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, August 1, 2016

Year 4: Part 5: Lammas

Happy Lughnasadh!

I was just re-reading some of my earlier posts and I noticed I called it Lammas my first year, "because it's easier to spell," which makes no sense because clearly I did know how to spell it, because I wrote the longer name, too. So why did I do that? Did I just feel weird about Celtic names and their oddly silent consonants? (The holiday's name is pronounced "Loonasuh," more or less). Whatever it was, I'm apparently over it.

Spices and sprinkles from other languages are common here, technical words from magic, religion, meditation, philosophy, or myth in Irish, Scottish, German, Norwegian, Latin, Welsh, Japanese, and Greek, each introduced by one student or another and flowing together in a weird and highly educated slang.

Anyway, as usual, our Lughnasadh festival was a big feast showcasing everything the farm here can do, plus a kind of low-key open mike. And, as usual, there were a few updates and twists.

This year there was a massive tomato tasting. I don't mean the tomatoes were massive (though some were), I mean that the variety was extraordinary. Five different cherry tomatoes. Four different plum tomatoes. Eight of the big ones that are great for sandwiches. Each variety was available four different ways--fresh and plain, as basic marinara sauce, and as both red and green chutneys. All with saltine crackers so you could dip in and get a bite and sumac tea as a palate cleanser between tastes. We were supposed to taste all them and choose a favorite in each size category for each of the four preparation types--nine favorites in total.

It's hard to keep track of nine different competition standards, so I kept having to taste and re-taste and then taste some more, just to be sure I hadn't confused the flavors and textures in my mind. It was glorious.

They'll grow the winning varieties next year.

The other update was that the open mike turned into a talent show for the masters. It wasn't just them, students performed, too, but every second or third performer was a master, they kept coming up, one after the other. And where last year our teachers seemed careful to avoid steeling our thunder, this year they seemed to be drawing attention to themselves, showing off. I suppose they might as well--if we don't know how good they are, how can we trust them to teach us? And there are still yearlings who haven't chosen all of their masters yet.

Kit, of course, went first. She's the one who most likes showing off for us anyway. I don't think it's vanity or egoism on her part, rather, I think she sees her performance as a gift to us. I hope she never stops thinking that. But usually she sings, and this time she did not. Instead, she danced. I'd never seen her really dance before--outside of class and beyond swaying to music, I mean. She had a student band for accompaniment and she was amazing--graceful and sexy, powerful and controlled, with that snap to her movements that the great dancers have, every limb, every finger in its place, moment by moment.

Joy sang. She couldn't well demonstrate her skill as a vet or as a horse trainer, the stage wasn't big enough, so she had to do something else, and so she sang. I don't remember what songs she chose, none of them struck me as especially important at the time, only that there were three of them and that her voice was low and rich, like Kit's, but without quite as much range. And she was beautiful at it.

Karen did a series of martial arts "forms." A form is a routine, an organized sequence of a given subset of moves of one or another of the arts. Done well, these are as precise as a dance and Karen did them well. When she moved she was a blur of motion, when she paused in her movement the entire world became still and silent.

Greg did, of all things, a comedy routine. I hadn't known he could, and he was very funny.

Allen performed his magic, only the second time that I have seen him do a full show, complete with comic banter and an impeccable black suit and top hat, and a juggling interlude where the number and type of objects he was juggling changed as we watched and nobody could quite figure out how.

Even some of the non-teaching masters performed, though not all of them did. Aaron and his parrot, Ahab, did a wonderful routine in which Ahab said things he shouldn't, stole props, and generally caused havoc, while Aaron played the straight man. Security Joe sang in his oddly feminine-sounding voice (the pitch is masculine, a rich tenor, but the timbre and cadence are feminine and in complete contrast to how Joe speaks). And Malachi brought on one of those rolling blackboards and described some kind of complex mathematical something or other, which he made both lucid (don't ask me to remember it, though) and funny, and if that isn't an impressive mastery, I don't know what is.

I kept expecting Charlie to come on stage and do something--play his tin whistle? Use his chainsaw to sculpt some amazingly lifelike animal? There are so many possibilities, so many things he can do.

But he did nothing. He never took the stage.

Afterwards, after the performances were over but while the feasting itself was in full swing, I watched all the masters leave the party, one by one. This, too, I remember from the past three years. Graduates come on campus and the masters leave the party early and, presumably, they all go do something together. I don't know what they do. I have made no attempt to find out. If and when I win my own green ring, I'll find out then.

In the meantime, I haven't told anyone I know as much as I have. As far as I can tell, I'm the only student who has even noticed as much as I have.

But this time I couldn't help it. Allen happened to be one of the last masters to leave and I happened to be nearby when he fetched his suit jacket and hat and some of his props from a chair.

"Have fun vanishing," I told him in a low voice, and smiled.

He seemed startled at first, then recovered himself and grinned.

"I always do," he told me.


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