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 7, 2017

Mastery Year 1: Part 5: Lammas

Happy (belated) Lammas. Or Lughnasadh. "Lammas" is short for loaf-mas, suggesting a Christian version of the holiday that I've never otherwise heard of, and "Lughnasadh" means "mourning for Lugh," Lugh being a Celtic deity associated with agriculture. There is a story in which he and another figure compete for the same woman, killing each other and then reviving in turn. The story is an allegory for the alternation of summer and winter, or something like that. I forget if I've ever explained that before.

It's curious that we have a holiday called "Mourning for Lugh," even though nobody on campus mentioned Lugh at any other time, except occasionally at storytelling events, and nobody mentions him much even on Lughnasadh. I mean, it's not like anybody on campus that I know of is actually a devotee of that particular god, so why do we have a holiday mourning him? And why don't we spend it in mourning?

There was one year when all the songs they played were about loss, and I've heard last year, when I wasn't here, also had loss as a major theme. I think loss gets into it both because we can start to see the end of summer approaching, which is kind of sad, especially if you really like summer, and out of the recognition that it's a harvest festival, and in order to harvest something, even a plant, you need to kill it (or, in some cases, wait for it to die). But it's not, overall, a day of mourning for us, no.

And this year the weather was horribly, almost frighteningly hot, and has been for a week, so nobody in their right mind would feel sad at all about the prospect of summer ending.

I have heard that one of Lugh's names is Lugh of the Skillful Hand, and that he won acceptance from the other gods and goddesses because while each of his skills was something one or another of the other deities could already do, he didn't offer anything wholly new, none of them could do everything that he could. So that may explain the theme for the day--people showing off what they do well.

The feast, of course, shows off Sarah's skill as a farmer and Sadie's skill as a chef and baker. That happens every year, and it's fantastic. Some years there are tasting contests for various fruits and vegetables, usually so we can have a voice in what will be planted next year. This year instead there was a tasting for varieties of honey, all bought from different regional farmers, plus honeys from our own hives gathered at different times of the year. Wholly impractical--we would stick with our honey even if some farmer in the next county had something we all liked better--but delicious. There were also tastings for different zucchini breast recipes and different kinds of jelly, and those will have an impact on what we get in the dining hall over the nest year.

And there were not one but two performances. The first, in the big tent on the Central Field as we ate, was a combination magic and juggling show. Ten different acts, mostly students, each had five or ten minutes to wow and entertain the crowd. One of the acts, a pair of talented yearlings, enlisted Greg, apparently as a volunteer, but he ended up quite clearly being involved in a planned slight-of-hand sequence that none of us had known he could do. That was awesome. June is a magic student as well, but she didn't perform. Ebony did. I had seen Ebony do magic before, of course, but this was the first time I saw her do a full performance. She had one of the longest acts, full of professional prattle and schtick, based largely on a series of "mistakes," by which she set up the audience (those few who didn't know any better) to feel bad for the poor little blind girl, before objects reappeared in improbable places, apparently out-of-control accidents resulted in the impossible occurring, and people who appeared eager to help her in a condescending way suddenly found trained ferrets or homing pigeons inside their clothing or under their hats.

"One of these days," I whispered to June, "she'll run out of people who underestimate her and she'll need a new shtick."

"What makes you think you're not still underestimating her?" June whispered back. And interesting comment, as I don't think they know each other well, but they do magic together in class, so I suppose knows Ebony has something else up her sleeve.

Anyway, the final magician on stage was Allen, blooming out of another act's magic to thunderous applause.

Specifically, six students had taken turns pulling progressively more improbable things out of a black top hat resting on a wooden stool in the middle of the stage. Then the seventh reached in and could not find anything. The group acted as though the magic hat were "broken," clustering around it and trying various things to "fix" it and eliciting weird noises, bad odors, or unpleasant objects (a realistic-looking plastic scorpion, an apparently literal hot potato) instead, until one of them pulled out what appeared to be a lit cherry bomb!

All of them ran around the stage with this thing for a few seconds, before they dropped it in the middle of the stage near the stool and cowered. The thing burst, producing a large billow of smoke instead of the dangerous explosion of a real cherry bomb, and when the smoke cleared, there was Allen, sitting on the stool and wearing the top-hat.

I've thought about how he could have done that--there was no tap door, no possibility of a wire to be lowered on, nothing nearby to hide behind...I think he simply walked on stage while we were all distracted by watching the cherry bomb. It's like the gorilla experiment, in which you don't even see someone in a gorilla suit because you're busy counting the number of times people throw a ball.

Anyway, the others left the stage to him, and he performed for about ten minutes and he was wonderful. Of course.

Then, because it was so hot, we all left the tent and had a water-gun fight until we were all soaked. Then we went back into the tent, where the buffet had been re-set with a feast of dessert, and for once, Charlie performed. He read a series of poems, mostly his and all excellent, before yielding the stage to a poetry slam, where several students performed spoken word pieces and we indicated by the loudness of our clapping which we thought best.

But by the time the slam was over, the masters were all gone, as were Chuck and Joe and Malachi, all of whom were visiting for the day. All vanished just like every year. As usual, nobody seemed to notice. The rest of us milled around and ate desert and chatted, and after a while a few people went to the Mansion and brought back their instruments and we danced until we drifted off to bed (the dining hall staff did put away the food, and the janitor team put away the tent and everything else the next day).

I almost asked one of the musicians if he'd seen the masters, but of course they would be upstairs on the fourth floor where we can't go, with their unannounced guests, doing whatever it is we can't know about.

I'm getting really tired of designed ignorance. I don't find it fun anymore.

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