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, January 29, 2015

Year 2: Eighth Interlude

Hi, all!

Daniel-of-2015 here, for the last time before March. Starting with Monday's post, I'm returning to regular, narrative posts, twice per week. I hope to do illustrations again, too.

Thirteen years ago next week, I started my third year at the school--and passed the halfway point of my time there. I didn't appreciate that at the time, that, in some sense, I was on my way out from then on. Instead, I just thought of myself as there. I'd gotten into the rhythm of living at the school, and while I knew intellectually that I'd leave someday, emotionally that day seemed very remote. Like that point in a long run when you're all loosened up and you're neither fresh nor tired, but just running along--into the zen of it, as some friends of mine say (although I believe Greg would shake his head if he heard it).

In the here-and-now, we also have news. As I said in September, Aidan has passed the entrance test for the school--he knows the school exists and wants to attend. Obviously, the presents a complication in that the school currently exists as a community, not as an educational institution. But if we want to keep existing, we're going to have to develop a way to accept new members, anyway--that is the question we face. Do we want to be a social group, held together by habit and nostalgia, biding our time until we all disperse? Or do we want to be a living community, with a future as well as a past?

We seem to have chosen the latter.

Aiden is nowhere near college age, of course; he's turning fourteen on Brigid. In a way, that makes things easier, though--his age means that the fact we aren't a college anymore matters less. That he is homeschooled is also an advantage. In essence, we're adapting our original curriculum to create an outline for his high school. The whole point of the curriculum was to become an adult who is both scientifically literate and well-developed as a person--and competent in some version of the occult basics. There is no reason why an eighteen-year-old can't be a scientifically literate, well-rounded occultist, and that is what Aidan will be in four years. Our job, as adults in his life, is to help him get there.

So, on Brigid we're going to have a ceremony welcoming him in. It will not be the same as our Brigid assembly at school--it will not begin a new school year, it will not be a graduation ceremony, and we won't have to place Aidan in a dorm.

But I will put on my uniform and I will process in with my fellow masters and I will help carry the light for others.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Year 2: Part 8: Post 6: Friends and Family

Ok to finish up this little series, giving brief descriptive blurbs of my various "characters," here are friends and family of community members. That is, these are people who are neither staff nor students of the school, but have been part of my story nonetheless. The idea, once again, is that if you lose track of who I'm talking about you can always come back to this post and look them up by name.

Of course, these are just a small fraction of the friends and family I got to know--and there are a lot of people who have been associated with the school over the years whom I have never known, or have met only once and briefly. The people on this list are those whom I have mentioned before and am likely to mention again.


Alexis  is Allen's youngest child. She was three when I arrived at school--much younger than her siblings. Allen sometimes refers to her as the best accident he ever had and proof that some surprises are good. He says this in her presence--when she was little it made her giggle. Now she says "Dad," and rolls her eyes fondly. I used to think she was his favorite, but he has told me recently that she is simply the one with whom he is most affectionate--he is just as close with the other two, but in very different ways.

She looks more like him that the other two do, with dark hair, a somewhat short stature, and a pretty, round face--her face is like both her parents.


Carly is my daughter. She's not quite two. I talk about her in the interludes sometimes. Yes, "Carly" is short for "Caroline" and no, she isn't named after my editor. I've been asked. So far she has very light brown curly hair and brown eyes and is just about average for her age in terms of size and shape. She is, in most respects, a normal toddler. That's not the way I see her, of course, but I am biased.


Cecilly is my little sister. She was still in high school most of the time I was a novice. She is short, round, and curvy--not fat, she would want me to point out--with ash-blonde hair. She came out as a lesbian a few years ago and is now engaged to a wonderful woman we all like a lot. That really explained some things--in high school she dated boys, but her choices were always a bit strange. First she only dated boys our parents liked and then she switched and only dated boys they hated, as a dry run for shocking them, I suppose.

Cuppa Joe

Cuppa  Joe is Security Joe's husband (there were several Joe's on campus, so most of them used nicknames). He lived on campus and usually came to breakfast and to other community events, but he was neither staff nor student and never had been. I believe he paid a small fee for room and board. He worked as a grocery manager at a supermarket in town, though he has since retired.

He is tall and thin and stoops a little, with a narrow face and a beaklike nose. His skin is dark, for a white man. He has always, since I've known him, worn a somewhat messy-looking mustache, the kind that looks like it might strain soup. When I first met him he was in his early sixties and his hair and most of his mustache were still black. Now both are nearly all-white.


My Dad, obviously. He's tall, like both me and my brother, but much broader, like an average build scaled up. He was in his forties when I started school. I don't know how well he comes off in the blog--he was worried about me when I was in school, for one thing, and has never quite understood what this community means to me (he has tried).

