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Day 3 – It’s official. I’ve joined a cult.

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…)

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The Dead Cat on the Mantle

Peanut being Peanut and very much alive...
Peanut being Peanut and very much alive…

Chekhov (no, not the guy from Star Trek!) once said that if there is a loaded gun on the mantle in the first act of the play, then it should be fired in a later act.  But I’m not sure the same is true about cat’s ashes.

I know – I’ve started this out (trying to be) funny, but this isn’t really that funny a topic, unless you define funny as awkward and sad instead of humorous.

I’m not new to the world of pets.  As long as I can remember, we’ve had pets.  Goldfish.  Koi.  Hermit crabs.  A short-lived gerbil.  Cats.  Dogs.  And as long as I’ve had pets, I’ve had pets that died.  Often, we’d go to extraordinary measures to save them and keep them alive as long as possible, like our goldfish Melody, named after the character from Josie and the Pussycats, which, looking back on it, it does seem a bit ironic to name a fish after a pussycat, but I was only six or seven.  Anyway.  Melody the goldfish had surgery performed on her by my father.  We netted her and removed something from her side – and she lived!  At least, as long as goldfish ever live.  Then there have been unexpected deaths, like my dog Scrungy who went to the vet for routine surgery for kidney stones, a surgery she’d had at least half a dozen times, and she died during recovery while we were on the way to pick her up.  (Want to feel bad for someone?  Feel bad for the vet who had two little girls in hysterics in his waiting room when they found out their dog was dead.)

I don’t know what happened to my pets when they died when I was a child.  Sure, we flushed the fish.  And, yeah, we buried the gerbil in the backyard.  But the cats and dogs just disappeared after they died.

Since I’ve been an adult and on my own, though, we’ve only had two other animals die – our dogs Teddy and Cecily.  With Teddy, we got his ashes in a plain plastic box and scattered them at a little place we’d know he’d have liked to run, and it just seemed right and appropriate.  (And it taught us to not be downwind when we opened a box of ashes…)  With Cecily, it was far more of a shock because she began having seizures and couldn’t stop.  In that case, we let the body go for mass cremation because I don’t think we were able to think of anything else.

But this time, it was our cat Peanut.  We knew he had problems because a few years ago he’d suffered a stroke and came back from it.  But since then, he’d had at least one other one that we knew about, but possibly more.  It was still an unpleasant surprise when he had another one right before Christmas and didn’t recover.  He kept getting worse until he couldn’t stand or move properly, and by the time we got him to the emergency clinic, his temperature had fallen and he had no control of or feeling in his hind legs.  Whatever it was that had been causing the strokes and other problems had obviously been progressing, and no one had been able to figure it out or stop it.

Peanut in a box on the mantle...
Peanut in a box on the mantle…

A few weeks later, we picked up his ashes.  Unlike Teddy’s ashes, though, Peanut’s were in a very nice wooden box, engraved and, well, pretty.  And I realized – what were we going to do with his ashes?

Peanut never really left the house.  His favorite place was on top of the couch, and I can’t think that’s a good place to scatter his ashes.  And the box is nice and seems almost strangely appropriate for keeping his ashes in.  It’s orange-ish.  And it just kind of hangs out.  Very cat-like things to do and be.

So what do we do?  Is it wrong to keep his ashes in the box?  Do we keep the cat on the mantle?  Because we have a few other cats, and I’m afraid it might get both crowded and creepy if we keep this up.

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My dogs

Crayola Silly Scents By Crayonsman (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons
Crayola Silly Scents By Crayonsman (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons
They like
to eat crayons.

No matter what I do
to stop them.

A green one here.
A red one there.

A few blue ones
for variety.

They seem
to like yellow,
but never pink.

An occasional purple
seems good, too.

My dogs
they like
to eat crayons.