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, May 30, 2016

Year 4: Part 3: Post 7: Memorial

Reminder to readers: this narrative is set 13 years ago, so at the time of this post, the invasion of Iraq had just been prematurely declared successful and the war in Afghanistan was causing a slow but steady trickle of coalition causalities. -D.

Memorial Day is one of those occasions when we don't get time off from classes and we don't have a campus-wide celebration, but Greg does a talk on history and we are all strongly encouraged to attend. This year, though something was different--this year, the US is quite clearly at war.

It's curious how, today, we are both more connected to the outside world than normal and more out-of-step from it. On the one hand, we're talking quite deliberately about current events--politics, news, what's going on in the Middle East and why. There are days when it feels like we're living in a bubble, some idealized Avalon, a world all our own. Today is not one of those days. On the other hand, in the larger world, today is the cultural first day of summer--and we already had that, back on Beltane.

My Dad always has a big outdoor party on or near Memorial Day. As I've said, he's a serious grill-freak, and while he never actually puts his grill away for the season--he's cooked Easter Dinner on it, some years--in the summer he likes to have these parties, with big mountains of meat and even vegetables, for our friends and neighbors. Memorial Day is the first one.

My Mom enjoys the parties, but she disapproves of the way such things take over Memorial Day, distracting from the real reason for the holiday. She disapproves of the commercialization of Christmas and President's Day and all the rest of it, for the same reason. But I've told her that I don't think Memorial Day is really a case of commercialization. I think America is trying to celebrate Beltane, the beginning of summer, and just doesn't have a better day for it. And summer is worth celebrating. She likes that idea and says it may be true.

Anyway, Greg gave his talk this year in the Chapel after dinner--usually he does it outside on the central field, but today it was raining, a light, gentle mist that wouldn't let up.

He told us about the history of the day, like he always does, how it began as a day to decorate the graves of the Civil War dead, and talked some about the different ways people have conceptualized the dead of wars over the years--as heroes and as victims--and about the importance of seeing them as individuals.

"Each is an individual, personal death, and each was an individual life, with his or her own reasons for going to war, embedded in and reflecting the various cultural and historical threads of the time," he said.

All that is about what he's done in previous years. This year he said more. He talked about an individual dead soldier, Lori Piestewa, whose death was made public last month. She was the first American woman to die in combat in Iraq and the first Hopi woman to die in combat abroad. She interested Greg for several reasons, he said--first, her death was high-profile enough that a fair amount of information about her is available, obviously important if you want to do a talk on something, though Greg isn't sure how much of the information is true.

Second, she was Native American, allowing Greg to talk about the long and complicated history of Native Americans in the US military, a story with some interesting parallels to the history of Japanese-Americans in the US military, a subject obviously close to Greg's heart.

Third, Piestewa was Hopi, and as such largely pacifist, as Greg is. He said he had not been able to find out how she reconciled pacifism with going to war, but he speculated about some possibilities, including the fact that joining the military is often the only option for young people from poor families who want to get ahead. And poverty and race are strongly linked in America.

"Ostensibly," he finished, "the invasion of Iraq has succeeded, the war is complete. And yet fighting continues and there is no sign of the weapons of mass destruction we supposedly went in there to find. The war in Afghanistan continues. In the two wars combined, over 260 American soldiers have died so far--a small number, overall, but there will be more. How many Iraqis? How many Afghanis? We don't know. They won't tell us. Maybe if we pay more attention to these things there will be fewer wars."

And he sat down. Steve Bees stood up.

Paying attention has been a major part of Steve's education, so far. Steve, as I've said, asked Greg to help him build a better awareness of social justice issues, especially the real challenges and concerns of poor people and people of color. He's trying to break through the obliviousness that he says comes with growing up as a white, cis-gendered, straight male. Greg is Buddhist, and as such is very concerned with both awareness and compassion. Apparently that translates into making Steve learn a fantastic amount of historical and anthropological detail--when the Invasion of Iraq began a few months ago, Greg set Steve to learning the geography and history of Iraq as well as studying who joins the US military and why. As Greg says, perhaps if we pay more attention, there will be fewer wars.

Anyway, Steve is also Kit's student. He's been taking voice lessons from Kit and has made a lot of progress over the past year. And so, after Greg was done speaking, Steve sang. He sang a single Don McLean song, a Capella.

