I am back at Mineral School for a reunion of sorts. Resting on my bed in the “blue room” I can’t help but wonder what this place was like as a real school. Tiny little desks, with anxious little legs trying to be still as the teacher wrote equations or words across the chalkboard. Every little scuff on the floor, every little nick in the wooden tray that extends the length of the giant black slate of the chalkboard, has a story.
This school was in all of its glory in the days before computers or keyboards. I like to imagine some intense ray of light exposing all the cursive instruction of days gone by. Layers of numbers and words. That would be some art for sure. Erasers instead of delete and backspace buttons …
I walked around town this morning as the songbirds lined the phone wires near the church. Last year, they were perched ON the church, exploding in song like a chorus. I ventured past shacks and humble homes and past the train tracks overgrown with flora and weeds leading into the small woods behind the cemetery.
The Mineral Cemetery is a modest place. There are a few tall headstones but the majority are cement slabs with names carefully carved into the stones before they set. Things were different a century ago and many of these humble stones reflect lives that lasted but a day.
Baby Kamo sits in the far left corner as you walk onto these sacred grounds. My friend Brittney discovered this small grave in 2017 when she did a residency here at Mineral School. She’s written a poem and has the sweetest connection to this child that will be gone 100 years next July. Baby Kamo has a story too, but the pieces are a puzzle that may never fully fit together.
I only spent Friday evening wandering through the mobs at the Loggers Festival in Morton. There was much more today, but I got a late start and didn’t have the patience to find parking. Thousands descend on this otherwise sleepy little town for this festival. Way too people-y out there for me. It is another world in small, rural towns. Lots of tattoos and trucker hats and American flags. Kids were wrestling on the grassy infield and just being kids the night of the lawnmower races (souped-up engines on small riding mowers). Parents had a watchful eye, but seemed to know someone had eyes on every little child. Over the loudspeaker as we were leaving the race area, a booming voice barked the name on a found credit card. Why did that stop me in my tracks ? Have I stopped believing in honesty ?
Outside of the artificial light of the track, the sky was darkening into a deep, midnight shade of blue. The food booths were still open and a few tchotchkes were still to be had on the tables under white canopies. Even before we reached the car came the first flashes of light. A storm !
Back at Mineral School, our small group flipped off the lights and watched the flashes through blinds and panes of glass in the great room. It was nice, just talking in the dim light of a circle. There was slime and pie and books of light.
As I headed back to my room, the claps of thunder got louder. It seemed like up here, surrounded by mountains and woods, we were somehow closer to the source. It would go on for hours. Loud claps of thunder preceded by short flashes of light.
It was a perfect storm and I slept like a baby.
Communal dinners here are great. Friday night there were 8 of us I think, Saturday 17. One big table and lots of conversation. We did introductions: name, astrological sign and favorite ice cream flavor. I remember family dinners at home. The small glass pitcher of milk, the Corelle dinner plates, the fancy plastic cups. In Mineral it feels like family. Jane and Dave have created a sanctuary, not just for writers and artists, but for everyone with a connection to the people or place.
We had smores out off the deck while two deer grazed in the backyard of the school grounds. Big trees and big sky and big billowy clouds. There is a comfort here. It’s a small footprint but it holds endless possibility. I hope I can stay connected and be even a small part of everything as this dream of theirs continues to grow and flourish.
I love this place. I needed a really soft landing from my very busy weekend. I had hoped to write some letters but my hand will still not hold a pen. My re-entry is likely to be bumpy. My car has once again died for no apparent reason (this time happening to Kelly on Hwy 18). I return to the chaos of work on Tuesday and begin my last 56 working days. It looks like October 31st will be the day.
The garage will have to wait. The art room will have to wait. The new floors will have to wait (but not long). The letters will get written eventually, and more meaningful writing, too. It’s been a full vacation and I can sense what the spirit of my life will feel like in the late fall. I like myself better without the stress. I like everything better.