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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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

great post. the kayak expedition sounded really sweet.

7:31 AM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Yeah, its almost as though they should incorporate it into the retreat itself. Make it an activity...BUT that would definitely ruin the entire sublimity of the night.

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many of the workers may've just assumed you knew what you were doing & left you be... if there was no reason to think you were a candidate. Damien

9:48 PM  
Anonymous brian said...

true...true...but I personally believe that they had their eye on me the entire weekend. Mainly because, I was notorious for walking in late after an activity began.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Methinks that your innerself is steadily prodding you along to find some terrible misfortune. A mental state that is bound to destroy or at least harm the being that is moving it from place to place. One must be careful with exploring at night by oneself. It is a potentially dangerous thing.

11:38 PM  

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