And the rain fell like pearls on the leaves of the flowers
Leaving brown, muddy clay where the earth had been dry.
And deep in the trench he waited for hours,
As he held to his rifle and prayed not to die.

The song went on for several verses, simple, vivid, without much overt editorial comment and with very little melody, almost musical talking, rising and rising in intensity and then falling again to the simple, stark last line: he's gone.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Year 4: Part 3: Post 6: Coming Home

Crystal got back to campus today. She's more or less bed-ridden, and limps around on crutches when she does move, but she decided she'd rather convalesce here than at her mother's house. Karen got back at the same time; Crystal's mother dropped both of them off.

I've been back on campus for a week, of course. And of course I'm startled by how much further advanced spring is here than up on the Island. Startled but not surprised, because this happens every year. What does surprise me is how much I missed my spot in the woods.

I mean the one where I spend a night or two a week as per Charlie's assignment.

I've really gotten to know the place. I can identify all the woody plants growing there (except two shrubs that aren't in any of my books but I've given them names anyway) and almost everything that's flowered so far, including all the grasses. I know most of the insects, at least to the point that I can say whether I've seen it before, and I know the sounds and I know the smells. I know what birds are nesting there this week and where the nests are. I know how the weather feels.

The thing is, having been gone for almost two weeks, I've missed things. And it really bothers me to have missed them. I'm interested in this place. I want to know the news.

I like knowing one place this well.

I forgot to explain what happened with looking for my favorite place on the island. After David "abandoned" me to go exploring with his sister, I ended up looking for my favorite place in company with Alexis, who is seven. Of course, hiking around with a seven-year-old was different. She's strong and a willing hiker, but I can't just go hiking all over without thinking about her limitations. I can't just spend all day without botanizing or tracking without thinking about whether she would get bored. I had to figure out how to explain things so they would make sense to her. I'm not saying I had a bad time. Alexis is a great kid. But it was different, different than I expected. And that's probably a good thing.

I covered almost every trail on the Island in those two weeks, with either David or Alexis or, the first few days, Charlie, and most of the coastline, and I never found one spot that stood out as my favorite.

Towards the end of the week I was sitting on a big slab of bedrock on a mountain with Alexis, looking out through a huge bank of wet fog, and she asked me if I'd found my spot yet. I said no. And she said well, why not this spot?

"What, just pick this one?"
"Yeah. I mean, I'm friends with half the girls in my class, right? But they're not any better than the people in any other class. I just know them better, so we can be friends. So get to know this place better. Make it your special place."

I looked at her and wondered if it could be that simple. It didn't really matter at that point, because it was either pick a spot or tell Charlie I'd failed to complete the assignment. So I picked it.

And it worked, emotionally. I'm thinking of that spot now, too--and it bothers me that I don't know when I'm going back there. It's my favorite spot on the islands.

Does that mean that's all there is? Could I just pick any place, any person, and make it my home, my family? Could I have picked any school?

No, I could not have. Some places are special.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Year 4: Part 3: Post 5: Being Nice

This morning was our last day on the Island, and an unexpectedly eventful morning it was. We were packing up our various campsites when somebody screamed. I was at Lo’s site, of course, and she and I looked up from our work, concerned.

“Was that one of ours?” she asked.
“What was that?” asked David at the same time.
“Doesn’t matter if it’s ours,” I said. “Do they need help?”
“What can we do? Where are they?” asked Lo, wide-eyed.
“Let’s go check the student sites,” suggested Julie. “If they’re all ok, we can look and see if it’s somebody else.” She’s a pretty practical kid.

The campground is big, but not huge, and it’s faster to run than to drive because all the loop roads are one-way and narrow. The screamer was, indeed, one of ours. Crystal had been up on the roof of one of the vans, tying down some equipment, when she fell off. Her foot caught in the roof rack for a moment as she fell and she lay on the ground with her foot pointing entirely the wrong way.

The yearlings had all just taken the required first aid course and several of them were busy stabilizing her spine (a big fall like that can cause spinal injuries) like they’d been taught, but most were standing around in a state of confused panic.

“Somebody has to call 911,” Nora explained, “but nobody has a cell phone and we don’t know how to handle this with the school and we don’t know where the masters are.” As you may recall, not only do the masters camp separately, but they don’t tell the students where they are.

