Archive for May, 2015

Tuatha Dea on stage

Tuatha Dea on stage

And at times, more like a drum ovoid. (That’s an oval shape, right? Not one of the aliens in some SF series that I watched as a kid? Cause I could totally see that as an alien name. In fact, if it’s not one, I’m going to make it one.)

Basically, it was a band/drumming group named Tuatha Dea, and they believed heavily in audience participation.

I had heard about drum circles before. I had been told by grumpy old white man yoga teacher – I swear, that’s his official title – that drum circles were awesome and amazing and that everyone should take part in one sooner or later. I had seen Tuatha Dea in the dealer’s room at their table, and they had seemed kind of…well, I wouldn’t say unfriendly, but, yeah, kind of unfriendly. Or maybe stuck up. Or…I don’t know. All I know is, I wandered in front of their table, paused to look at their stuffs, and they ignored me completely and talked to each other and drummed. Oh-kay.

But a drum circle at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night.

That had to be something weird, right? Or something cool, or something something.

I showed up a little early to the “General Assembly” room. The room is huge. Stadium seating. I wasn’t about to tax my math skills trying to count the seats and rows. Suffice it to say, big big big.

They had a bunch of chairs set up on the carpeted area in front of the stage. They had a bunch of drums and tambourines and other rhythmic instruments.

I chose a seat away from the stage, off to the side, easy to escape from. Because everyone sets up escapes from musical events, am I right?

They began a few minutes late because they were out in the hallways, drumming, trying to get people in.

drumming magic manThe seats right in front of the stage had filled in, some people already holding the drums. Random people who were apparently connected with the band kept going around offering more drums to anyone sitting there. I thanked my brain for telling me to sit away from those rows. I didn’t want a drum. I was just there to be a passive observer.

Then they started.

And it was amazing.

You couldn’t make mistakes drumming, they said. Because it was all part of the beat. They talked about how the first thing we ever hear is a beat – our mother’s heartbeat – and therefore, the beat is in all of us.

They played. They got the audience to play. They taught some basic drum moves, some rhythms. They repeated that there was no way to get it wrong. The guy who seemed to be the lead moved around a lot. Talked a lot. But also shut up a lot and just let the beat go on.

Totally awesome.

After one of the first breaks, when they encouraged everyone to rub their hands together to try to feel better after beating on a drum for half an hour, I moved.

I took one of the seats, in the second row, and snagged one of the drums from the front row.

I failed so hard. I have no natural rhythm. I have no beat. When other people were moving their hands down, mine were going up. When they went left, right, left, I went right, left, left. I kept stopping to try to get back on time, but I always stopped at the wrong moment or started up at the wrong moment.

But it didn’t matter.

No one came and took the drum away from me, telling me I was doing it wrong.

No one looked at me funny.

No one even seemed to notice that I was out of synch with them.

After a little bit, I decided I wasn’t out of synch. I was just playing something different. I found a pattern I could do, a pattern I liked, and I played it with their pattern, trying to hit the bass note at the same time, but when I didn’t, oh well.

Everyone on stage, and everyone around me, was either serious or smiling. Or both. We were all part of it, and we were all friends. People danced around the edges of the seating area. Even kids were getting into it, running and jumping.

I only lasted about half an hour on the drum before my wrists and elbows began to feel it. Since I didn’t want to rile up my carpal tunnel or my ulnar nerve issues, I went ahead and called it a night. But not before the cameraman who had been filming the stage and the audience had gotten me on camera a few times.

So somewhere out there exists the evidence that one night, I sat in a drum ovoid. And I played the drum.

sunrise

Sunrise on the final day…

And did you know that water with cloves in it is super yummy? It has a nice little spice/tang to it. Never thought of that before, but I’ve really enjoyed it the whole time I was there. I even sometimes added some of my pomegranate flavoring (I know, I know, that stuff is probably horribly bad for me), but it tasted amazingly good when it was mixed with the tang of the cloves.

But to get more to the point.

I’m a vegetarian now.

No, I’m not joking.

