The grass in the cemetery was still green, but the trees were beautifully yellow, orange, and red. As we walked, leaves crunched under sneakers, hiking boots, and one pair of pink flip-flops. In the shade, it was cold enough that I felt glad I'd worn my winter coat. "Let's find a patch of sun," I said to my students.
We'd begun class in a windowless room, in stiff plastic chairs under fluorescent lights. But we've been reading Linda Hogan's Dwellings, a book that talks about our spiritual connection to the natural world, and it just seemed wrong to have the conversation inside a box-like room. So soon after class started, we voted to move class outside. Little Green College is in Snowstorm City, an urban setting, but we're right next a cemetery filled with rolling hills, curving paths, and more than 80 species of trees. According to my students, it's the second largest cemetery on the eastern seaboard. Built just about 150 years ago, it was designed in the style of a rural cemetery, with huge old trees spreading branches over hills carved by glaciers.
We found a patch of lawn on the side of a hill, just below a line of tombstones, and sat down in the sun. Flippy Hair pulled out her sketchpad and began sketching a tombstone that was covered in vines. Beneath the hum of traffic from the nearby highway, we could hear squirrels and birds. "A black-capped chickadee, " Talkative Girl said, tilting her head to listen. "And a bunch of crows." Near the ground, the air was warm, and those of us wearing bulky winter coats rolled them up to use as cushions against the gravestones.
Earlier, my students had been talking about the calculus exam, scheduled for later in the day, and the chemistry test they had just gotten back. "It's overwhelming," one student said as she talked about how much work she had to do. But as we sat in the sunshine, talking about the book, listening to the leaves rustle as a squirrel ran through the canopy, I could feel the energy in the circle shifting, changing. Worries seeped into the not-yet-frozen ground. I could feel the bodies around me relaxing as they turned their faces towards the sun.