“I’ll get them,” volunteered Lo, but just then Kit and Karen ran up. Karen went right to Crystal’s side and spoke quietly to her and to the students with her. I expected she would give Crystal Reiki, but that's about all she can do. She's not a doctor or anything. Kit spoke to the rest of us, asking what had happened and explaining that the masters had heard the scream, too, but that the others were searching the campground before converging on the student site. But Kit didn't know what to do, either. She understands herbal medicine, but as far as emergencies go, the students who'd just taken their first aid course were our current experts.

Or, actually I was the expert, since I'm a Wilderness First Responder, which outranks First Aid certification, but I couldn't think of anything to do that wasn't already being done. Crystal's wrenched foot played on my mind oddly and unhelpfully. I kept looking at it and wishing I hadn't. I felt kind of sick.
Joy ran up, having completed the loop she’d agreed to check, and sized up the situation pretty quickly.
“Has anyone called an ambulance?” she asked.
“No cell phones,” Nora explained again.
“Have you forgotten landlines? Situational awareness?” Joy demanded. “Go to the entrance station! Tell a ranger we need an ambulance.”

Nora ran off without another word. Kit smacked herself upside the head for not having thought of it herself.

“Can you do anything about her foot?” asked Michael.
“I’m a vet,” she answered.
“Yeah, but humans are animals. It’s not that different.”
“Legally it is.” It was odd hearing her talk about legalities, something the masters usually ignore.

Charlie and Allen arrived at the same time but from opposite directions. Allen also couldn’t help, except for asking whether anyone had contacted the rangers, but Charlie took charge. He pulled a pair of nitrile gloves out of what looked like a keychain clipped to his belt, put them on, and set about making sure Crystal could breathe and wasn’t bleeding anywhere.  Then he directed the students and Karen to gently straighten Crystal out to further protect her spine. He examined her foot, then stripped off his shirt and jacket and used them to improvise a sort of bulky bandage to support the joint until the ambulance crew arrived. The whole time he was asking Crystal questions, checking her mental state. He was quick, efficient, and unhesitatingly competent.

I’d known he had emergency medical training, but aside from the time he treated Allen for hypothermia I’d never seen him use it before. He's a master at it, as he is at almost everything else I've ever seen him do.

A ranger arrived, but couldn't do anything except reassure us an ambulance was on its way.

And indeed, about fifteen minutes later, the ambulance did arrive. Charlie spoke to the EMTs briefly, and then they examined Crystal, put her on a backboard, repackaged her foot, returned Charlie's shirt and jacket, and sped off.

Then there was the issue of what to do next--obviously, someone should stay in the area for Crystal, but equally obviously we weren't all needed and the masters had a school to run. But we had three vans--there was no easy way for just one person to stay.

Karen solved the problem by announcing that Crystal's parents only live about an hour away. Kit went to the ranger station to call them and returned with a plan; we'd drop off one of the masters at the hospital (Karen volunteered), then the rest of us would head back to campus. Crystal's parents would then host Karen until she could make whatever travel plans she needed to.

So, we did that. We're back on campus now.

Sharon has just received a call and spread the word; Crystal does not have a spinal injury, and although she was mildly concussed, her primary injury is her foot. She's been admitted to the hospital for surgery and should be back at school, on crutches, in a week or two. She'll be alright.

But on our way back I happened to sit next to Nora, the new one. Not my friend Nora who's been here as long as I have, but the yearling. She said something interesting.

"Everyone was afraid of Crystal's foot, afraid and kind of grossed out. Even Charlie--I saw him, when he looked at her foot, he winced a little. Everybody winced. Except for Karen. I saw her face when she looked at Crystal's foot. She just looked kind of sad. And she's the only person who just sat with Crystal so she wouldn't feel alone."

"I thought she was giving her Reiki," I said.

"Maybe, but mostly she was just sitting with her, rubbing her earlobe. She was just being nice."

Friday, May 13, 2016

Year 4: Part 3: Post 4: With Alexis

We're still on the Island. Workshop over, in deference to Charlie's instructions, I've been wandering all over, hiking over mountains and scrambling across coastal rocks, looking for my favorite place on the Island.