Yes, it will last.

To be fair, the idea of becoming a vegetarian is possibly the fault of Ron John. No, not the surf shop, although that would be pretty damn funny. I fully place the blame on my ex-boss and his boy toy. (I just think it’s fun to call them Ron John, kind of like Brangilina…) Because of postings that I saw from them, I went down to eating meat once a day. And I was good with it, but I would sometimes eat meat twice a day, and then I’d go a few days without eating it at all. But it wasn’t a “thing.” It was an effort, and not necessarily anything I thought I’d go on with forever.

That last day of the retreat though, I went for my early morning walk, and I realized that while we’d been planning a big steak dinner to celebrate our anniversary and my coming back home, I had no urge to eat the steak. It was completely unattractive to me. I thought maybe I’d eat some mashed potatoes and whatever veg there was on the plate, but the streak…no. Just no.

crawfish

This craw fish clearly didn’t know I wasn’t a threat. When he saw me coming on the path, he tossed his little claw into the airs with a threatening “I’ll cut ya!” stance. (I wasn’t actually afraid of him, but I avoided him anyway.)

I text Patrick and asked him how he’d feel if we didn’t have steak, and, by the way, how did he feel about it if I was a vegetarian? Like from now on?

To his total credit, he didn’t bat an eye. I went into super reassurance mode – I wouldn’t stop him from eating meat, I didn’t want to force him to change, yadda yadda yadda. He was totally fine with it. If I didn’t eat meat, it didn’t bother him, and if that meant we’d have some meatless meals, then we’d have some meatless meals.

I talked to one of the hosts there to find out about going vegetarian, and she had some advice about proteins, how to break it to people that I wasn’t eating meat any more, and reassured me that, as long as it was in my heart, I’d stick with it. She even offered to do a little ceremony where I could make a promise and get a ring to help remember my feelings. That felt a bit overdone to me, but I could understand why it might help.

Getting in the car after packing up was like breaking some kind of spell. Getting my keys out of my purse, where they’d be sitting for days, waiting patiently. I hadn’t even thought of them. I didn’t want to go anywhere while I was there, and part of me worried that I had somehow forgotten to drive. But it was time to get in the Jeep and go home.

Of course, I hadn’t forgotten how to drive, and I never exceeded the speed limit on the way home. (Fact checking note: The speed limit, in fact, may have been exceeded on the way home.)

honey grove texas building

My favorite building in Honey Grove, Texas!

My Google-Fu on the drive had hit its weak spot. It didn’t take me home the same way I had gotten there, so some of the images I had hoped to capture on my camera didn’t show up. The drive was slightly faster, but not enough to make up for the lack of sightseeing. Boo, Google! Boo!

On the way home, I stopped at a Starbucks. My first since Friday. I are my sandwich and drank my coffee and wondered how it would feel to get back on Facebook. Part of me almost wished I could skip it forever – walk away from FB. But the lure of the connections were strong, plus it had started sending me nasty emails, reminding me that I had people “waiting” on me. Really, FB? Getting rather clingy there. It’s not attractive when you get like that.

But I logged in. Checked in on what I’d missed. Not a lot.

I was back to reality.

Oh, and, by the way, I’ve already booked a meditation retreat for the end of June. I’m ready to go!

(And if anyone has a good website or two with vegetarian meals, please share them with me!)

Lady JusticeFor anyone who follows my personal blog, you know that I spent this past weekend at a personal retreat. It was an awesome experience, but my cell phone service was spotty, and I tried to avoid being on the Internet too often. I talked to Patrick, and he kept me up to date on things. I knew Simon had a cough, he’d had it when I left, but it hadn’t seemed to get much worse.

On Monday morning, the day I was leaving, my phone missed a call, but I saw a message pop up. I listened. It was Simon’s school nurse, and she left a terse message, telling me to call back. No details. No nothing.

I was on my way to mantras and breakfast, but I called as I walked, worried. It turned out that Simon had been coughing so hard they thought he would throw up. But he had stopped coughing. He had no fever. His color was good. He seemed to feel fine. But he had coughed.