But my Dad has always been my champion. He's seldom known why I do what I do, but he's always been certain I can do it. Until I met Charlie, he was the smartest, most competent guy I knew, and my first teacher.


David is Allen's son. He was eleven when I joined the school. He's 26 now and has just gotten his master's degree in ecology or something similar. He's at least considering going for his PhD. He's one of those guys who seems to know everything within his field of expertise.--he's quiet, reserved, and very confident. He also plays rock-and-roll guitar. He is obviously Allen's relative and has similar coloration, but he is somewhat taller and slimmer, with a more rectangular face. Everyone who likes guys seems to have a crush on him, but as far as I know he has yet to have his first serious romance.

When I first knew him as a child, all of the above (except the guitar) was more or less already true. He was a skinny, dark-haired kid, somewhat moody, and already an accomplished birder.


June is my wife. I don't think I've used her name yet in the blog. I always just call her "my wife." Which sounds really sexist on my part, but I really didn't mean it that way. I've just been ambivalent about how much of my private life away from school--and thus the private lives of my family--I wanted to share. I wasn't sure she really needed to be in this blog. But apparently I can't stop talking about her. She is tall and blonde, with those long smooth curves that look like she started out as a short, curvy woman and stretched. I still sometimes turn into a doofus in her presence.

(I should point out that June is also the name of one of Charlie's nieces, but I seldom write about her).

I didn't know June back when I was a novice, of course, so I've only referred to her in the interludes. We met in grad school, during my Absence. She was smart enough to realize that marrying me would mean marrying into the school. I am lucky enough that she said yes to both.


My big brother, though I don't think I've ever actually used his name in the blog. He is tall, like me, but somewhat heavier-built--he's a normal-looking, tall, slim, muscular guy, whereas I am skinny and bony and awkward. I always say he is the handsome one in the family, and his wife says I am right and my wife says I am wrong. His hair is darker than mine and he's usually clean-shaven.

He has a wife and children, whom I have mentioned in the blog but not yet by name.


Julie is Allen's second child and older daughter. I do not know her well as an adult, as she went to college several states away and has not moved back. She was ten when I joined the school. She had blonde hair then and has light brown hair now.


Lo is Allen's wife. She has never worked at the school and never lived there, but she visited often and I've had occasion to spend a lot of time with the family. She also is a psychologist, though a somewhat more conventional one than Allen--she sees clients, mostly adults, in a home office.

She is on the tall side, for a woman, and often wears high heels. He hair is light brown, like her daughter's, but she dyes it blonde. She looks, in terms of how she dresses and how she does her hair, rather like someone from an '80's sit-com. Think Angela, of Who's the Boss. I've never asked her about it, but I think she found her "look" as a young woman and simply decided to stick with it. I'm not sure I'd say we are close--she doesn't talk about personal stuff with me, or with anyone, so far as I know (except, I assume, Allen). But she is a warm and unfailingly generous woman.


Mario was Charlie's older brother, but died some years ago. I do not know if they were close--Charlie never discussed his brother's death with me, except to say that it had happened. I met him on only a few occasions; he was an old man, with white hair and a slightly vague air. He was about the same height as Charlie but much more lightly built. They did not look much alike.

I have heard that Mario fought in World War II and that he lied about his age in order to do so. I have a hard time imagining him as a patriotic, adventurous teenager, but he must have been one. He had two sons, Robert and Paul, whom I have met, and numerous grandchildren who spent much of their childhoods running around campus.

I remember being shocked to find that this old man was Charlie's brother. Charlie had very quickly come to seem ageless to me.


Maria is Charlie's little sister. Her real first name is Theresa. Her middle name is Mary, and she was called Mary as a kid. But while Mario actively hid his Italian heritage (his accent used to be much stronger, I've heard) and Charlie mostly ignored his, the youngest and most fully assimilated child decided to explore and exaggerate her ethnic background. She studied Italian in school, learned to cook Italian food, and Italicized her name.

She is short, quite fat in a comfortable-looking way, and very curvy. He hair is long, grey, and curly. It looks like a fall of grey yarn. She has a pile of kids and grand kids who also spent much of their childhoods on campus.


My mother, of course. She has brown hair and an average height and build. My Mom and I have never connected much, but there's no complexity to that, no drama--it's not like anything is especially wrong between us. She took good care of me when I was little. She's become good friends with my wife. We're starting to talk more because I call her whenever there's something I can't figure out with my daughter.

Kit's Husband

His name is Kevin, though I haven't referred to him as anything but "Kit's husband" in the blog, and I've rarely actually heard him called by name in real life. He has a lot of nicknames--almost everyone calls him something different. He introduces himself as Kevin, and then when you start calling him something else, you know you're friends.

