Mankind as a whole has had a few things to work with since the dawn of time. The skins and bones of animals, the dense and useful limbs and trunks of trees and fire.
So primal, this trio of ancient things that have been touched by so many generations of humankind. Older than your grandmother’s grandmother’s bones. Their is beauty in them, these prehistoric materials.
In Her mind, wood, most of all.
She’d never like her true name. Imogene. It always felt like a winter jacket bought too large. Not tight enough at the cuffs and hem to keep the chill autumn air at bay and too large in the everywhere else to tell who she was underneath.
She’d had so many other names since childhood. Gene, Jean, Blue, Anna(her infrequently used middle name), Saph, and many more that had been lost to the years.
When when first came to this beautiful campus with it’s gorgeous mason work arches and it’s hand carved crown molding in The Old Building she was in awe.
When she found at orientation they had a vocational major for Carpentry she fell in love. Head over heels. Her curly blue hair standing out in the crowd more than her feminine features or skin tone ever did in other schools. The ratio wasn’t too much or too little, men and women were there in equal measure and some of her classmates looked like a beautiful mix of both.
Freshman year flew by, days feeling like weeks, weeks feeling like months, and the girl fell in love with the campus and her classes.
All the strange and Old traditions, leaving honey and cream packets at the picnic table on her way to Composition, and carving crude necklaces to hang on low branch trees on the terrace. Her old dorm room with it’s 5 creaky floorboards, all red pine, the grain squeezed tight and aged like a setting sun. Her strange Engineering major roomamte, their clothes always covered in oil spots, their pockets filled with 10 penny iron nails and salt packets. Gidge, she called them, and it stuck like glue and fit like it was custom made.
She fell even harder for her class, the pleasantly bitter smell of the varnish room, the dry and sweet smell of the main workshop with it’s ancient 24" planer that had outlived her great grandma according to it’s manufacture date. Her wonderfully strange teacher, his beard belt length and always braided, carved beads clacking in his hair and pencils tucked behind each ear. Also the wood, every piece and scrap, every off cut and joint was art and function. The deep Royal purple of South American heartwood, the crisp and swirling grain of White Pine, Straight hickory boards yearning to become handles and have a purpose. Rowan, Ash, Elder and Yew. So much to use. It was dizzying.
She fell hardest of all for the girl in 4A, her hair shifting like the seasons, maybe even with the seasons. She started showering earlier just to hear her sing sweet Irish folk songs. It took her 4 weeks to learn her name.
It was Gaelic. Aoife. It came out as “Ee-fa” with a smile like the sun and crinkled eyes that reminded her of a cat’s. She’d never felt blessed before that day.
When she spoke her name with another 120 watt smile the girl thought she’d faint. “Well met Blue~” her still wet and very purple hair cast about like Lavender in a storm.
She never knew that her singing voice was heard during late nights in The Shop and her gifts were quietly taken by Good Neighbors that weren’t quite students yet they lived on campus and that her old patinaed hammer that stayed at her belt was a deterrent to more than a lone thief looking for quick cash.
Freshman year flew to a close as the seasons changed and Aofie’s hair morphed and their friendship grew to something tenuous that they danced about as winter fell and they both decided staying for the holidays would be easier.
Blue had learned so much, about her classes, her peers, her roommate, and Aofie.
And so very little about the Why of things.
Why did her roommate wear a ring on a chain they never wore on their hand?
Why were there never salt packets in the dining hall?
Why were all the safe campus walkways the one’s bordered with heavy iron chain and not the well lit ones?
And finally, the biggest Why she’d yet to ask herself.
Why did she choose This school out of all her choices?
So many things are learned and found and lost during Freshman year at Elsewhere University. Friends, songs, and the typical silliness of college.
Like Gidge’s rhyme.
“Read your pamphlets, know yout path and learn the exact sound of your roommate’s laugh.”