I am writing this a number of months later, so the experiences have settled and softened. I have practiced with meditation teachers Steve Armstrong and Kamala Masters for almost 20 years and have always wanted to visit their retreat center on Maui. With all of Michael’s health issues, it has been challenging to find a time when I could be away for a month, but December/January looked like it would work so I made the reservation last June and hoped for the best. As the holidays approached, everyone was healthy, including Steve, who was doing miraculously well five years after a glioblastoma diagnosis. Michael, Emily and I planned a family vacation for 4 days before my retreat. We arrived on Maui in a terrible rain-storm that diverted planes and cancelled flights. Luckily, we landed safely and stayed in a beautiful condo near the beach in Kihei. We only had one good swimming day after the storm, but we did a lot of driving around the Island and visited our old Princeton friend Maida Pollock. She had retired to her son’s farm in Kula, which was, amazingly, right down the dirt road from the retreat center! Michael and Emily went on to spend Christmas on the Big Island at Volcano National Park, and I started a monthlong retreat in Paradise.
Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks have been on my bucket list for a while, and I finally got to see them on a wonderful Backroads bike trip. I still had a deposit with them from the Greece trip that I had to cancel the first summer of COVID. I have been hesitant about traveling in general, but I made the reservation back in January when I was safely nestled at home. Cases were down in NJ in the early spring, but started to pick up again as the warmer weather approached. I did the best I could to stay healthy before the trip, and would hope for the best while traveling with 16 new friends on the trip itself.
I just got home from 12 glorious days at Forest Refuge and feel much revived and restored. It was the first time back in almost exactly two years when I was one of the last yogis there before the beginning of the pandemic shut the world down. Rebecca Bradshaw was teaching again, and it was also her first time back since March of 2020. At my interview with her the day after I arrived, she said “so, we return to the scene of the crime!” Yikes. The preparation for being away on retreat is always quite involved, but this time was especially stressful due to the strict testing protocols necessary to even enter the IMS buildings let along stay for 12 days.
I have been remiss in adding blog posts for the second half of 2021. Maybe it is because the pandemic seemed to be ending, which was scary and stressful as we went back to more normal activities, but then it came roaring back and kept on going. Life continued with both a sameness that was discouraging as we just made the best of it all, and a new anxiety as we tried to integrate a return to regular life in the midst of an ongoing pandemic and a changed world. Maybe what I thought was equanimity was actually a dullness masking anxiety. Even so, Michael and I have a lot to be thankful for: we remained healthy and safe and I enjoyed a lot of lovely bike rides on my new bike. Here are some highlights:
I took the plunge and reserved 9 days at a cottage I found on AirBnB a few blocks from the Delaware Bay beach in North Cape May. I wanted to go there alone and do a self-meditation retreat for a week. Michael would come down for a few days at the end. It sounded like it would work, but I spent most of December planning what food and cleaning supplies I would bring with me to make it feel safe in the midst of COVID. Finally, the day of departure arrived and I went to the market first thing and grabbed a weeks-worth of simple meals, loaded up the car, and drove the easy two and a quarter hour trip to Cape May. The host had told me that the house would be cleaned on Monday and then sit empty for three days before I arrived on Friday. That seemed pretty safe. Even so, I wiped down all door handles and light switches with Lysol and washed my hands before I unpacked and settled in. The cottage was adorable, with surf and sand decorations including crabs and octopi. The kitchen was perfectly functional and the sun coming in the windows filled my heart with warmth and joy. The neighborhood was very quiet and peaceful and the beach, really only two blocks away, was magnificent.
My 60th birthday trip to Greece was definitely not happening this summer. Thank goodness we hadn’t paid any money for it before the world shut down. Instead, we stayed home, safely enclosed by our fence, and had a lovely summer. Louie was the happiest dog in the world as he ran free in the back yard with his humans constantly home. The wildlife was plentiful as well, including turtles, a groundhog, and a hawk’s nest at the very top of one of the huge pine trees near the house. The three babies were awe inspiring to watch as they grew and explored our back yard all through June and July.
Emily did a two-week quarantine, got a negative COVID test, and came to stay with us for three weeks in June, and then again for seven weeks in August and September. She brought her two kitties, Buster and Moon, and we all laughed a lot watching Louie adjust to his new roommates. Emily and I did zoom yoga classes on the deck, went on long bike rides, and cooked amazing meals together.
Just as I was pulling out of my driveway for the five-hour trip to Barre, MA and ten days at Forest Refuge, the oil change light blinked on my dashboard. Oh, no… I remembered there was some warning light flashing as I drove to FR in January of 2015 just when my mom found out that she had leukemia and her doctor suggested hospice. That was certainly a strange time to be on retreat. This time I knew I could easily take care of the oil change when I came home, but I had a sinking feeling that the warning light did not bode well.
It was spring break at Princeton and I had arranged to spend 10 days at Forest Refuge in Barre. Michael was back to teaching and conducting in the second semester. He had also been in sinus rhythm for several weeks after his third cardioversion, and was significantly happier than he had been all fall. He is still not back to full energy or physical mobility, and he still enjoys his afternoon naps. This may well be the new normal for him at almost 70 years old. He assured me he would be able to handle things at home with Louie while I was gone. Continue reading →
Last September I had to cancel ten days at Forest Refuge so I could be with Michael as we waited for more test results. Luckily the MRI showed that a suspicious something was nothing, and I rebooked my retreat for spring break. Too bad that was exactly when Michael would receive his honorary membership at the Royal Conservatory of Music in London from their president, HRH the Prince of Wales. Continue reading →
I was so proud of Solène after she sang Barber’s “Knoxville Summer of 1915” with the Princeton University Orchestra on their March concerts. We had worked on it a lot last fall in preparation for the concerto competition. I loved teaching the piece to such a sensitive and talented singer, sharing all my favorite moments of interpretation and expression. It was actually good vocal practice for Solène as well, focusing on the simple, sweet, childlike quality of the music and text, learning not to overload her voice and do more with less. Continue reading →