I had the best of intentions. I was going to be dropped off with no car, no snack food, no wine, and with very limited phone and internet service. Just my faith that – hey, I could survive anything for a week, right? But the closer I got, the more frequently I found myself watching the passing In-And-Out Burgers, Starbucks, and Costco’s in my rear view mirror with mounting panic. What if I found myself starving to death? (which is what we Americans call having a genuine hunger pang.) Or what if my junk food detox left me holed up in my cabin – crazed, like some rabid beast? Then what would I do?
After driving for 10 miles on a steep windy road and seeing nothing, knowing that my turn off to the retreat was just a couple of miles further ahead, I felt my stomach sink. Too late! Why didn’t I stop before? You fool – now it’s too late! Then – like a beacon of light in a stormy sea – there it was. Mother Trucker’s Market.
Feeling like this was either a test of my faith or a Hail Mary Touchdown moment, I hastily parked and hurried into the tiny establishment, basket in hand. What had I been thinking? Like any mom with a big purse knows, you should always have a few snacks squirreled away, just in case. By the same token, I was ashamed by my complete and utter lack of anything resembling courage or willpower…I didn’t want to wimp out completely. So ultimately, here was my compromise:
That, and a little dark chocolate. I reassured myself that they were labeled fair trade, gluten and GMO free, and could both be purchased at Trader Joes – how bad could they be? And I immediately felt better tucking them both into the corner of my duffle bag…my secret stash, my preeecious.
The retreat’s setting is absolutely beautiful – ridges and valleys filled with green meadows, groves of oak and pine trees, colorful bursts of wild flowers and tulips, and small lakes and ponds where frogs croak and geese congregate. You can walk quiet streets with names like “Brotherhood Way” or wooded pathways leading to tranquil spots with benches for meditation. I’m not kidding. This place is transplendorific (my word) – it’s no wonder people come from near and far to stay for a weekend, a month, or even longer.
I arrived early in the evening, when it was still light. The lady who checked me in at the reception desk was exactly who I was expecting to greet me…picture anyone in an Exploring Your Inner Goddess Through Astrology workshop. Silver tinged wavy hair, sporting a J. Jill tunic, REI khakis and Tevas with socks. She also had one of those voices reserved for yoga instructors and therapists – extremely calm and melodic.
As she showed me the common dining room, the temple where I could practice yoga and meditation twice a day, and the clusters of buildings housing the retreat’s guests, I felt a huge sense of relief. Everything looked normal enough. As a matter of fact, my little one room cabin is actually very sweet and cozy, with a little porch and windows looking out over the foothills below.
However, despite the idyllic setting, for the first 12 hours, being here did not prove relaxing for me at all. Everyone I met seemed so…happy. Not obnoxiously happy. But annoyingly happy nonetheless – with their slightly upturned smiles, serene gazes, and knowing nods. I had a flashback thought to the classic 1960 movie “The Time Machine”, based on the HG Wells
novel by the same name. For those too young to remember, the time machine inventor finds himself transported to an Eloi commune, which as far as I could gather, at least from watching the movie, was basically a home for mentally challenged Swedish models. So of course when the gong signaling meal time rang out in the morning air, I immediately thought it was trickery and we were actually being summoned by Morlocks.
When I first entered the dining hall I spotted a young man who is staying here for a month-long yoga teacher training (I’ve since named him Hot Jesus…and btw – this will be theme because I’m horrible with names. If I see you every day for a year there is only an 80/20 chance that I will remember your name, and that is only if I like you.) He was sitting alone at one of the tables, just gazing out a large window that looks out onto a center courtyard. << Here is a stealth picture I took of him later in the communal living room.
Literally, HJ was bathed in this halo of golden sunlight, his blue eyes lifted upwards toward the heavens, and apparently enlightened and peaceful as fuck. So, of course, like any normal person, I was immediately on guard, watching my own back like a new prison inmate.
That first morning, for some reason, breakfast was supposed to be in silence. Don’t get me wrong – I prefer breakfast in silence – if you try to talk to me before my second cup of coffee you’re lucky if you get a warning grunt in response. But still – not a good first meal for me to have to figure out their dining room protocol. Why is there a large bowl of plain yogurt sitting next to a bowl of prunes and a bowl of sunflower seeds? Does anybody actually mix those three things together?
The oatmeal looked edible, but I watched helplessly as the gal in front of me scraped the last gigantic gob of it into her bowl. My mind was thinking Seriously Bitch? But my face was trying to smile serenely …Yessss, Namaste. I slunk over to the kitchen area and furtively whispered to the cook that the oatmeal was all gone. Meaning – please refill the bowl. He looked at me like I was a dullard. “Yep. That’d be the last of it,” he stated simply, and turned back to what he was doing.
Let us offer up thanks to the Divine for the blessing of Mother Trucker’s Pirate’s Booty