Had he been coughing that weekend, she asked.

Well, I told her, I knew he’d been coughing a bit last week, but I hadn’t been home all weekend, I’d been away, so I wasn’t sure.

Oh.

That’s all she said.

Oh.

And the way she said it. The full weight of judgment was upon me.

How could I not know if my child had been coughing? How could I go away? Why was I not right there, right then, to come pick him up?

I reiterated that he had a cough when I left, that he often coughs until he throws up because, like me, he has a horrible gag reflex, and that it doesn’t seem to bother him when he throws up (he has thrown up from coughing in the middle of the night and gone right back to sleep, so we don’t find out about it until the next morning…).

I told her that I was about five hours way, so if there was a problem, she should call Patrick because he could pick up Simon if it was necessary, but that I would obviously not be able to since I was, as I had said, five hours away.

I felt her grumpiness through the phone. I ignored it.

Later on, she called Patrick because Simon had been coughing even more. He went to pick up Simon. She showered praise on Patrick. Thanked him for coming. Oh how wonderful he was to take the time to get Simon from school when he was sick. How wonderful.

In direct opposition to his slacker, loser mother, I’m guessing.

Why did she feel the need to judge me? Why did she feel she had the right to judge me?

I know I’ve said this before, maybe even in a different Simon blog, but there was one important thing I learned when I worked a job at a hospital oh so many years ago. It was the platinum rule.

For those who don’t know, the platinum rule is better than the golden rule.

Everyone knows the golden rule: do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.

But that doesn’t really work, does it? Because some people believe in stoning others for their sins. Some people believe that you need to have a quiversful of children. Some people believe in forgiveness. Some people believe in an eye for an eye.

The platinum rule fixes that issue.

The platinum rule states that you should treat others the way they want to be treated.

Amazing, right?

Treat people the way they want to be treated!

Me? I prefer not to be judged when I’ve done nothing wrong. I can sometimes go away, whether for business or pleasure. I can sometimes not be able to drop everything and rush to my son’s aid, especially when his father is five hours closer than I am.

And I can avoid judgment from people who don’t know me.

Now for something completely different:

I want to give a huge shout out to Behavior Plus. I went ahead and showed Simon a video of fireworks (the BBC fireworks from January 1st of this year) and let him know that we could only talk about fireworks once a day. He was welcome to watch the video – a full eleven minutes of fireworks, and talk about fireworks the whole time. But once it was over, that was it. He watched the video once, and since then, he has only brought up fireworks once a day. When he does, I let him focus on them for a few minutes, then remind him that he can’t talk about them until the next day.

I honestly did not think it would work. He is not very verbal, and he does have a lot of issues understanding days and weeks and months and, well, time in general. But he’s totally latched on to the idea that he can only talk about them once a day.

Goal!

The day began waaaay too early. Like 2 a.m. early. A massive thunderstorm was moving through, and it woke me up, which was actually for the best since I had fallen asleep with my computer plugged in. I assumed the ashram wasn’t much for surge protection, so I yanked the plug from the wall, turned over, and tried to get back to sleep.

spider bite on foot

Seriously, this was two days after the bite. It was so swollen I had to loosen my sandal to make it fit. Maybe not the best decision to ignore it, but now it’s gone down to a bruise. Whew.

My fear of bugs and the super-itchy bug bite on my foot kept me tossing and turning for a while.

When I did finally fall asleep again, I got woken up at 6 a.m. by the quacking of my duck alarm. I reset it for 7 a.m. and went back to sleep.

My original plan had been to wake up at 6 and take a nice long, relaxing walk, shower, and head to mantras and breakfast (with more super yummy chai tea!). But with the rain coming out of the heavens at bullet velocity, I thought staying in my bed and getting a bit extra sleep might be a better option.

At 7, I woke up again and realized I didn’t have the urge to immediately check Facebook or my email. For the first time since I couldn’t remember when. My FB craving was subsiding, although I was still automatically and unthinkingly flipping to it on my phone, but I’d still managed to avoid actually opening it since I had checked in at lunch on Friday afternoon.