Of course, I'm not just doing it because Charlie asked me to. It's like this with most of my assignments from him--he tells me to do things I basically want to do anyway, only in a better-organized and more dedicated way than I would have thought of doing. Which is more or less what he promised when we started out and he promised to be my boogeyman, the person I could use as extra motivation when I felt lazy.

I wonder, though, to what extent I've learned to want to do things like thoroughly explore a single island from Charlie? How much has he shaped me?

In any case, most of my excursions have been in company with David--just like last year, he tries to get out on his own as much as he can. Exploring with me is one way to do that, and he's good company. And he's an excellent naturalist.

But today, when I got back from the shoreline, ready to go up yet another mountain, I found that David had already gone--with Julie.

"They don't need adults" Lo explained. "They're all but grown now. I just don't want them out by themselves. It's good to see them re-connecting. It's always hard on Jule when David goes on to a new developmental stage and leaves her behind for a year or two."

"So, who plays with Alexis, now that they both teenagers?" I asked.

"I'm hoping you will."


"She's almost seven. She can hike almost everywhere you can. And she needs somebody other than her parents to make special time for her."

So, now I'm exploring, looking for my favorite place on the Island, with Alexis.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Year 4: Part 3: Post 3: Island

We're off to the Island again.

Every year, the yearlings go to an island, whose identity I do not reveal, for a week and a half of workshops. The idea is for the yearlings to bond as a group (now that they've had a few months to absorb the school culture) and for the masters to have a retreat and semi-vacation of their own, when they aren't leading workshops. For the past two years, I've gone along as well in order to help Charlie with his workshop. Here I am again.

There's always the logistical difficulty that because both the yearlings and the faculty are on retreat, I can't camp with either group. Thew first year I camped with Charlie, just the two of us, so he could train me. Last year I stayed with Allen's family, who were up for a vacation at the same time. Allen split his time between the masters' campsites and his family. I felt welcomed by Lo and their kids, but very much the outsider. I assumed that this year I'd have to do something else.

A few weeks back, I said as much to Allen.

"Why wouldn't you stay with us again?" he asked. This being Allen, the question was real, not rhetorical.

"Because I'm a student," I told him. "You can't just have students crashing in the middle of your family vacation all the time, that wouldn't work."

"Well, no, it wouldn't," he acknowledged, "but occasionally stopping by is ok, and the more you stop by, the more you cease to be just a student and the more you become family."

I stared at him, speechless. Allen and I aren't especially close, though we are solidly friends. I had not expected him to categorize me as a quasi-family member. He chuckled and bumped me on the arm with a fist, in a friendly way.

"You'll have to talk to Lo, obviously, but David's asked about you coming with us already."

And so here I am.

This year I've made an effort to get to know the yearlings a bit more, so I have some friends in the group, but there are some extra familiar faces on the Island, too. Evie and Jutta (pronounced like "you-tuh," with the accent on the first syllable) are both one-hit-wonders, so even though they're yearling they're also part of the graduating class and they've been attending group meetings with me every month. And Kayla and Nora are here.

As you might remember, neither of them went to the Island with us when we were yearlings together--Nora's mother wouldn't let her go and Kayla was still nursing Aidan. Both of them are on an extended track, spending more than the normal four years here, so the idea always was that they'd go to the Island with the group that would actually include their graduating group.

And that's what Nora is doing. This is her fourth year out of six, so almost half the current group of yearlings will graduate with her. Plus, she's 19, now, so she's about the same age as a lot of them.

Kayla is 15 and still has four more years, meaning her graduating group hasn't arrived yet. She could have waited until next year or the year after to go to the Island, when she'd be closer to normal college age. But she and the masters (including her mother) decided that it's better to go this year, when she has Nora--and me--with her. So here she is.

There were some logistical issues, as always. Between the 33 yearlings, the five masters (Greg stays home), and Nora and Kayla, we had to bring three school vans not just two. That meant it made sense for Lo and the kids to join the third school van rather than take their own vehicle, but that in turn meant their family couldn't stay after and have their vacation, as they usually do. What we ended up doing was putting all the students in two vans, with a faculty driver in each, and the three other masters, plus Lo and the kids and me and most of the tents and food and so on, in the third van, which went up a few days early. So Charlie and I pre-hiked all the trails we'd use for the workshop to check for any changes or issues and the Chapmans (Allen and his family) had some private time. I don't know what Karen, the third master in our van, did. I think she went rock-climbing.

