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The Dashing Life and Exuberant Times of Brian Harrison....And Other Rare Anecdotes

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Retreating from the Retreat

Me again. My life and times have sort of backed up into a verbal recession. Not as though, I am living in hushed solitude though. Nope, more or less bouncing here and there as ever more enthusiastically than before. Among people whom I knew from this period in my life one moment, among friends I have not seen in years the next, and then into people who I am fortunate to have just made the acquaintance of. All over the Southeast again, a dashing Honda, I seem to be strapped to, ever charging about the highways to Walgreens stores again, more than willing to order the store a whopping sum of cheesy tourist T-shirts, but hurrying through the process so that I can get to so and so and meet so and so....and if not meeting anyone then at least, having the night to myself in lethargic tranquility.

One of the most prominent experiences I have had recently took place on my attendance at a spiritual retreat about 2 weekends ago. It was one of those hypo-amped up, intense experiences where everything falls into succession of a mounting drama. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Here, I'm not taking a critical stance about the retreat, just simply describing it. But as shady as this is going to sound, I am supposedly forbidden to recount the events with any specifics. Because the element of surprise is much needed to amplify the emotional effect that the weekend is designed to elicit.

Well, the same retreat I tried to go on way back in March or Feb. But the flu hit me so hard that first night, that I had to go home, visit a doctor, get drugged up with shots and pharmaceuticals, and then do nothing but rest for the next 5 days. This was shortly before I left for New Zealand. But I was given a rain check and seeing how I am back in the US, I decided to actually attend it without the torment of an ailing sickness.

It was a great weekend. A fabulous one. I highly recommend the retreat to other people. But I guess, suffice it to say, that I am not very adaptable to very thickly packed programs. So there was a bit of a transition with the way I do things. Normally, I go off and do my own things. But here it was imperative that everyone attended the same activities and speakers.
The first night, I was entirely restless. Being in a new bed, surrounded by people I don't know, half of them middle-aged to old men seeming to tear down the walls with their snoring. Besides, who really goes to bed at 10:00 pm...the night is remarkably youthful. I was in this lodge area out in the wooded countryside and the moon was nearly full, so I stole away.
I should add just how regulated the weekend was, that to depart from any scheduled event even if that event was sleep was to be met with disapproval. So sneaking out of the cabin was something I didn't really want to get caught doing.

I had several close calls with these clandestine intentions of mine. For the workers of the retreat outnumber the campers (or candidates as we were called.) And they wander about the place unexpectedly. Once making it from my room into the main lobby without creaking any doors, I barely escaped discovery, by being graced with a room full of windows with long curtains. I flew behind one of these curtains in the far corner of the room. While the front door of the room opened and marching footsteps advanced into one of the rooms. I know, I should be a ninja. My face was plastered against the window pane, hoping my feet at the bottom of the curtain or the bulk behind should go unnoticed. But while my entire body was pressing into that window, I noticed in front me on the opposite side of the window. Another worker. He was diligently in prayer outside. His back facing me. I'm probably not supposed to be telling you this but...a couple of the workers at night would walk around the camp and anoint the area in prayers to ward off any unwanted prowlers spiritually. They forgot the physical prowlers. And this must have been why he hadn't seen me. He began to turn about and walk by the windows a few yards off. He never looked to his left or he would have seen the strangest figure pressed against the glass watching him. I inched over away from the window. And when he was gone, slipped out the back door and into the night.

My intentions were thus: I noticed on arriving at the camp earlier that evening, a lake with canoes and kayaks beside them. I planned on going kayaking that night in the dazzling moonlight and trying to do it undetected.
I proceeded through the shadows until I got to the stack of kayaks. I had picked my paddle out and was about to begin hauling out one of the kayaks, when not far over to my right on the bank of the lake stood a small assembly of men all praying. (At least, I guess that was what they were doing.) But again, for some strange reason, they hadn't noticed me, when clearly I had been visible in the bright light of the moon. I darted behind the boats. Good thing closed eyes are a requisite for prayers in our culture. I decided to go on a moonlit hike on one of the trails and wait til they had departed to begin my kayak sojourn.