I did not initially want Kevin to exist. It's not like I expected, or even really wanted, to ever date Kit--part of the whole point of that crush was that she was obviously unattainable and therefore safe. I was 19 and she was in her forties. But my Mom has told me about how women of her generation would get upset when one of the Beatles, or Prince Charles, or some other eligible celebrity bachelor got married. It's not that they ever really thought it could have been them--but it was fun to pretend otherwise.

But he's actually a great guy. He's a professional musician and tours regionally with a folk rock group. He also has a jazz group he plays with sometimes and he and some of his friends sometimes play pagan gatherings and events as the openly Wiccan group Blue Pixies. He's short, of average build, with dark hair with some grey in it. He wears a neat pepper-and-salt beard.


Susan is Greg's sister. I have met her on only a few occasions and never for long. She is a very charming woman, but somewhat commandeering--once she starts talking with you, she seldom lets you leave. She and Greg are both mixed-race, children of a Japanese immigrant and an American white man, but unlike Greg, Susan looks mostly Japanese. She's slightly on the short side of average. She has a very pretty, glowing smile. By the time I met her, her long black hair has turned a soft grey. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Year 2: Part 8: Post 5: Fellow Students

Here I'm doing a list of students whom I mention frequently in the blog--there were actually about a hundred students on campus at any given time. I knew most of them, at least to say hi to, and while I wasn't friends with all of them, I was (and am) friends with more of them than appear as recurring "characters" in the blog.

In any case, here is a brief blurb on each of the students whom I have mentioned at least twice in the blog so far. I figure this way readers who have just joined the story can look up descriptions that I originally scattered across many posts. I've added some information I couldn't fit into the narrative, plus physical descriptions--so I don't have to repeat myself when I describe people, everyone on the list identified as white. Almost all students on campus were--that's who walked in our door. Maybe we should have tried to change that, I don't know.

(I have edited this piece to add "characters" who have joined the story since I first wrote it)


Andy started the same year I did. He was in his mid-thirties at the time. He came to campus originally as a bicycle thief--he was a homeless drug addict who hoped that a bicycle might help him get back on his feet somehow. When he was "saved" as a Christian and got clean, he repented and returned the bike and at that time asked to join the school. We put him through a detox program and got him treated for chronic hypothermia and more or less helped him put his life back together. He ended up learning bicycle maintenance as a craft and now owns a bicycle repair shop.

He was unusual on campus in being Christian. He was outspoken and passionate about it, but he never seemed uncomfortable with the pagan school culture--on the contrary, he's always said that we embody Christ better than most Christian churches do. I don't know if that's true or not. There was always a childlike eagerness to Andy. There is still. He says it's because he spent so much of his early life high that he never grew up. I think it's because  he had a very difficult, painful life and he just got tired of pain and fear and doesn't want to have any more of it. He has no family left, except us. He's sort of average-looking, in terms of height and so forth, with dark hair, pale eyes, and bad skin. He looks older than he is.


Arther also started my year, but graduated at the end of that year. He was in his late sixties at the time and had been a Wiccan High Priest for decades. He joined the school shortly after his High Priestess, his wife, died, because he didn't want to be alone. He already knew most of what the school had to teach and already had a college degree--more than one, I think. As a student he was white-haired and wrinkled but still physically robust. He is now in his eighties and his health is beginning to fail but he can still hold his own in an argument.


Aidan was not a student thirteen years ago--he was a toddler. His mother is Kayla, who was only twelve when he was born. The circumstances of his conception are not my story to tell, but the man was an adult and is still in prison. He was adopted by his grandmother, Sadie, who was on staff, but Kayla has helped raise him. He's a teenager now and knows she is his real mother. He's a sweet kid, still pretty little, with thin features and dark hair.


Me, of course. There was another student in my year named Dan who was, like me, 19 when we started. Like me, he was a young 19. He and I never really got to be friends and I spent a lot of time worrying that people might confuse the two of us, since he was very good at putting his foot in his mouth, but he's basically a good guy. I haven't heard from him in a while.

As for me, I'm tall, skinny, kind of awkward-looking, honestly, with brown hair and eyes. I usually have a Van Dyke beard--that's a goatee plus mustache.  You can't tell, since I'm the narrator, but really I hardly ever talk. I like listening better. And people like to talk to me. I don't know why.                               


Ebony started the year after I did and she is something like fifteen years older than I am. She is also--and some readers have guessed this--one of the women I dated on campus. I have decided not to talk about my romances in the blog posts because all of them were marred by my self-consciousness over still being a virgin. There is no way I could write about that in character as my 20-year-old self, so I haven't. Ebony was my second girlfriend on campus and we were together for a couple of months. We ended badly, but recovered our friendship. She is still closely involved in the community.

