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The waters have receded. The roads have been cleared and patched. Fresh piles of rocks and gravel and newly excavated dirt tell the story of recovery. I’m on retreat.
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST RUTH FARMER
I am not even driving my own car. In fact, I am not driving a car at all. It is a white Dodge minivan with a dashboard that looks like the cockpit of a small plane. My 1998 Toyota Camry is in the shop. It is not my idea for it to be in the shop at this time, but that is a chapter in a continuing story of capitulation to others.
Who would have thought it would be so difficult to rent a car in Burlington? After calling around, my partner and I drove to the airport and hoped for the best. Avis/Budget had vehicles, a sign alerted us. The choices? Ford F150 pickup trucks and Dodge minivans.
So here I am. In my driveway perched in a cockpit, thinking of the days ahead, days of not worrying about anyone but myself. I turn the ignition. Icons flash on the dashboard one at time, pause to let me contemplate their clustered brilliance. Disappear one by one. All but one. The car explains – “low tire pressure” – then pings several times. Stops. The icon stares at me. I stare at it. It is shaped like a ten-stringed harp.
In my fatigue, a harp as a symbol for low tire pressure makes sense.
Patience and perseverance
I drive to the store, come back, park, load my luggage, turn the key, ready to get on my way. Ping! “Low tire pressure.” Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Stare.
After months of trying to get a reservation, I am on my way to the Weston Priory for a brief, self-directed retreat. And I’ve got to put air into the tire of a rented vehicle.
Ignore the harp! Get going! some part of me says. So I stop at Spear’s Garage. It’s probably called something completely different but I’ve always known it as Spear’s so that’s what it is. I ask the mechanic for help determining adequate tire pressure. I do not want to overinflate the tires of this rented van. The mechanic finds that it is the left front tire whose pressure is low. He fills it, won’t take payment. I am grateful. His generosity calms me.
I am driving a rented minivan, I’ve had air put in the tire, I’ve delayed departure at least two hours and I’ll have to cut my trip short so that I can return the van on time. Nevertheless, I am going.
Journey of recovery inside and out
As I drive along Route 7, I shed anxiety and focus on my journey. The trees are lushly green, though it is late September. Vermont had a rain-soaked spring that turned to serious flooding in most areas of the state. Then in August, Tropical Storm Irene ripped through, causing flash floods that swept away homes, roads, vehicles, crops, and more. I am headed toward Southwestern Vermont, one of the worst hit areas. But the Guest Brother assures me that the priory is fine and the roads are open.
He is right. The waters have receded. The roads have been cleared and patched. Fresh piles of rocks and gravel and newly excavated dirt tell the story of recovery.
At each stage in the journey, just as I think I am lost, the next landmark appears. After a little over two hours, I arrive. I have two days to myself. The women I meet have been here for a week. But two days are a gift after months of being primary caretaker for my injured partner.
I am sitting next to the pond on this Friday afternoon, watching dragonflies skim the water. Tiny bugs ripple the gray surface. Apples perfume the air. I sit beneath a tree surrounded by crushed and half-eaten fruit. Later I will eat applesauce made from Priory apples.
Placidly amid the rifle fire and ecstasy
There is no cell phone service, no Wi-Fi. Visitors come here for contemplation, so social banter is minimal. Folks walk past, wave, keep walking. They converse in low tones that keep their conversations among themselves. I am aware of how overloaded I have been with activity and noise in my daily life. Birds, insects, and the wind busy the ear with their activities. But there isn’t noise. Until there is.
In the evening, as congregants sit waiting for evening service to begin, gunfire erupts. As I live near a shooting range, I hardly notice; but some visitors are distressed. It is nearing hunting season, so folks are practicing killing. We are trying to focus on that still small voice and someone is perfecting his aim, the better to bag a buck.
I am sitting, absorbing the silence between the noise of the gunfire. I am feeling the connection of a stranger in a strange place. I am marveling at the joy and – yes – professionalism of the Brothers’ songs of worship. The words and music glide over me and through me. I am ecstatic at the simplicity of sitting in a three walled barn, listening to psalms being sung, watching evening slowly slip upon us.
I am in each moment.
Thinking my own thoughts.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.