I climbed out of bed and decided to run through a quick shower, hopefully a more successful one than on day two.

Aaaaaand I got stopped at the end of the hallway again.

More spiders.

In front of each bathroom door.

Like they were taunting me.

I froze and made some sort of unintelligible sound, which alerted another person near me of the spiders’ presence.

She apparently was not a complete arachnaphobe.

She held them at bay while I dashed into one of the bathrooms – the good one! – and took a fast shower.

I re-read the sign next to the mirror. (I read that sign a lot.)

One of the instructions on the list, all about maintaining the bathroom and the purpose of the ashram, told us to look in the mirror and say “I love you.” I couldn’t do it without wanting to giggle hysterically, so I changed it up a little, and I instead would, after my shower or after washing my hands – point a finger at the mirror and say, “Who loves ya, babe?” Does that count?

The day went too quickly. I spent it reading, writing, drawing, and mostly just enjoying the quiet and peace. I kept realizing I’d be going home the next day, and yet I still hadn’t mastered the greeting of Jai Siddhatma. Maybe on the next trip. Yes, I was already thinking of my next trip.

turtle in the grass

No, I didn’t think about eating this turtle. I just saw him on my walk after the rain and thought he was cute.

Our group had dwindled by lunch, and the hosts, who had previously eaten nearby but not at our tables, came and joined us for food. One of them talked a lot about vegetarianism and how it had come to her. She talked about “eating the suffering” of the animals. Plants, she said, only had one sense – touch – and so they didn’t suffer as much as animals who had all five senses. But when we ate any food, she said, we ate the suffering of it. So if we ate plants, we would not consume as much suffering.

Maybe that sounds corny. I don’t know. But it made sense to me. I kept thinking about it. I had already begun reducing meat in my life – going down to meat one or less time a day – but what if I did more? I hadn’t had a headache since showing up, and I felt good, better than I had in a long time. And I hadn’t eaten meat or craved it at all since I’d gotten there. Maybe…

colored pencils

The most amazingly cute little colored pencils in the universe. With a normal size pencil next to them for scale.

One truly awesome thing happened in the afternoon – my shower savior had borrowed my colored pencils because a friend had given her some for the trip. But they were miniature pencils. Super, super miniature. And while she liked them, she couldn’t use them without her hand cramping. So she asked to borrow my pencils (which were full size), and I happily handed them over because I also had thin colored Sharpies with me. Well, she liked my pencils so much, and I liked her minis so much, that she traded them with me! Super score! She was thrilled, I was thrilled, and now I have cool cool cool colored pencils!

At dinner, we found out that one of the hosts who was in training to be a monk was going to be teaching a free meditation class. It was his first teaching opportunity, and we were all invited.

I’d already been in the yoga/meditation building, and it was an awesome place.

The meditation class was just as awesome. I know it was his first one, and he was nervous, but he was sincere and knowledgeable. I had wondered a bit about how it would go since, when he does the mantras, his voice is always slightly off from the group, but when he was leading the meditation, he seemed more focused, and his voice was relaxing and right on track.

He spoke to us, got us breathing, and then told us to meditate for 20 minutes.

I shifted once – my foot was still bothering me from the bug bite – and only a few minutes after I shifted back, he started moving us out of it.

I had just meditated for 20 minutes! Twenty minutes! How had that happened? Where had the time gone? In the past, when I’d meditated, I’d spent most of it trying to meditate. This time, I thought I had actually achieved it. It was an amazing feeling, and I went back to the ashram feeling refreshed.

Now, I hate to be judgmental and bitchy…no, wait, I don’t. But still. There was one chick at the retreat who was doing a water cleanse. A serious, serious water cleanse. She had done a 20 day water cleanse last year, and had returned to do a 30 days one. Yes, you read that right. Thirty days with only water. We never saw her. She stayed in her room, came out to shower, brush her teeth, get water. That was it. Otherwise, you didn’t even know she was there.