She is on the short side of average, pretty (of course), with thick, long, brown hair. Her eyes are brown but look black because the pupils dilate a lot. Physically speaking, she is almost totally blind and has been so since birth. Spiritually, she is not blind at all. She doesn't think of herself as blind and she identifies more strongly with sighted people than with blind people. She calls it "transability."


Eddie started the year after I did, but we only became friends in my third year. The other reason I did not mention him at first is that it is difficult to tell his story with any degree of depth without mentioning that he is transgendered, something that he is not always open about (he can pass a cisgendered and usually prefers to). I do disguise identities for this blog, but I write as if I we simply my younger self telling you things, and my younger self would not have told you about Eddie's status. Finally, I spoke to Eddie himself about it and he gave me permission to write about him freely.

He is on the short side, for a guy, wiry and muscular, with short, light brown-brown hair, blue eyes, and a movie star-handsome, oval face. He is a complete flirt and very much a ladies man--I don't mean he's a player. He doesn't use people. Instead, he celebrates and glories in them. He also sings, dances, and raises and trains therapy and service dogs.


Joanna was another student in my year, and 11 years my senior. I would not have said we got along--she made fun of me a lot--but we kept finding ourselves spending time together. Eventually we became friends when I learned to ignore her teasing. I always thought she was gorgeous, which might be why I put up with her, but she honestly didn't mean anything bad by it. I think she expected me to tease her back, but I've never been able to. I get kind of tongue-tied around her. Still.

She's on the tall side of medium, with thick blonde hair and hazel-blue eyes. Her features are strong, straight, and covered with pale freckles.


Kayla was, as I said, only twelve when she gave birth to Aidan. She hadn't even realized she was pregnant. The masters decided that enrolling her as a student would give her an opportunity to connect with supportive adult women who could identify with some of her experiences better than kids her own age could. But academically she remained a home-schooled kid for many years. She was a bit pudgy before Aidan was born (that, plus his being premature helped hide the pregnancy) but thinned out afterwards. She's of average height but thinly built, with a narrow face and long, blonde hair.


Nora was another early-starter--she was sixteen when she joined the school as a student, and the masters gave her a six-year plan and required that she get her GED before she could finish. She fought with her mother a lot, and for the first year or two was deliberately rebellious--her hair is black, but she kept bleaching and dying it various colors, like purple, pink, and green. She ended up getting into Kit's version of Goddess-based feminism and also bee-keeping. From bee-keeping she expanded herself into making scented candles and massage oil. She has a strong, almost chiseled-looking face, with high cheekbones and a pointed chin.


Ollie was my "buddy," the older student assigned to help me out when I first arrived. We ended up as good friends, although our courses of study were very different. He studied reason and philosophy as a spiritual path, with Allen. Ollie has always been gentlemanly to the point of delicacy; I never heard him use coarse language or make sexual jokes, even in all-male company. He's a Baptist preacher and, like Andy, found something in the pagan community of campus that augmented his Christianity. Unlike Andy, he has always been painfully self-conscious of his status as a member of a minority at the school. To his own surprise as much as anyone's, he fell in love with (and has since married) a woman who glories in her paganism. He is tall and slim and brown-haired, like me, but his face is oval and clean-shaven.

The Ravens 

By a weird coincidence, seven of the women who started with me all called themselves "Raven." Their interests were different enough that they were rarely all together, so it was less confusing than you'd think it is, but I made the mistake of not giving them nicknames for the blog so it's been difficult to really present them as separate people with distinct characters. Three studied magic with Allen, but one became Zen Buddhist, another became a totemic animist, and the third never talked with me about her religion. Three more studied Wicca or magic with Kit, and the seventh was, like me, mostly Charlie's student--though she focused her studies with him on horticulture.


Rick was, in a way, my closest friend on campus and he is the one of my fellow students with whom I have kept most consistently in touch. I qualify that with "in a way" because Rick himself does not really like human beings and does not quite feel like one of us. He likes some individuals and I do think he likes me, but he usually prefers to be alone. There were basic things about him that I didn't learn until years later because he simply didn't think to mention it. For example, he's gay. He wasn't closeted, he just didn't want to date within the fishbowl of the campus community where everyone soon knows everything. But I've never been one to talk much about my thoughts and feelings, either.

Rick and I get along because we give each other space and because our studies were always so closely intertwined. Like me, he studied with Charlie, and while he studied outdoor survival skills and I focused on spirituality, on a deeper level our studies were much the same. He is tall, slim, with short, black hair, and black, bushy eyebrows and a round face with high, taught cheekbones. He does not look quite human.

Steve Bees

Steve Bees arrived in my third year. There was already a man named Steve on campus (I have mentioned him, but we never got to know each other well), so after the new Steve stepped on a yellow-jacket nest his first spring, people started referring to him as "Steve--you know, the one with the bees?" and eventually it stuck.

