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.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Year 2: Part 8: Yule

Another year, another Yule. It's amazing how time just keeps moving.

The various campus activities were the same this year as last, which I expected, but I had a bit of a different perspective on everything, which I didn't expect but should have. For one thing, I knew what was happening this time. There wasn't the element of surprise for me, and yet I was surrounded by people, yearlings, who did not know, and part of my responsibility was implicitly to protect and to guide their surprise.

But I also got to be more behind the scenes this time, I got to be one of the elves, so to speak--I don't know if there is such a thing as Yule elves, but Santa and his elves certainly seem Yuleish. Yule feels like Christmas, only it's like Christmas when you're a little kid, all trees and toys and candy. So there must be elves.

I'm on the groundskeeping team, of course, so anything that involved plants--like the Yule tree--became part of my responsibility. I actually got more than my normal share of the work, because I'm going off campus for almost a month and a half between now and Brigid, so I've been rearranging my hours, some, working more now because I won't have a chance later. I'm something like the chief elf, I guess.

There is the tree, decorated in gold and white--white lights, gold and tangerine-colored balls like magical fruits or suns, a whole flock of blown-glass birds, and lianas of ivory-colored, gold-edged ribbon. There are the evergreen garlands winding up the columns in the Great Hall and across the ceiling, the green sprigs and dried flowers and sprays of berries on the mantlepieces, all of that had to come from somewhere and we're the ones who set it all up. It's not like we just ordered a case of greens from some floral supplier or something--we had to source everything locally, mostly from things we trimmed or thinned on campus. We started planning the whole thing--to have enough fresh material at exactly the right time--months earlier. The actual building of the garlands and so forth we did under Karen's direction. I hadn't seen Charlie for weeks before this morning.

This morning.

We walked up the mountain in the dark to watch the dawn again, all in silence. It rained a bit last night, a cold, irregular spitting rain, very different from last year's crisp, clear cold, and instead of a dramatic, obvious sunrise, the clouds just got slowly brighter and more orangish. We'd anticipated the problem, so a group of us brought watches and we started singing Here Comes the Sun at the time when the sun would have cleared the horizon if we could have seen it. On our way back down the mountain it started raining again, rain with an edge of sleet in it, but when we got back to the Great Hall the warmth and the food--oatmeal, hot cocoa, and lots of cookies--made everything festive.

I felt bad for the yearlings, not being able to see a clear sunrise like we did last year. I'm not sure they could really tell why we started singing when we did, though last year it was obvious--we were welcoming the sun, of course. I almost felt guilty for is, as if, as a senior student and somebody who helped make our celebration happen, I should have arranged for better weather or something. Which is ridiculous, of course.

I still tried to make amends by explaining to Ebony how it should have gone while we walked back to the Mansion together. I'd guided her up the mountain, too, which is ironic because we were walking in the dark, then, and she has a lot more experience with being unable to see than we do--and yet, even without a flashlight (and there were several in the group) I'm better at walking in the dark now than she is, at least along these paths. She finds blindness uninteresting, like a shirt that doesn't fit, something she'd rather everybody, including her, could just forget about. I, on the other hand, think it's really cool to be able to find my way by feet and hands and by the not-quite-sound made by objects as they loom or open up in the dark. She likes me to explain what things look like, even though she has never had much vision and has never seen most of the things I try to describe.

We were silent on the way up, before dawn, but on the way back I told her, both about the orange glowing clouds this year and the clear, splitting sunrise last year.

"Oh, that sounds lovely to see," Ebony  said. "I wish I'd been here last year!..."

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