Except for her roommate.

Crazy water-cleanse girl had opted to have a roommate.

But she was crazy. The water-cleanser, that is. She didn’t want her roommate to turn on the light, make noise, or, well, exist.

My take on it is simple – get your own room then! Yes, I know it costs more, but if the cleanse is something so intensely private or if its makes you that super sensitive and cranky, then you need to be alone. But, no, she had a roommate.

And her roommate didn’t want to room with her if she could help it.

I invited her to use the spare bed in my room. Even though I had a single, each room had two beds in it.

And that’s how I wound up spending most of the night with a queer* feminist slam poet (who, btw, is awesome!) in the spare bed. To make matters weird, when I woke up at 6:30, she was gone. I had to wonder what I had done to chase her away. I half didn’t want to ask, but after a walk, shower, and mantras, I asked her over breakfast (super yummy oatmeal with fresh cut fruit) if I had snored too loud or done something weird to chase her away. She reassured me that it was the spare bed – there were no sheets, and the mattress cover bothered her enough that she went back to her room. So hopefully she was telling the truth and I hadn’t been muttering some crazy ass shit in my sleep. It could happen.

*I wanted to note that this was her personal word choice for her sexual identification. I would not presume to call her queer otherwise.

(I’ve been told that apparently I’m mocking this too much…people are asking me if I actually enjoyed it. My response is simple: it was life changing. Honestly and truly. I loved it. It was unbelievably special to me. However, who the hell can take anything that seriously? If you’re looking for something serious, then you’ve come to the wrong place. There are very few things that I take too seriously…)

(No spider pictures were used/harmed in the making of this blog. If you really want to see a picture of scary spider stuff, go here. Otherwise, please look at this picture of pretty flowers that were on the property. And if you get the foolish idea of putting up a pic of spiders or sending me one, you will be dead to me. Dead.)

Oh my god!flowers for bug post

Apparently, changes in the weather mean changes in the number of bugs running rampant through the ashram.

I’d been doing well at following the rule about not killing or harming any living things – including bugs. (I had not been doing as well with the whole no cursing/foul/abusive language thing. Like that’s a shock to anyone.)

But when I tried to go to the bathroom that night, I got stuck at the beginning of the hall.

Before, there’d only been one large spider on the curtain covering the window at the end of the hall. I could reach either of the two bathrooms without venturing too close, and I could keep a careful eye on it to make sure it didn’t make any threatening movements.

Then…disaster.

I got to the edge of the hallway, and there were multiple spiders – okay, two – right there.

Bam.

One on each side of the hallway.

Now, when I say “hallway,” I don’t mean a huge, cavernous thing. I mean a tiny little cramped can-barely-fit-two-people-passing-in-the-night kind of hall. If I were to put a foot in the center, each spider would be inches (okay, maybe 10 inches, unless you’re a guy, then it would be fourteen inches) away from touching me.

So I stood there. I stared down the hall. I stared at the potentially 24 beady eyes (did you know spiders can have up to 12 eyes each? For real?!).

The spiders held their ground.

A newcomer was sitting on the couch, and I considered asking for her help. But the little sign in the bathroom said that “ashram comes from the word shram which means effort. Therefore, the ashram is a place to put efforts to improve yourself, understand spiritual teaching and live with discipline.” It also told me that “nonviolence is the first step of the spiritual path. To be aware of all forms of life and to walk in harmony with these living beings. This includes small bugs…”

I decided to do it.

I stamped my foot at the spiders, and luckily they didn’t run at me – they ran away! I was victorious!

So I ran into the bathroom and then dashed back out.

Whew.

Except then I went to my bedroom.

I guess the bugs were trying to get away from the impending storm because they were battering the hell out of my window pane, buzzing and flapping and desperately trying to get in.

One succeeded.

It was a little one. Kinda cute. Definitely not a threat. I ignored it as it flew around and finally settled down somewhere. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Then, out of nowhere, another bug landed on my bed.

Not little.

Not cute.

Like an earwig with a full-blown case of roid rage.

