesting me?

I was thinking about the concept of faith the other day. Faith is a big part of manifestation, not only because you have to have faith that the manifestation will work, but because part of the idea is making yourself a servant of God. I'm not sure I quite understand this yet, I don't think it's quite as straightforward as it sounds, but Joy says if you are doing God's will then things happen to assist you. Becoming willing to do God's will is part of successful manifestation.

Growing up, I was taught to treat "faith" as a synonym for spiritual dedication and to regard belief as the heart of religion--if you want to know what a religion is about, you ask what adherents believe. So when Jesus said that faith as small as a mustard seed would move mountains, that supposedly meant that is you believe in God you can work miracles, like Jesus did.

But Charlie doesn't really like belief. He's always trying to uncover the truth underneath what we think it is and he's never satisfied to think something is true just because he wants to. Kit says something similar--"in Wicca we do not believe. We know or we do not know, and if we don't know we can find out." And yet, Kit works magic and Charlie...Charlie's life is magic. I think everything he does might be a prayer.

So where does faith come in?

I was thinking about this, how to have faith in a friend doesn't exactly mean believing in something. It's not believing the friend exists, because that's obvious. It's more like trust or support. And being faithful isn't quite about believing anything, either. It's more like loyalty, keeping promises.

So, if faith is a relationship of trust, loyalty, and dependability, can faith the size of a mustard seed move mountains...because the mountain cooperates? Or because the faithful person knows the mountain so well as to plan around its movements?

Because mountains do move, that is unquestionable.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Year 2: Part 4: Post 3: Independence Day

Nora is turning 18 this week.

She was sixteen when she got here, and it hasn't been two years, but such is the magic of birthdays in the summer. She has her GED now, too--she took and passed the test in May, and next spring she'll take the various placement tests that yearlings normally take and find out how much longer she has until she graduates. In theory, she's on a six-year plan, since she's been taking half as many credits each semester as we do, but she thinks she'll be able to reduce it to five. Not that she's in a hurry to leave, of course.

To me, it's kind of neat, seeing her grow up. When she first arrived, it seemed like she was a lot younger than me, but she's closing the gap--which I suppose means that she's maturing faster than I am? More likely, what's doing it is spending time away from her mother. She's not rebellious anymore because she doesn't have anything to rebel against.

But now--I guess the rebellion has succeeded. She's 18. I didn't think it was that big a deal when I turned 18, it didn't change my life all that much, but I don't fight with my mother, either. I don't think Nora's mom's a bad person or anything, and she obviously means well, but she does seem a bit controlling and she treats Nora like a little kid. Of course, if I had a teenager who dated college guys and drank vodka and dyed her hair blue, all of which Nora used to do, I suppose I might get a little controlling, too....

The main thing is that Nora's mom was always threatening to take her out of school and send her back to normal high school or maybe to some remedial program for kids who act up and now she can't do that. She can decide to stop paying tuition, but then Nora would qualify for a campus job. She could stay.

"Anyway, my Mom paid ahead to the end of this year," Nora pointed out.

I think it won't be long until Nora has her own income source, anyway. She's making all the candles for the campus now, including a lot of scented and colored candles--they're in jars in the herbarium for anyone to use, in case a spell calls for such a thing. This year, she's also experimenting with making soaps and various cosmetics from different combinations of goats' milk, beeswax, honey, and herbal essential oils. For now, since she's using campus materials, all of her products go for campus use (I found a jar hand-labeled "Goat's Beard Soap: Shampoo for Your Goatee" in the bathroom the other day. Mine's more of a Van Dyke, but the stuff works. It smells nice, too) but I expect she'll start a business one of these days.

She still loves bees.

Of course, Nora's isn't the only Independence Day this week. Nora turns 18 and the nation as a whole turned 225. I didn't go see the fireworks. I remember being, of all things, slightly bored by them last year, as though the rocket's red blare was less important than the lake water and the night sky the display interrupted.

So, this time I didn't go. After class I went swimming down at the lake (Allen was there when I arrived--I think the man is part otter) then came back, did my homework, and tried to nap (despite the sound of fireworks in the distance) until it was time to meet Charlie and the others in the grape arbor for Dead Poet's Society.

With the campers here, of course, we had to wear our uniforms and keep our hoods up so we'd look mysterious and hard to identify, and we spoke only in poetry. Sequoia, Megan, and May, Charlie's grand-nieces, had sneaked their friends out of camp to come join us, neglecting to mention, of course, that sneaking out for poetry wasn't exactly against the rules. It's more fun if they think they're being subversive. This happened all last summer, and I expect it will happen all this summer.

But this time, after opening the meeting as he always does, Charlie did something I haven't seen him do before; he recited The Star-Spangled Banner like a poem.

He made it come alive. He made it really clear, you could feel the tension, of this man on the deck of the ship, watching and waiting in the dark, and sometimes a bomb would go off and in the light of the explosion he'd see for a moment, that the flag hadn't fallen...yet. But then darkness would fall and there would be no news, just blackness, until the next explosion. And then, in the morning, he can barely stand to look, so he asks someone else--is the flag still there?

And we never actually hear the answer to the question.