Then the students came up, the workshops went well, and Charlie vanished to explore the Island on his own, as he usually does. Before he went, he gave me an assignment.

"I want you to find your favorite spot on the Island," he said.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Year 4: Part 3: Post 2: I had No Right

Ok, this is an odd post--it's not an interlude, but I'm reverting to Daniel of 2016 because I can't figure out how else to describe these events.

See, Daniel Berrigan died last week--he was a Catholic priest and a peace activist whose existence I mostly know about because of a Dar Williams song that Steve Bees sometimes sang back in school--usually in snippets under his breath, the way he sang most songs, but also, once, in concert, an event that occurred in early June of 2002, in his first year. I was there, but at the time I payed very little attention. I knew Steve to say hi to, but no more than that, and I didn't understand the significance of the concert or of his choice of song until much later. That's why I couldn't tell the story in the course of the ordinary narrative.

What happened was that Kit discovered that although Steve loved to sing, he believed himself to be a bad singer, to the point that his irrepressible love of music had become a source of shame to him. Now, Kit does teach voice, and could have simply offered to teach Steve to sing better, but she thought that was missing the point. She conferred with Allen, and he agreed--singing should not be restricted to those who sound good. So they convinced Steve to do a concert and asked the rest of us to be a supportive audience.

And he chose that song, the one about Daniel Berrigan, called "I had no Right."

And, from a technical standpoint, he was, indeed, awful. The song, like pretty much everything by Dar Williams, is a complex tune, with little eddies and curlicues of voice and not much in the way of a normal melody. It's not a song for beginners, but Steve didn't know any better and sang it anyway and the thing came out as an off-key monotone.

But we all gave him thunderous applause anyway--we didn't pretend to like the sound, we applauded him for having to courage to try, and I believe it did help cheer him.

Later, Steve asked Kit to coach him in voice and she became his art master. He has since become a very good singer, not technically gifted, but certainly more than competent, and he has a curiously powerful stage presence when he sings.

The song also prefigured his political/spiritual awakening, which occurred a few months later. As a Quaker, Steve had grown up with the idea that social justice and peace activism are intimately linked to religion, and he arrived at school with an intellectually appreciation of left-wing progressive politics--but no real passion for it. In his mind, the poor, down-trodden of the world were an abstract Other whom he supported in the same half-hearted, self-congratulatory way most people do.

Then, he attended a talk led by Greg and suddenly all those people became real to him and the world's wrongs became an emergency he felt personally responsible for addressing. It was at that point that he and I began becoming friends, largely because I found his new enthusiasm interesting and then admirable.

He has made himself into much the same kind of person that the song says Daniel Berrigan was:

First it was a question. then it was a mission
How to be American, how to be a Christian.

So when I heard that the man the song was about had died, I thought it appropriate to tell this story, even though it is one that I only found out about after the fact.

I do remember that concert though--and I remember that afterwards I asked Allen about it, something on the order of why was it so important for this yearling (Steve) to be encouraged for singing badly. Allen smiled a little, the way he does when he knows he's about to say something that sounds odd.

"Sometimes people have to feel free to do things badly before they can do them well," he said.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Year 4: Part 3: Post 1: Beltane

Happy Beltane!

Every year we do roughly the same thing—and we do something completely different. This year, for example, we got rained on.

For three years now, Beltane for me has been about celebrating the newly warm, beautiful  weather outdoors. If it wasn’t exactly summer in the normal sense of the word, still I could believe it was the beginning of the warm, green season, and since I never really celebrated Beltane before I got here, that’s how I thought of it; outdoor picnics and flowers. But I suppose it has to rain on Beltane sometimes, and this year it rained on us—a cold, soaking, spitting rain all day long.

This year we began with the Maypole, right after breakfast. It wasn’t really raining yet, only sort of drizzly. The children’s dance went first, and then before we were halfway through the first song, the sky let loose. The first song was, as usual, “Celebrations,” by Cool and the Gang, and I have to say that being rained on caused no problem for us at all—we just got sillier, slopping through the wet grass, our uniforms getting all clingy and uncomfortable with rain, and all of us determined to have a great time anyway. 