What could I do?

I wasn’t supposed to kill it. Plus I wasn’t even sure if I could kill it. It might take my weapon and use it against me.

While I sat there motionless and stared, trying to figure out a plan to put into action to get away from the intruder, it kept exploring my bed. It wandered into my box of colored pencils. And got stuck.

Score!

I grabbed the opposite end of the box and quickly chucked the box into the main room.

I had survived and so had the…well, I have no idea what sports figure to compare it to..ummm…Pete Rose? Mike Tyson? Some guy who took steroids or was scary or something, but in bug form.

I decided that I should go to sleep and try to ignore the bugs. I put my computer on the table next to the bed, put on one of my favorite movies, and curled up.

The aforementioned “little” and “cute” bug immediately flew into my face, landing on my cheek!

Squeals!

Freaking out!

I pulled my sheet over my face, trying to sleep covered from the horror, protected from any potential future insect forays, but it was too warm for that, and I eventually had to move it.

I slept with my face uncovered. No worries about zombies that night. But plenty about bugs.

outside 1The urge to check Facecbook was strong when I woke myself up at 6 a.m. in order to make a 6:30 yoga class.

Yes, yoga at 6:30.

The instructor told me it was at 6:30 on Saturday, and I said, “Oh, well, that’s okay – I can do it on Sunday instead.” He kind of gave me a funny look and said, “Well, it’s at 6:30 on Sunday, too.” He even offered to wake me up for it. (Yes, they will wake you up for your lessons and/or meals here if you ask. It’s a weird sort of hostel, right?)

I decided to try it, though. That’s why I’m here, right? A personal retreat? A journey of some sort? Whatever.

On the plus side, the yoga class was nice and relaxing, and I finally figured out why I couldn’t see the guy’s junk through his almost but not quite opaque white harem pants. He wears tighty-whities. The band showed while he was doing poses. Not that I’d been trying to see his junk, mind you. I was just curious about it because I couldn’t figure out how he’d been hiding it with those pants on. (How does it feel, men? Knowing people are looking at you when you’re wearing “provocative” clothing? Eh?)

Anyway, the funniest part of yoga was when the teacher apparently got flustered. I’m not sure why he did, but he was talking about a pose and how it helped the body by producing more insulin. Then he corrected himself – “Is it insulin or penicillin? No, wait, it’s insulin.” Whew. Cause I’m allergic to penicillin, and if yoga could make my body produce it, maybe I shouldn’t be doing it.

We went straight from yoga to mantras and breakfast. At least three people had their cell phones out during the mantras. Okay, I get it, maybe you have something super important going on. But during mantras? Really? I’ve made it a point to leave my cell phone in my room unless I’m using it as a hot spot so I can log in or if I’m going for a walk around the property. Then I take it with me so I can take pictures, or just in case something happens, like falling into a well. It could happen.

Breakfast was toast with jellies and fresh fruit all cut up. And, of course, chai tea. Super yummy.

The once-was-a-silent-retreat girl told one of the hosts that “this toast is the bomb.” He just smiled and nodded, but part of me had to wonder – is it really a compliment to tell someone who’s committed to non-violence that their food is “the bomb”?

And the urge to check Facebook came back. People kept tagging me. I think I got tagged three times in a matter of hours. But I held strong. I resisted. I even texted someone who I know would have preferred a FB message because I didn’t want to be on FB in any way. Even when I wasn’t really trying to check FB, my finger would move on my phone, taking me to the screen where FB resided. Muscle memory, maybe. I had to keep closing it, moving on. Moving away.

So I took a nice two mile walk around the property. It was clear, sunny, and the fields and ponds were super pretty to look up. I snapped pictures, enjoyed myself, and then came back to take a shower and get to work on my writing and artwork.

Taking a shower.

I had to take it in my less favorite bathroom. (There are two. One is “better” even though they’re exactly the same. Don’t you judge me.)

When I got here and one of the hosts was showing me around, he told me that while sometimes the water pressure can get wonky if too many people are using water at the same time, there’s never really been a problem with the hot water.