He is medium-tall, with pale eyes and curly, black hair--or, rather, it was black when he arrived, in his mid-twenties. Much of it's grey now, as is the beard he grows occasionally, and it makes him look older than he really is. He is another of the school's Christians, a Quaker, though it was Greg's Buddhism that led Steve to embody his faith's commitment to social justice and Charlie's animism that made him a true contemplative. He is unusually able to learn from (even contribute to) other traditions while remaining rooted in his own. He is also a truly gifted singer. I have seen him dressed in novice-white, in the brown of a candidate and then a master, and in a series of mundane but expensive-looking suits (he is a lawyer, now). But when I think of him, in my mind's eye he is always wearing jeans and a t-shirt and he is always smiling.

Veery started my second year and graduated in my third year. She could sing beautifully, loved watching and learning about birds ("veery" is a kind of bird) and studied psychology with Allen. She was short and stocky, with a cute plump face and beautiful auburn hair. She was the first person I dated on campus--we were together for a few weeks early in the summer of 2001. We didn't have a whole lot in common besides mutual physical attraction, and in the end we broke up because I wanted to have sex with her so badly that I had no idea how to ask her. And she got tired of my awkwardness on the subject. Our breakup wasn't acrimonious but we didn't become friends and I haven't heard from her in years.


Willa was Ollie's girlfriend. She is now his wife. She's a self-described tantrika, meaning that sex is a big part of her spiritual practice. She was unapologetically promiscuous before getting together with Ollie--that their relationship worked out surprised everybody, but they seem very happy together. She's medium-tall, with long, light brown hair and large, expressive features.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

Year 2: Part 8: Post 4: Other Staff

I'm continuing with a serious of informative rather than narrative posts. Here, I describe the non-teaching staff. I very rarely write about any of these people, but they were an important presence on campus. Some, like Aaron, I spoke to several times a week when I was a student, though rarely about anything that makes a good story. Others, like Malachi, I hardly ever saw and did not actually meet until I'd been at school for months. Again, the ages are how old they were in 2000.

I'm not including profiles on the allies, people who worked for the school but weren't formally part of the masters' group. Some taught classes, others helped care for campus. Some were paid and some were not. A few never even came to campus, like the woman who sewed our uniforms for us. Without allies, the campus could not have functioned. Some even served as masters to individual students, like Nora's friend the bee keeper, who became her most important teacher. But few of us knew any of the allies well and many of them came and went very quickly, helping out for a few weeks and then not again for years. I may someday do profiles on them, but not today.

Among the masters themselves, there wasn't actually a hard-and-fast line between the teaching and non-teaching staff. They all wore the green ring and all helped run the school more or less as equals (there was no separate administrative staff). Some of the so-called non-teaching staff did an awful lot of teaching, while the jobs of some of the professors included tasks one might expect to done by staff--Charlie was groundskeeper and Joy was staff veterinarian. People at school always wore titles like staffmember or professor very lightly--indeed, the practice was to hire someone worth working with and then design the job around them, not the other way around.

The real distinction was between the Six and the masters who were not among the Six. The community always has the Six, and has it still, but when campus closed the non-teaching staff were laid off (since the community has no income now, we Six do not get paid either).

The non-teaching staff always turned over faster than the Six did. When I returned to begin my candidacy, four out of the eight (Chuck, both Joes, and Malachi) had moved on and been succeeded by people with completely different job descriptions. But these are the people I started out with, as they were when I first met them.


Aaron is the head librarian. By training, he is a research librarian, but he also supervises a team of student circulation librarians. He not only answers student questions, he also teaches workshops on how to look for information, how to evaluate sources, and how to document and cite research. He actively encourages an ethic of scholarship and careful, reflective reading. He was raised Jewish and retains a sense that spirituality and literature are intertwined.

Aaron is 47 years old, very short and slight--he could almost pass for a child. His hair is medium brown and short and he wears glasses. He can identify and find virtually any book ("I'm looking for a book about horses in Australia, the author's name began with a B and the cover's green?"), usually within a within a few minutes, he does not whisper even in the library, and while he is usually cheerful, he often gets frustrated with technology and utters highly creative maledictions. He has a pet scarlet macaw named Ahab whom he occasionally brings to work with him.


Chuck is the head mechanic. He is responsible for our cars, bicycles, and appliances. The campus has a lot of larger mechanical systems too, some of them unique--the composting toilets, the solar and wind power systems, and so on. He and his team of students are in charge of all of them. He is 35 years old, medium height, with light brown hair and a very stocky build. He enjoys mechanics, treating it as a "way in" to personal development and spirituality.


Joe is the head of the janitorial team. While he is personally fastidious, he has no real interest in cleaning per se--it's just a job to him, which he keeps because he cares about the school and because it means he can pursue his real passion without worrying about his own upkeep. His passion is dance, and he has his own dance company off campus, though he rarely accepts on-campus students because he does not teach beginners.