The other new thing about that Maypole is that I, for the first time, danced as a woman.
I haven’t uncovered some inner feminine or anything, I just decided that if I ever wanted to just pretend to be a woman for the day because why not, I had better do it here on campus and this year would be my last chance in a while. So I did it. It was weird how hard it was—the only thing I did differently was grab the other color ribbon and dance the other way around the circle, it’s not like I wore heels and a bra or anything, and it’s not like I had to be female in any meaningful way. And nobody was going to tease me or second-guess me, it was the most minimal, no-big-deal thing in the world, and yet I was really scared to do it. Like, really scared.

Anyway, of course everything was fine. I ended up facing Steve Bees at the end—he did a sort of double-take when he saw me—which was, yes, a little weird for me, too, but I was happy to spend the day with him under whatever circumstances. As I’ve mentioned, there’s a blessing at the end that’s a little different for men verses women, and Steve gave me the women’s version. When I’ve ended up with guys dancing as girls I’ve given them the men’s version, but Steve seemed to think that my temporary femininity needed blessing.

Afterwards, Kit stood up on one the chairs we’d taken outside for the picnic and gave a speech explaining how the rest of the day would go, how we were changing the plan because of the rain, and so forth. She also made a lot of jokes based on the idea of “getting wet at Beltane” which drew a big laugh.

It’s weird, even though Beltane is supposed to be a very sexual holiday, and this community certainly isn’t squeamish about such things, I think that’s the first off-color Beltane joke I’ve heard here. The day was rowdier than it has been in the past, bawdier. Sarah was much less involved. I doubt that was a coincidence.

They did the blessing of the animals in the barn, to get out of the rain, but I didn’t attend. There’s not a lot of room in the barn for a crowd and I needed a shower to get the chill off. Lunch was a casual thing, just go in and grab a bite, like normal, not any kind of feast, and afterwards Steve and I, and a couple other people helped set up chairs for the concert in the Chapel. I remember, the whole time Steve was singing “going to the chapel of love,” except he only knew two or three lines. He sang them over and over again mostly under his breath until Joanna got tired of it.

“Stop going to the chapel!” she shouted from across the room. “You’re already here!”
Every year we’ve had a musical element, but it’s been getting bigger and more elaborate each time. My first year, Kit and Sarah sang a single song as a duet. The next year they each sang a couple of songs. Last year there was a bull-blown concert. This year…this year we got a mystery play. And the first part of the mystery was how they’d organized it and practiced it without any of the rest of us knowing anything about it—and they must have practiced, because they did the whole thing perfectly.

There were two separate bands on stage, including two sets of back-up singers, all interwoven together so you couldn’t tell who was in which group until they started performing. The lead singers were Kit and Eddie.

Eddie started, singing “Come on Nature,” by the Proclaimers.  It was an invocation, I’m pretty sure, since “Nature” is obviously the Goddess and the addressee of the song.

Come on, Nature, I don’t wanna read a book or talk about the world
Come on, Nature, I just wanna spend some time being boy to a girl.

It’s a prayer for sex, basically, and as frank as it is, there’s something innocent about it—desire without an agenda, without complication.

Kit watched him and appeared to respond, launching full-throated into “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” as if she thought perhaps Eddie didn’t know what he was getting himself into—I think she was singing the part of Nature, not that of the girl to Eddie’s boy.

He seemed encouraged, because he responded with “Help you Dream,” by the Blasters, about a charming but unsuccessful pick-up artist. Kit shook her head. The kid wasn’t getting it. She’d have to explain things.

She sang “Fever.”

Now, long-time readers will remember that I’ve had a thing for Kit for four years now. And her performance of this song did nothing whatever to change my mind. And then she sang “Rhiannon.”

I’ve seen her do that song before, but this time it was times ten. The band behind her throbbed like a heartbeat, vaguely mind-altering and we were all on our feet, dancing, maybe some two hundred of us, students, masters, and graduates visiting for the holiday, half of us still soaked from the rain outside. And then there was Kit.

The thing about that song, aside from its general awesomeness, is it’s not about the singer—it’s about some third person whom the singer seems to be pushing the listener towards.

All your life you've never seen
A woman taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you heaven?
Will you ever win?

Who is singing? Is it Nature, the being invoked with Eddie’s first song? Or is Nature the woman being described? It isn’t clear.

