This week we took the window boxes down from the balconies. The beans that grew in them all summer and shaded our dorms in the head and attracted hummingbirds to our bedroom windows are done. I remember watching the horticulture crew do this last year--lowering the boxes on ropes down the side of the Mansion so they wouldn't get soil on the floor inside. Now, I'm on the team so I got to do it. It's kind of fun, leaning out over the edge of the balcony and working with your partner to keep the thing level so it doesn't dump all the dirt down on the lawn. Sometimes one does tip and make a big mess and everybody shouts and jeers. Once each box was down, Dillon and Diane loaded it on to a horse-drawn cart. Charlie took the cart down to the barn whenever it filled up. I don't know who unloaded it.
There were A LOT of boxes--a hundred and four--and it took the six of us, plus four from the farming team, a good five hours to get them all down. We had to work through lunch and then eat during class. Every window that isn't on the first floor had one. That's a lot of beans, maybe a few hundred pounds, green and dried beans combined. I hadn't thought of it before--I knew I'd eaten them--when I do homework on my balcony the green ones make handy snacks--but I hadn't realized that we must eat from our own sun-shades an average of once or twice a week all year. Of course, there are beans or peas available at almost every lunch and dinner cooked one way or another. We grow about a half-dozen varieties, counting the various beds on the farm.
The Mansion looks oddly naked now, all stone and wood and glass, as it was when I first saw it. Almost all the flowers on campus and in the woods are done, now; even most of the goldenrods and asters are setting seed, little fluffy, messy things. Soon, the witch-hazel will flower, flowers for Samhain. The wheel of the year is turning, as they say around here. And I am one of the people turning it. I helped take down the window boxes. Last week, I helped twine cut vines, ivy, grape, and bittersweet, all through the Great Hall, up the columns near the staircase and beside the windows and doors and out along the wooden beams that support the ceiling. I didn't do the arrangements of gourds in the Dining Hall, Karen and some of her students do that, but I did help cut the dried flowers and the branches they used for the Great Hall. I like being involved in this way.
The forest looks brighter, now, like there are patches of sun in among the trees even on rainy days. It's the Fall leaves, of course, just about at their peak now, I'd say. Decorating the campus as we are, and the forest decorating itself as it is, it's like we're all straining forward in anticipation, building up to some mighty crescendo of the year--and what's actually going to happen is the leaves will all fall off, the land will look grey and dead, and campus will all but close down for months on end. It's an odd thing to strain forward to.
"We live until we die," says Charlie.
"In the beginning is the end, in the end, the beginning," says Kit.
"The leaves are pretty today," says Greg.
In the mundane is the profound. And here, the profound is often mundane.
[Next Post: Monday, October 19th]