He is 45 years old, tall and slim. His body language is quite effeminate, but he does not self-identify as gay--or straight. His private life is utterly private.


Malachi is the school comptroller and quartermaster. That is, not only does he handle money, he also handles the purchasing and storage of all supplies, from recycled-paper notebooks (which are resold to students at cost) to laundry powder, to animal feed. He also serves as a kind of unofficial campus lawyer--he knows enough about the law to offer the school good advice and he knows when a real lawyer is needed. He leads a small team of student assistants.

He is a little taller than average, thinly built, with dark hair and relatively dark skin. He looks part Indian or possibly Arab. He rarely interacts with students, except for those who work with him. His personal passion is mathematics. He is 46.


Sarah is the campus farm manager and trains and supervises a large team of student farmers. She is tall, slim, and muscular, with long light brown hair that she usually wears tied up in a bandanna. She's 36 years old and lives most of the year on campus with her husband (who builds stringed instruments) and their children. She is Catholic, the only master who is a practicing member of a mainline Christian denomination.She is often uncomfortable with the school's general pagannness. She converted during her candidacy for mastery. She stayed at school, and continues to stay, largely because of her unspoken devotion to Charlie. 

Security Joe 

Security Joe is, indeed, head of campus security. He is a retired police officer and he trains and supervises a student security team. Crime is not a serious concern on campus, but the team is an important precaution. Occasionally, they do find people on campus who shouldn't be, and their periodic sweeps of campus mean that if someone has a medical emergency while alone they'll be found quickly.

Security Joe is 55 years old and very short, for a man, with narrow shoulders and small, strong hands. His hair is dark brown and his complexion is dark olive. Despite his stature, few people guess that he is transgendered because his self-presentation is so unambiguously male. Only when he sings--which is rare--does his voice sound androgynous or feminine. He lives on campus with his husband, Cuppa Joe, who is a grocery manager at a nearby supermarket.


Sharon's role does not correspond exactly to any standard job description. She is office manager, head receptionist, head of admissions, facilities manager, scheduling coordinator, and more. When in doubt, call Sharon. She seems to know everything that happens on campus. She heads a team of student assistants and is the first person at the school most prospective students meet. She is 50 years old, of medium height and somewhat stocky, for a woman, with short, dark, curly hair. No one knows where she goes or what she does when she leaves campus.


 Sadie is head cook and supervises everyone involved in food service on campus. She teaches a lot of students to cook. She is 53 years old and lives on campus with her daughter, Kayla, and her grandson, Aidan, whom she is raising with Kayla's help. She is tall, strong, and curvy, with long, dark brown curly hair.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Year 2: Part 8: Post 3: The Six

I'm continuing a series of posts that are more informational than narrative, to fill in some gaps, because 13 years ago I wasn't actually on campus.

I've spent a lot of this blog writing about the masters--that is, our professors--especially Allen, Kit, and my own teacher, Charlie. And yet I've never gotten around to describing what they look like. Also, I've scattered basic information about them across dozens of entries, so someone coming in to the blog in the middle might easily get lost. So, here is a little blurb on each of them. So I don't have to repeat certain things for each blurb, the ages I'm giving for them are their ages in 2000, when this story started. All six are white, except Greg, whose mother was Japanese. That he is a non-white American is a big part of his identity.

The Six, as they are called, are the leaders of our community and its most dedicated servants. They were also, once, our core faculty group (other classes were taught by mastery candidates or by "allies," our equivalent of adjunct faculty). They are always called The Six, though there are not always six of them. The composition of the group has changed over the years--I am one of The Six now, for example--but this is the group as it was when I started as a student.

At the end, I've put another little story that didn't make it into the blog earlier.


Allen is the psychology teacher and the primary magic teacher. Specifically, he teaches stage magic; asked how stage magic can possibly count as real magic, he smiles and initiates a Socratic dialogue about what real magic is. He is also a psychologist and a licensed therapist. In his work, he merges his work as a healer and his fondness for both stage magic and philosophy into one seamless whole. He is married to a fellow psychologist, named Lo (short for Lois) with whom he has three children.

Allen is medium of height and build with boyish, pleasant-looking features.  His hair is black and thinning on top. He's slim, in good shape, and 45 years old. His body language is unintentionally deceptive in that he seems formal or awkward (when not in uniform he dresses formally, too) but is actually usually relaxed, confident, and unself-consciously playful. He is constantly using his skills as an illusionist to play pranks or to entertain others, and he has a wonderful, boyish laugh. 