In any case, as Kit finished the song the throbbing beat didn’t stop, only altered lightly, and Eddie the acolyte began singing “Jean,” another Proclaimers song, to the accompaniment of both bands. The song starts prosaically enough.

I’ve never been lucky with girls, I confess
Don’t know who to blame for my lack of success
Even with ones up the back of the bus
There was always the risk of a slap in the puss
But Jean, oh, Jean, you let me get lucky with you.

But the thing is after a couple of verses of that the song goes into this hypnotic repetition of the words “I love her” over and over and over, until the words start to melt, to lose sense, becoming this animalistic drone…..

Loverai loverai loverai love, loverailoverailoverai love, loverailoverailoverai love….

And gradually Eddie starts slipping in these growls and shouts, leaning into the microphone oddly, eyes closed, body rocking, obviously out of his head. His movements became jerky, almost spasmodic, irregular but still in time with the beat of the music, gradually building to this insane crescendo shouting Jean!Jean!Jean!Jean!Yeah!

The music ended and he drew a ragged breath and opened his eyes.

He and the other singers and the musicians all left the stage abruptly, immediately, and anti-climactically, revealing, as they left, two more people who may have been on stage the whole time, or not, it was impossible to tell. One of them, of course, was Allen. The other one was Sarah. They sang an a Capella duet. 

They sang “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”

They sang it soft and sad and bewildered and brave, and when they were done Allen withdrew and Sarah sang “Mother Earth and Father Time,” the lullaby from Charlotte’s Web, and Kit sat directly behind her, out of sight, accompanying her on the cello.

How very special are we
For just a moment to be
Part of life's eternal rhyme
How very special are we
To have on our family tree
Mother Earth and Father Time
I can’t explain all of this properly because, of course, you can’t hear the music. So go, please, find these songs, I’m sure they’re on the Internet, and listen. In order. The weird crescendo of “Jean” is, in fact, part of the original recording by the Proclaimers, though I’m sure Eddie’s body language added something to it. Then imagine all of this performed, the story they assembled these songs into. That’s the best I can do to explain it. It was intense.

Afterwards, on our way out, over to the Dining Hall for our feast (always eat after a ritual, it’s a necessary grounding), Steve and I found ourselves walking in step with Joanna and Eddie—I think they were partners for the day. Eddie looked exhausted, spent, but otherwise normal.

“Hey, nice orgasm up there,” said Joanna. She says things like that. Direct. Just to see what would happen. What happened was that my ears turned red, Steve laughed uncomfortably, and Eddie laughed quite comfortably and thanked her casually.

“So, it worked?” he asked.
“Worked?” exclaimed Steve, “I had no idea you could do that!”
“I wasn’t sure, myself,” Eddie replied.
“I’m surprised Sarah was ok with any of that,” I said. She won’t wear a dress that hangs above the knee.
“She almost wasn’t,” he explained. “And that won’t happen again. Not for a long time, and not just because I won’t be here next year. Sarah and Kit always do Beltane together, but sometimes Kit is dominant, sometimes Sarah is. Kit has been gaining ground now for a few years, it’s time for the pendulum to swing the other way.”
“I’m surprised Kit is ok with that,” I responded. “That concert, play, whatever it was, was brilliant. I’d think Kit would want to do more of it.”
“You and I will be gone next year,” Eddie reminded me, “but Kit and Sarah will both stay. They have to find ways to get along.”

We had reached the Dining Hall, and as I held the door open for the others I noticed Charlie standing unobtrusively near the entrance, leaning against the wall, staring at the rain, barefoot. I let the others walk ahead. He looked at me.

“Whad’you think?” He asked me, looking back towards the rain, following it up towards the sky with his eyes and down again. That man can spend an extraordinary amount of time watching water, in any form, move.

“Sexy and weird and brilliant,” I told him. “What did you think?”
He shrugged a little.
“It was too loud. Not how I would have done it.” Charlie never thinks much of anything Kit does. He seems unable to compliment her without slipping in criticism here or there. Today he dispensed with the compliment entirely.
“Oh? How would you have done it?”
And for only the second time in our knowing each other, Charlie sang to me.

Scratch my back with a lightning bolt
Thunder rolls like a bass drum note
Sound of the weather is Heaven’s ragtime band,

He sang the whole song, which is called “Barefoot Children in the Rain,” by Jimmy Buffet. And you should go listen to that one, too.