In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

The quinquagenarian goes back to school!

Holy cow, shit got real. I feel like a different person. A very busy person, among other things. You may know that I started school two weeks ago. I’m now a student at The Willowbank School of Restoration Arts. At least I think that’s the name, but no one ever uses it. It’s just Willowbank. Technically it’s a private career college, but there’s only one program offered. After three years, I’ll get a diploma in Heritage Conservation.

Basically, I’m starting the process of learning how to repair and conserve heritage structures. At the two week mark, the only hands-on we’ve had is with glass, but coming is an array of hands on learning. I’m particularly looking forward to stone carving and blacksmithing.

Willowbank upper campus. This is where I go to school!

I’m not a rich person so I have to keep my part time job, and with full time classes, it’s a challenge. School is 9:00 am to 4:00 pm and two consecutive days this coming week I’ll also be working from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm. I can have dinner in the 30 minute span that I can spend at home before I have to leave for work. I’m certain that people have far busier lives, but this is busy for me! The last day off I had with no school and no work was September 4. I don’t see that changing for a while and I have no complaints.

Things were pretty sedate before school but it seems I have less time for everything else now. It just means that I go to bed earlier and feel more tired, more often. But the advantage is that I’m doing something that I really enjoy and it may continue after I graduate. I’m not sure I’ve ever in my life thought, “I’m looking forward to Monday. Why? Because I get to go to school!” With this school, how they teach, and what they teach, I am looking forward to Monday.

This week we’re building a drystone (mortar-free stone) wall!

A classmate in Bright Parlour, a lecture space in the upper campus.

Class sizes are small. My year has six students, myself included, so we’ve already started to form into a cohesive group. And there’s no sign from the other students that they’re somehow better or superior because they’ve been around longer. We’re all just students at various levels of experience. Everyone’s been so terrific, including the instructors. They’re all people in the field who agree to come and teach us for a number of days, either once or a number of times. Some are Willowbank graduates so they know us because they have been us.

With the upper campus being so gorgeous, I park there in the morning, get out of the car and take a moment to myself. I breathe the fresh air, listen to the sounds of the insects and the trees, take in the beauty of the grounds through the thick morning air, and be glad because I have the good fortune to be able to attend such an amazing school.


Unwelcome interest




  1. Amanda B

    I’m so happy that things are started so well for you, Rick!

  2. Michele L. Camp

    Sounds incredible Rick. It’s so amazing to wake up and get excited about learning, especially when you are so passionate about it. Couldn’t be happier for you ?

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