Charlie is the ecology teacher and the primary craft teacher. The main craft that he teaches is horticulture, though he has and teaches a lot of other skills, including making tools and other objects with leather, antler, wood, and bone; cutting trees with axe or chainsaw; building and maintaining hiking trails; and both creative and scholarly writing. By training, he is an ecologist, though he never completed his master’s degree because of his alcoholism. He is sober now, and lives a very monastic life almost entirely on campus. 

Charlie is short but built very broad and square. He has a slight paunch but is very strong. His hair was black but is now mostly grey, and he wears it quite short, almost shaved. He is 63 years old. He speaks rarely and in a thick, Boston accent. He is intensely private, and is quite deliberately rude to most people in order to drive them away. Those few who can see this for what it is and who treat him gently are rewarded by his keen intelligence, his deep and delighted knowledge of the land, and his friendship--which he rarely directly speaks of.


Kit is the anthropology teacher and the primary art teacher. She teaches both music (instrumental or voice) and dance. Though her own instrument is the cello, and her training is primarily in modern dance, she has incredible range and can assist students in virtually any instrument and in almost any style of dance. She has a degree in dance movement therapy, and while she is no longer licensed as a therapist, she incorporates that larger approach to movement into her work as both a teacher and a Wiccan high priestess.

Kit is short, curvy, and slim, but very strong, with large, strong hands. Her hair is red, with a few silver threads, and very thick and wavy. She wears it just past her shoulders, and usually keeps it off her face with two large tortoiseshell-color barrettes. She is 41, strikingly beautiful and frankly flirtatious but in an oddly innocent way. She is fiercely intelligent, but has something of a high temper, and is almost as outspoken in her dislike of some things and people as she is about her love of other things and people. 


Joy is the primary teacher of healing. Besides being a Reiki master, she is a veterinarian and an equine behavior specialist who works mostly with rescued or "problem" horses as well as training horses as therapy animals. She and her therapy horses work mostly with disabled or traumatized humans and people on the autism spectrum. At the school, she teaches Reiki, veterinary emergency care and veterinary nursing, as well as the intangibles of healing both humans and animals, such as bedside manner and how to cope with the pain and death of patients. She also teaches riding and basic horse care to both school community members and outsiders.

Joy is tall and slim, with long, grey-brown curly hair. She is 44 years old. She is divorced and lives off-campus with her grown daughter. She is a psychic animal communicator. She takes seriously the idea that animals can be healers as well as patients, and that everyone, human and otherwise, is both in need of healing and able to heal others.


Greg is the history teacher and the primary spiritual teacher. He teaches Zen meditation to new students and acts as a guide to those who ask. He occasionally teaches Buddhist alchemy to advanced students. He is the only member of the faculty who has never switched religions, having been raised Buddhist. His mother was Japanese-American, though he looks white to most people. Greg never graduated high school, having dropped out to work as a carpenter. He is now retired from carpentry, and is 73 years old. He, too, lives very ascetically and rarely leaves campus.

Greg is tall and slim to the point of being gaunt. He looks his age but is still healthy, strong, and quite quite good-looking. His hair is an iron grey, short but not shaved. Most people find him intimidating because he is a strict teacher who holds himself apart from others. He is actually just shy. His closest companion may be a black and white cat, who sneaks into the Mansion in order to sleep on his bed. He quietly returns the cat's devotion. 


Karen is the primary athletics teacher. She teaches martial arts classes on campus that are also open to outsiders. Her focus is very much on practical self-defense, self-discipline, and general fitness, especially for beginners. Only more advanced students built on these skills to learn traditional fighting techniques. She is an adult convert to Buddhism and works closely with Greg.

Karen is petite, with a girlish figure, but very strong and fast. Her hair is black and lustrous. At 33 she is the youngest of the masters and the most recently hired. She is shy, especially around the other masters, all of whom she once had as teachers, though she is confident and demanding as a teacher. She also teaches Zen flower arrangement.

A Story

In the Spring of my second year as a student, Charlie asked me to train to be his assistant for his part of the workshops they did for new students every May. The workshops were held on an island--which I intentionally don't name here--and while the masters camp on the island for the week, too, the whole thing is organized so they each get a vacation when it isn't their turn to lead a workshop.

That May, I went to the Island with Charlie for further training and lead some of his hikes for him. We camped together the whole time--I don't know how much of that was a deliberate training opportunity and how much just that I couldn't camp either with the new student group or the faculty group, since both were on a kind of retreat. Either way, I learned a lot, it was a fantastic opportunity, and I wrote about it last May. But I just didn't have room to write about the time Allen got hypothermia.

Charlie and I camped in the woods next to a little, stony beach. It's not hard to get to, but few people go there. Camping at that spot is illegal, but Charlie tended to ignore all rules he himself did not make up. We packed up our stuff during the day so we wouldn't get caught, but basically we lived on the beach, unless we were out on a hike.

