Alone In the Woods
Once I drove 5 hours to a rural area of Massachusetts to a parcel of land that was at one time inhabited by Indians. I was treating myself to a workshop. The whole trip was inspiring, a smooth uncluttered highway, my favorite music playing, the colors of fall, the brisk air, a stop for hot coffee to sip along the way. When you are alone and you are the total boss of you and it is a fab feeling.
Getting closer I could no longer rely on modern conveniences for directions or help, as the last miles into this retreat camp were so remote. Last messages of safe arrival were sent as I drove onto the dirt road and into the woods. No more phone.
The main building was welcoming with a wooden porch and mums, scattered chairs and leaves. A serene bronze colored woman greeted you with a smile by the door, kind of. In the back, past the fireplace, there was a round dining room. We straggled in over the next hour, a crowd of strangers gathering for dinner that night, family style. Before we started to eat we held hands in a circle and learned to sing a new Indian song. It is a wonderful thing to go off with just you and find who you are in a new group, doing things you do not do normally. Like hold hands and sing. Which is actually lovely.
The food was stick to your bones delicious, the company warm and bright and present. After dinner we changed buildings for a first session class that Friday night. It was darker than dark when you came out of the warm and you aimed yourself in an uphill direction with the gravel road under your feet. You could see lights “up there” through tree silhouettes and your eyes did adjust but it was still dark and silent with woods all around. There were some empty tents on wooden platforms left from summer camp here and there, paths that lead to cottages and cabins, lights very much in the distance. Then in the dark we came to the second kitchen building where our class was held.
Now when you entered this building and let the screen door bang behind you, you entered a huge plywood world with a gigantic marionette overhead. There was garish but artistic graffiti painted all around by summer campers, all sorts of artistic expression. There were benches stacked and tables pushed together and pots and pans hanging over a kitchen that had been closed at the end of summer. And then up the stairs was a closed door on the right that was a bedroom, and a hallway and large room on the left for our workshop.
Our workshop room had multiple broad couches and the floor was covered with oriental style carpets with good padding and so we sat in the most pleasant of circles around the most pleasant people. It would not be until the next day that we would be able to see what was actually beyond the huge expanse of windows… deep, thick woods.
It came time to end for the night so everyone headed out to his or her cabins and cottages. I had been assigned the bedroom. Wait, I had been assigned the bedroom. This bedroom. When I placed my things in it with the afternoon sun streaming in I had thought the woods outside a beautiful view. The marionette charming. I had not noticed the isolation and I pictured many more bedrooms in here somewhere. “Ah, a dorm!” I had thought. Well, I watched everyone leave and the screen door slammed behind the last pair. And I was alone with the giant marionette with his big grin. I mean, his head was 5 feet wide. I could not quite believe that I was by myself. Clearly, some error had been made… this felt so awkward. Creepy? No, I shook that off. And because we were such a new group to each other no one noticed that I was standing next to the bedroom door by myself in that building. There was no phone to call the main building and no phone to call home and no lighted path to walk to ask a question and no phone to call for help if I should need it.
I quick got a tooth brush as I knew some humanity was still reasonably close and thought I would just brush my teeth and then I could tuck myself in safely in my room for the lonely night. I was not going to leave the building and get eaten by a bear. The bathroom was an institutional bathroom a long walk across the huge closed kitchen. It smelled funny like old church bathrooms have ever since I was a little girl. Rusted metal was at the edge of the stalls, not horrible or awful but sobering. Oh, and the shower was there, the shower that I was to use, but I put that thought off for daylight.
Teeth brushed I headed back through the cold across the rough floor with my shoes on, into my little room that had its own heater. It was a lovely little room once you were safely in it. It had navy blue drapes that would pull across the dark black windows…all three of them. It had built in bookcases with books on them. It had a lovely quilted coverlet covering the wool blanket and nice pillows. It had a sweet little lamp on a bedside table. It had a quilt stand. It had a little metal loop lock with the little metal rod that slides in it. And no other lock. And the metal loop part was bent and the sliding bar would no longer slide in. No matter what I tried.
Did you hear me? It had a little metal loop lock with the little metal rod that slides in it. And no other lock. And the metal loop part was bent and the sliding bar could no longer fit in it.
What is a girl to do? I tried inserting the only pen I had into the metal loop to encourage it to become a round shape again. No luck.
So put yourself in that room with me and figure out what you think about it. Well, I mean without me. Just you in the room. "WHOOOOOOOOO" says the scary owl outside the window as he peers in through the 2 inches where the drapes don't quite meet. Just kidding.
You cannot even post your adventure on Facebook and get all sorts of comments, as your phone is a small rectangular thing made of glass, metal and plastic, that does not serve you here.
So I put the quilt rack in front of the door. I put my suitcase on top of it. If anyone or anything was coming to say hello to me, I wanted to make sure I could hear them coming. I turned out the light. I sang “Angles Watching Over Me” which is a song I made up once when I was scared. And then I slept like a baby. Yes, I had the pen on the bedside table so if I grabbed it in the dark its pointy side would be facing out, but I slept like a baby that was safe.
A loud noise woke me up. I heard the screen door down below slam. It was daylight. The Native American woman with her long black hair came in, singing a quiet blessing song. She started coffee as she sang, on a table not far from my door. She left.
I never asked for another room. My second night I did not need the pen. When I left, I did not even tell management that the lock was not working. It did not seem to matter here. It no longer mattered to me.
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