On an auspicious morning in the winter of 2021-2022, I did something I no longer do: I entered the Chapel from the front entrance, and then strode across the aisle to the sound of “The Dog Days Are Over” playing through the speakers. I then gave the chapel giver a big hug. That chapel giver was Tess Mooney ’22, a name which only half of the school now knows. However, I have not forgotten her or the words she said in her chapel.

“Welcome to the goat yard, where I’ve worked for the past two years. Magical things happen here,” Tess ends her opening paragraph. Her description of the goat yard is florid: lush hedges, tangled wisteria, and Turkish goat bells adorn her words, and already I taste the “magic” that she references. Imagery of the New England foliage that awaited me beyond the dreary winter months unfolded. But somehow I also sensed that this chapel would be more than a collection of descriptions and memoirs.

The majority of Tess’ chapel was a recounting of her most notable memories from the goat yard. She remembered the unique personalities of the goats, and how they reflected various facets of her personality. She also spoke of a woman named Halé, the proprietor of the goat yard, whom she referred to as ‘Goat Lady.’ Goat Lady taught her seemingly strange and nonsensical lessons about astrology and plant divination like how Tess being on the cusp between Aries and Pisces reflected the emotional turmoil wrought by her parents’ divorce, or how a mullein weed’s growth spurt predicted the pandemic.

The part of the chapel that was, however, truly memorable for me, came later. Much after Tess had ruminated on the profundity of breaking sticks, her anecdote about surviving a rainstorm at the High Mountain Institute, and the Petoskey fossil that ignited her love for science, she spoke on her grandmother’s passing. She remembered how the loss came in parallel to the passing of one of the goats, Lycian, and the conversation she had with Goat Lady after. As the two looked on at the calmly grazing goats, Goat Lady said, “You know, I think Lycian’s death was Nature’s way of preparing you for your grandmother’s death. I know it’s hard now, but look how the others have moved on.”

“That afternoon I cried. Really hard. Believing, if only for a finite period of time, that there was a greater Nature helped me pull the pieces of my loss together,” Tess said. In the shadow of loss, the human mind invents ways to rejuvenate its sense of self and security. I marveled at such a simple yet moving statement and found myself fascinated. I found Tess’ chapel so compelling because it highlights the plurality of lessons we can find in nature. The solution to loss is often loss itself, but perhaps in another form.