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.
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 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.
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 →
So after a few weeks of good health for all, and the promise of a relaxing summer, it all started again. Michael had an appointment the first week of June with his breast surgeon for a 12-month check-up. The day before he went, he felt a teeny, tiny something in the area of his mastectomy. But there was no more breast tissue there. What could it be? Probably nothing, said Rachel, the breast specialist, but we’ll do a sonogram just to be sure. Humm, the sonogram looked a bit suspicious, so we should do a biopsy, just to rule out, you know, anything bad. Continue reading →
I just got back from the cardiologist and passed my echo and stress test with flying colors. So this tale has a happy ending – now for the story itself: I had signed up for the April monastic retreat at IMS, but was on a long waiting list after the lottery. I also signed up for the May retreat with Kamala Masters, Debra Ratner and Mark Nunberg and figured if I got into the earlier one I could transfer my registration. Continue reading →
It was shortly after the election last November when I was reading Buddha Dharma Magazine that I saw an add for a Meditation and Well Being Study at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. My initial intention was to do something positive that would be of help to others in the face of the devastation and helplessness everyone was feeling in reaction to the election. So I embarked on a very long process of application and vetting for the study. Continue reading →
Just as I was taking a picture of Michael and me, standing on the top step at the Trenton War Memorial with 2000 folks inside and 4000 more spread out below us, a photographer from the Newark Star Ledger snapped this shot of us – a not-selfie! What a wonderful day it was to share all the outrage, heartbreak, frustration and desire for action that so many of us have been feeling since election day with a crowd of like minded souls. Continue reading →