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, May 28, 2015

Year 3: Part 3: Post 9: New Classes

So! Here I am starting classes again!

I remember when I first got here, starting classes each semester was such a big deal--they were all so different from any class I'd had before, and they were all different from each other. Now, I'm into the swing of things. Starting classes every semester is just another part of the rhythm of living here. It's still exciting, though, to see what they have ready for us.

Last year I took four classes in the summer, and ended up with no free time or energy at all, since I had a bunch of extracurricular commitments and assignments from Charlie. This year I got smarter and signed up for only two classes: Herbal Magic and the Allies of the Land, with Kit, and The Art of Listening and Love, with Greg. They've each met once already.

Herbal Magic seems interesting but strange in that, once again, Kit's class is in some ways very much like something Charlie would do, while in other ways it is completely different.

There is a very familiar emphasis on plant identification, local ecology, and open-ended observation--a lot of the material we've covered this first week was review for me,  because she got into how to use field guides, how scientific nomenclature works, what various basic ecological terms mean...technically, most of it is review for everybody, because everything except the ID stuff was covered in Intro to Ecology our first year, but a lot of people don't seem to have been paying very much attention because they've forgotten it already. Kit is making them remember. She takes the scientific approach to understanding these things very seriously, and she's insisting her students do so, too. You want to learn herbal magic? Fine. Learn how to spell Amelanchier properly (it's the genus name of the Juneberry).

But then she talks freely about the devas or geniuses (spirits, either way) of plants and places and promises to teach us how to talk to these beings through "inner journey methods," and I'm thinking all of this would seem like self-indulgent fantasy to Charlie.

I knew the class was going to be like this and I felt kind of self-conscious about it, so I actually said something to him the other week, on the ride back from the Island. He'd asked me, conversationally, what classes I'd signed up for and I told him and said something like "I bet you'd rather I didn't take Kit's class." He shrugged and looked out the window.

"No, I think you're smart enough to figure those things out for yourself," he said.

Which might mean he trusts my judgment in signing up for the class, or it might mean that he trusts me to figure out that it's hooey without his help. But I don't think it's hooey. Or, not necessarily hooey, anyway. I kind of what to know what going on an "inner journey" to try to talk to a plant deva is like. That's why I'm taking the class.

The other one, the one that Greg teaches, should be equally interesting. Technically, it's a psychology elective, just as Kit's is an ecology elective, both subjects being filtered through and focused by the spiritual perspectives of the professor in question. In Greg's case, Buddhism means studying the mind in order to learn to be a more compassionate, loving person--not necessarily a happier person, he is careful to add, for the pursuit of personal happiness is often self-defeating, but he said that becoming more fully loving often involves becoming much happier.

It's strange to think that this man who I used to think of as so severe and withdrawn teaches a course in love--but I already knew that my initial understanding of him was at best incomplete. After all, this is the man who just paid for an expensive intubation procedure followed by an even more expensive surgery for a cat who technically isn't even his--and Greg has no outside income anymore, so he only makes $12,000 a year.

And it is true that he seems very relaxing to talk to--not that he always knows the right thing to respond with, but no matter what you say or do, he's not going to react badly to it. He's not going to get angry or offended of judgmental or distracted. I know people here who describe him as "safe."

He's assigned us a pile of books to start reading, mostly popular psychology books, plus a couple of religious essays, and gave us a writing assignment--a couple of short essay questions.

It's not surprising that he'd be teaching a psychology class; apparently he was the primary psychology teacher for four years before they hired Allen.

Anyway, despite having just the two classes, I think I'll be busy enough. I'm still working off campus 20 hours a week, plus working on campus, plus doing trail work in the mornings, plus attending the occasional yoga class....

I do sleep, now and then.

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