I have amazing vision at night. So sauntering off into woods at night does not bother me. It's a bit thrilling. And definitely more thrilling than laying on one's back in a room with a dozen snoring men. So I followed this trail through the woods, even crossing into someone else's property, aptly stepping over the "No Trespassing" sign. But time wore away and I decided to go back and see if my kayak ride should go unhindered. Yep, this time...I was sure. The way was clear. I didn't want to get my only shorts wet, so I took them off on the bank of the lake. And in my boxers, waded out into the lake with my kayak and my paddle. I'm an excellent swimmer so no need for a life vest. And after hopping in the riff. And paddling down away from the cabins, I was a free man. So excited I was, I began to sing aloud. But no louder than the vibrant swooshing of my paddle as I cut through the water. The moon hung down in shafts of pure, untinged silver. The night was magical and that's the way every night should be. Who needs sleep when you have the moon and the stars and the water and the darkened shadows of trees all merged into perfect ambience. The kayak sat on the water extremely low. It felt that my body was exactly level with the dark water for the kayak was a small one. For a few seconds I feared that this tiny kayak was taking water into it. And that I was sinking, but nothing like that happened. Just the water splashing onto me getting my boxers all wet. And the peaceful, sublimely tranquil serenity of the lake when I would stop paddling and just sit and the hush of the night would fall from the moon, from the forest trees and all across the water tainting the scene in a very calming, mystical hush.

I paddled all the way down and back and emerged from the lake trying not to drag the kayak on the sandy bank. I was entirely unseen and unnoticed with this adventure. I snuck back in my cabin, but still couldn't sleep. Even tried sneaking my bedding outside on the back porch away from everyone but even there my lids would not seal my final mind into that oblivion of sleep. So, I stayed up the entire night without a wink of sleep and made it all through the next day attending every single activity and speaker (with the help of caffeine I must admit.), and being able to say that it was one great weekend.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

My Return

You see alot has changed and in a mystical way nothing has changed at all. There's no way to get around that simple fact. And there's no way to get around the simple fact that I have completely gone against the very note that I wrote some 2 months ago, when I sat in a wintery New Zealand. I recall it precisely, wrapped up in a blanket in an Australian's room where. I guess you could say I snuck in his room in order to write that note about staying in New Zealand. Yes, the one about toughing it up and sticking it out after the car crash and the subsequent striving for livelihood. Well, I lasted only a month longer.

I mean, now I sit in my room in rural Alabama in a pair of boxers and a ruffled shirt. Alot has happened. And all that you have heard of late was about my wanderings in Fiji. Well, I'm back. And what more can I say. A little wilder and unhindered, a bit more confident, and a pinch crazier in some regards,...and the indifference on all these points. "Why?" You might ask. Well, let me tell you it was all good reason. In fact made perfect sense.

There are pragmatic factors that include food, money, income, car payments, dastardly employment in New Zealand...though these were only half the story. If there was one gapping hole in my make up that made the temptation of coming home a worthwhile decision it had to be my continous plight of outright laziness. My sloth. I know of no other way to put it. My past job allowed tons and tons of time and a seductive amount of flexibility and leisure. Not only that...but hours were completely up to me. So sleeping in became something of a ritual. And the ability to just change my plans in the middle of the week or even the day spoilt me rotten. In New Zealand, days would go by and I would forget that I was ever in a foreign country, picturing that my free-roving days in the states were more exciting.

Then there was the dawning of what appeared to be my life's ambition. Which I'm sure some of you thought that it was a prolonged eclipse. Take this to mean, I was really questioning why on earth I was living in a foreign country seeking adventure and interesting jobs, when all that I really wanted to do was write.

It became something of an ephiphany of sorts. I remember being on Waiheke Island, this ritsy community island in New Zealand. And visiting this painter, who worked most nights, all night long on his paintings. He told me how he got to where he was now. And I remember him saying that there was really no better way that he could think of to spend his days, but by painting. When he said that I recall thinking the same thing about writing.

And I was working on a story at the time. What seemed to be turning into a very elaborate, complex novel. I'd get up in the mornings and sit on this chair on the deck of this shack-boat where I stayed, and write pages and pages. It had nothing to do with New Zealand, nor Fiji, nor anything close at hand. It was entirely bombastic idea and I was loving not being bound my anything.

So I got back to the states well over a month ago. I even suprised my mother, driving all the way down to Dothan and popping in her office at work. It was well worth it seeing the surprised look on her face. For all she knew I was still in New Zealand, she didn't even know that I had stopped in Fiji on the way back.

Well, I got my old job back so I am again a wanderer of the great American highway. I have already been in 8 different states. Survived a tropical storm in Miami, gotten a speeding ticket in Tennessee, visited wineries in Illinois, even broke a few more Harding University rules in Arkansas, and danced like a madman at a disco dance here in Alabama. So things are pretty much back to normal, as though I never went anywhere to begin with.

But the saddest thing of all, is I've hardly written anything at all. Except for my previous notes on Fiji and half a short story about cats.