Yeah.

I guess he never actually took a hot shower then, because if he thought they had no problems with hot water, he and I have very different definitions of what is considered not a problem.

I twisted the handle to get the shower to come on. It did. Ice cold water. And the handle came off in my hand. I tried to somehow wrangle it back on and not get myself soaked in the cold, but it was fighting back. It was at that moment that I figured out why the matt outside the shower was soaked. Clearly, I had not been the only person to run into that issue.

I got it back on. Yay!

Not that it really fixed much. The water refused to stay constant. It varied from “holy crap there is actual ice coming out and pelting my flesh!” to “lava! lava!”

When it got cold, I tried to brave my way through it.

But after soaping up completely, all the heat disappeared. Or maybe it’s that the water is haunted, and a ghost was in. Whatever the reason, when I tried to turn it more towards hot to see if that would help, the handle came off in my hand. Again.

Okay. I would just try to get the soap off, and then get out. In a hurry.

Pretend you’re jumping into a cold pool, I told myself as I forced myself under the cold spray.

Then I remembered how much I hated cold pools.

Eventually, the heat started coming back, and I managed to get the soap washed off between the lukewarm and molten stages.

And lest you think that it was only getting cold because I was taking too long a shower, nope. Because we’d hit 14 people sharing two bathrooms, I was limiting myself to a ten minute shower.

Lunchtime!

The food here has been great so far. I’m really getting into all the vegetarian meals. They’re simple, but really good. To be fair, there are three or four people preparing them, so it probably doesn’t take too much effort from any one of them, but you can tell that they’re trying to make it good. And it is. Most of their food comes from local farms, and the milk in the chai tea is local raw milk. So yummy. They even grow their own herbs and some vegetables.

Then I heard a guest talking to one of the hosts. He was discussing how to tell the difference between “deadly hemlock” and carrots.

There were carrots in our lunch. At least, I think they were carrots. I hope they were carrots.

After that, the afternoon was relaxed – chai at 3 p.m. Mantras at 6:30. Dinner at 7. Bedtime (for most people) at 10 p.m. Except…well, that’s for part two.

It began at home, obviously. I woke up to an awesome breakfast of bacon and eggs. Bacon because I was going to be going three days without meat, and I felt like I should gird my loins. Which, after I write it, sounds really, really bad, like some sort of breakfast meat underwear. Ew.

So I ate my bacon (that sounds better, right?), and then it was road trip time. Once I’d packed. I’d left it to the absolute last minute, as I often do, but luckily I didn’t need too much for the trip, and I had a nice long list to follow.

Thinking that the journey should be its own reward, or some crap like that, I ignored Google’s suggested route and took the side roads through nowhere.

And I mean nowhere.

I hadn’t realize how many little country roads – with speeds ranging from 30 to 75 – I’d be traveling down. Most of them were nearly identical when it came down to it. I’d either be passing abandoned, decrepit, broken down, burned down, “no trespassing” houses, barns, and building, or I’d be passing things that just..well, defied easy classification. I couldn’t tell if they were flea markets, tent cities, or just hoarders who had spilled out of their homes and trailers.

Part of that problem was because of the weather. It rained. And rained. And rained. And rained.

It went from so heavy I couldn’t see, the cars around me were doing 30, and there had to be a good two inches of water on the road to a light drizzle. I almost preferred the heavily rain because, as I had discovered upon setting out, the Jeep was out of washer fluid, and so when it was just drizzling, the windshield got dirty.

For a while there, the road was further slowed down because, while the rain had – a rare instance for the drive so far – stopped, there was half a house up ahead. I couldn’t tell if it was the left or right side. Then it pulled off to reunite with the other half house. Everyone picked up speed…and then slammed on their brakes as the rain began again.

Going slow had some advantages, though. I quickly learned that NE Texas is the cemetery capital of, well, probably the universe. I lost track of the number of cemeteries I drove past. Even with my backwoods, twisty, turning driving path, there were more cemeteries than there were turns. In a lot of cases, I would have bet that there were more people in the cemeteries than the towns I was driving through. They ranged from a few hundred to a few thousand. One claimed to have a population of 777 on their sign, but I think that they just made up the number for the symmetry of it.