I didn't the the other masters much, except for Allen, who came down to our beach every day to swim. He's a good friend of Charlie's, so he sometimes spoke with us a few minutes if we were there when he was.

But the water there is very cold--I wouldn't swim in it without a very good reason. Allen never stayed in the water very long, but the man is part fish and seriously loves being in the water. He also doesn't usually notice the cold. He has to protect himself from exposure by keeping track of his body temperature intellectually. And he can get distracted.

A couple of days into the trip, that's exactly what happened.

Allen stayed in the water longer than he normally did and when he came out he stumbled a little coming up the beach. Something about the way he was moving looked wrong to both me and Charlie, so without having to talk about it to each other we hurried over to him. Allen's lips were blue and he was shivering visibly. He didn't bother to towel himself off or put his shirt back on.

"Don't you feel cold?" I asked him. I didn't yet know that he typically doesn't.

"No," he answered, his teeth chattering. "But feelings aren't facts. Or, rather, feelings are not good indicators of facts that aren't feelings. Or..." He seemed puzzled, unable to quite articulate the idea. His trying to explain a subtle intellectual point even though we could hardly hear him because of the shivering and because his mouth had gone slow and numb. It was kind of funny.

"You're brain just doesn't quit, does it?" asked Charlie, laughing and clapping his friend on the back.

"I hope not!" Allen answered.

But he didn't just seem cold. In the few minutes since he'd come out of the water, he seemed to have gotten worse. The sun felt warm, and it may have been that his skin, fooled by the warm air, was actually dumping body heat--I've heard that can happen sometimes. It's why you're not supposed to sit hypothermic people right next to warm stoves. Regardless of why, his shivering had become uncontrollable and his eyes and gone glassy and dull. He just stood there, looking stupid.

Charlie touched the back of Allen's neck, a trick, I've learned since, that works well for estimating the core body temperature of children, who often don't notice being cold either. I don't know if it really helps with adults, but Charlie spends a lot of time with small children. He's used to them.

"Touch your fingertips together," Charlie commanded. "First finger to first finger."

Allen tried, but he couldn't do it. He kept missing. He frowned.

"Not good," he chattered.

"Get those wet shorts off and towel dry," Charlie told him, handing him a towel. "Daniel, get my sleeping bag and pad."

Allen obediently stripped and toweled, apparently unconcerned with being naked in broad daylight, and we helped him crawl into the insulated bag. Technically, you're supposed to wrap hypothermia victims in three bags and a plastic sheet, but Charlie didn't seem to think that was necessary yet. He got out his camp stove and started boiling water for tea.

And that's when the ranger showed up.

There's a park on the island and we were inside it. The rangers didn't usually come to the beach, either, and I don't know why this one had--she didn't seem to be on a formal patrol. I don't know if she had law enforcement powers, but even if she didn't she could obviously call one who did--she had a radio.

"You can't camp here," she said when she spotted us.

"We're not," Charlie lied smoothly. "Our friend here is hypothermic. We're trying to warm him up." The ranger drew in her breath quickly, appropriately concerned. "The sleeping bag's mine," he added, explaining the two sets of backpacking gear sitting out beside us. "My boy and I are backpacking in the Whites this summer. We wanted to see how full packs felt. We've been wearing them all over the place on this trip." He didn't take his eyes off Allen the whole time he said it. The lies mixed with the truth in an offhand, believable way. He'd called me his boy.

"Do you need me to call for help?" the ranger asked. A good question.

"I don't think so," answered Charlie, cautiously, checking the stove. "I'm a wilderness first responder, Daniel has wilderness first aid training. But go ahead and examine him yourself to be sure."

But the ranger shook her head.

"I'm afraid you outrank me," she said. "I have no first aid training at all."

"I'm feeling much better, if it matters," said a muffled voice from inside the bag.

"I'm glad to hear it. Of course it matters," said the ranger, kneeling down next to him. "I'm Maggie."

"Allen," said Allen, and the sleeping bag bulged out where his right hand might have been. Ranger Maggie fist-bumped him through the fabric.

The ranger sat and chatted with us for a few minutes while Charlie made tea with honey and some loose herbal mix of his own. When Allen showed he could sit up and drink without help--and he was looking a lot more normal--the ranger went on her way. Charlie walked back to the campground to fetch Allen some dry clothes and a camp chair. We fed him more tea, and eventually Allen felt well enough to get up and go on his way, though he said he still felt tired and planned to take a nap.

But Charlie had called me son. I've never looked to him as a father figure, exactly--I have a Dad and don't need another one, apparently, and I don't think Charlie ever needed or wanted to be anyone's father, though he loved being an uncle. But him calling me that moved me nonetheless.

So I asked him why.

"It's unusual for unrelated men of different generations to camp together," he explained. "and people remember the surprising. I didn't want her to remember us and start asking questions."