What follows is my first dinner of three at the Forest Hostel. I will not describe every night here so that afterwards we can fast forward to the promise of this title. I am inclined though to speak of the dinner as it was an event I will not soon forget.
When dusk settles in at the Hostel in the Forest a bell is rang letting all forest residents know that dinner is about to be served. At the sound of the bell I eagerly find my way back to the kitchen tent. I meet today’s cook, the job of cook changes every day, and on this day the cook is a resident and not a hostel worker. She is wearing long colorful robes and a very practiced smile. Her white greying hair is pulled back behind her head and I feel invited by her large brown eyes. She has been working all day, she says, on this very important meal and has put all the love she could into all she could with great intention. I thank her for her efforts and say I am excited to eat something so lovingly prepared after spending the last few nights eating road food.
Before dinner is served in the tent all residents are asked to stand and join hands to form a circle of friends around our table. There was thirty or so of us there. We held hands in silence for nearly a minute as the host encouraged us to just listen to the sounds of the forest. After the brief group meditation everyone is asked to state their name, where they are from and also mention something they are grateful for.
As the introductions went on we all remained holding hands. I felt closer and closer to everyone and also very safe and content. The young daughter of Jill seemed nervous. She sported an expression of uncertainty, which was shared by a handful of us, as the spotlight became closer and closer to her, handed off by the introduction of one resident to another. I wondered whether she would choose to pass or speak up when it became her turn. It was quite warming to my heart and choking to my throat that when it became her turn her twisted face turned into a bright beaming effort of self proclamation. She spoke loudly and clearly and gave thanks with clear truth and well thought out gratitude. It was a powerful moment in the reception. When it became my turn I gave thanks for finding out that the honeymoon suite was indeed not mine and that I had found out in a less than embarrassing way. This caused great laughter. You can read about that incident in part 1 of this post.
The following few days where spent in similar fashion. I made friends around the fire, I listened to the experienced guitar player give lessons as well as a performances in the deep night. I meditated and did yoga in a glass house in the forest and played guitar eventually with Harry in the library. I made friends with strangers. I got to know them easily as many of them freely opened their hearts to me. We spoke of what seemed like massive life decisions, uncertainty, self love and the strange world we all try to perceive while we live in it. I still talk to these friends today and hopefully have built connections that will last a lifetime.
The day I played guitar with Harry was the anniversary of fifty years since he had his first lesson and the last night of my visit to the hostel. I had, characteristically, tried to avoid him during my stay. I am an avoidant and close sincere connection freak the hell out of me. I tend to run from connection. That is what taking this trip was meant to force me to do, connect with people, and it has proven to be very difficult (more on this later :)
On the even of Harry’s fifty years of guitar playing I knew it would be nearly impossible to avoid contact. The poor man had extended his heart to me immediately when he saw me. He sensed my walls and respected them. Harry is a genuine lover with a lot of love in his heart and many years of guitar expertise in his fingers. I regret not picking his brain and bonding with him more. I learned that his first guitar lesson was given to him by his mother and it was to his mother that he dedicated all his guitar playing. On this day, the day of his fifty year anniversary, Harry had taken a vow of silence. It was something he had never done before. To Harry this day was tremendously important and I could feel the weight of his life settle in I watched him go about his day silently giving thanks to his mother, music, his life, and, the forest.
Harry discovered me playing guitar in the library and silently beseeched me to play guitar with him. I protested of course but his silent convincing gestures complete with pleading blue eyes, jolly red cheeks, and, precisely animated silent face was not something I could resist. I am not accustomed to playing guitar with anyone else and I am frightfully shy of it. We played for about twenty minutes and when we were done Harry wrote me a note thanking me for the first lesson of this new year. We hugged and that was the last time I saw him.
As Sunday came about all other guests had moved on. I booked on one last night in the woods and became the only guest of Sunday night. A storm was spoken of that would move in as the sun went down. This excited me as I would get to see a change of weather in the swampy woods. I decided to take the company of myself back to the cabin where I lodged. I moved my luggage to the bottom floor and found a reclining chair there to sit on an wait for the weather. Here I took a few beers and soaked myself as the sky prepared to do the same to the earth below.
As the weather moved in the sky overhead went from blue to a low hanging thick grey. The sounds of the forest insects and animals were replaced by quiet ominous gusts of wind. It began to rain during the last few hours of light and it came down very hard. I stood up to open the door to watch the dramatic downpour and while looking out felt invited by the woods to join it in its naked embrace. This decision rolled around in my head for a while and the chance of it ever happening again soon, or how often it had happened last, won out and soon I was stripped and out the door.
Why it feels so good to do something like this I can not say. As I run out there naked I felt as mad as I did free. The soft damp ground was foreign to my naked foot as was every other sensation during this excursion. I ran around the barn in which I lived and a bit through the deeper woods until returning back to my dry clothes. I slumped back in my paint stained recliner and ate a snickers bar. A feeling of lush energy poured out of me and on came one of those moments where it seemed like I had made a good decision quitting my job and running away. A few minutes after I had returned Ryan had called out from the woods to see if anyone was there. I sang out that I was here and he asked if anyone else was. No I told him and watched him ascend the stairs to his lodgings covering himself with a towel over his otherwise naked body. He too, evidently, had been naked in the woods.
Thanks for reading and please stay tuned if you enjoyed doing so!