And then I got lost. Okay, to be fair, I got lost four times. But only one really mattered, and that was when I was in one of the little funky – and scary – towns along the way, not more than 10 miles from my destination.

It was kind of an awesome town, and if I hadn’t been lost in it, I would have enjoyed it. The houses were old, and half were restored but half were falling down. There was a leather shop that advertised motorcycle gear. It was funky with a capital funk. But when I took a wrong turn, my phone’s GPS decided that I had entered a black hole, and it pretended not to see me anymore. I had to keep twisting and turning down roads, including one that led me past some public housing that had what looked like a guard house, complete with dog chained in the front yard, at the end of it.

Then I arrived. Town’s population: 199.

path 1I followed what I thought was the right trail to parking, went to grab another gulp of water, and turned to find a blonde guy, dressed all in white, sporting a pony tail and lots of tattoos, looking in my car window. It was a cult!

Joking.

No, it was one of the guys who lives here, and he was helping me check in. He brought me into the main ashram, got me settled up with my bill, and then led me to the ashram I’d be staying in.

There were five people hanging around – two guys, three girls. All of them had their cell phones next to them. Two were friending each other on Facebook. I began to question how far away from everything I had gotten.

And then I learned that I was supposed to bring my own towel. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one, though, because they have them on request.

room 8After I settled into my room, I hung around a bit, then headed to mantra class.

Ah, mantra class.

On the plus side – they have cheat sheets! You don’t have to memorize anything, except the exact pronunciations. All the words are in front of you, along with their meanings. I’m totally planning on swiping one of the print outs to take home with me. The mantras are actually very cool, very relaxing, and very interesting.

After we did the mantras, which last about twenty minutes, then we ate dinner. Vegetarian.

And I learned a lot of stuff about the people I’d be bunking up with.

First, there was water cleanse girl. She’d been on the cleanse for almost 24 hours before she broke and decided that she was too hungry to keep doing it. She ate her dinner – a big dinner (rice, beans, veggies) – and remarked at how surprised she was that her stomach hadn’t shrunk after 24 hours without food. I pointed out that was only a day, and she’d already had a few handfuls of the trail mix (does that count as granola?) in the ashram.

Next up was the silent retreat girl. She hadn’t been silent so far. But she had the best of intentions to be silent sooner or later. She was straight out of a sorority, wearing a t-shirt from her sisters that said “I didn’t go to college to find a husband. I went to find my bridesmaids.” Go higher education! She also mentioned that she had some jerky in her room. Someone at the dinner table pointed out that you weren’t allowed to bring any meat on the premises. She said, “Oops. My life coach didn’t warn me not to bring it!”

Dinner ended, and I decided to explore the property a bit. It’s big. And pretty. When the road on the property ended, I head out onto the shoulder of the highway to reach the other entrance. I found a dead skunk. Its eye was staring up at me. And, yes, there was only one eye left. I didn’t say the dead skunk was all in one piece. Plus there were cigarette butts and a squished “Sutter Home” plastic bottle. Apparently the skunk had been having some sort of pathetic party by the side of the road.

ashramI headed to bed early – most people here apparently go to sleep at 10. It wasn’t until I was fully settled into bed, covered up and comfy, that I realized that there is a distinct lack of locks in the ashram. The bathroom doors have locks, yes, but I have a feeling that a feverish two-year old could bust those locks.

The locks aren’t really such a big problem. I don’t feel unsafe about anyone here, and the place is set well back, has gates and barbed wire (although I think that’s more to keep wildlife out), and is in this itty bitty town. But…zombies. The number of cemeteries around here tells me that if there is a zombie uprising, I’m going to be surrounded pretty quickly. How will I be able to protect myself if I can’t even lock the ashram? I’m just saying – if zombies do show up anytime before Monday afternoon, I might have a problem on my hands.