This is How I Lived, then.
Awake, I slowly stretch, and look about the small room under the eves that is my home. I make my bed; I wash; I dress—quickly, as the world awaits. I’ve worn a thick sweater against the morning chill. I stop at the small station outside the main kitchen and fill my mug with fresh-brewed organic coffee, and walk about.
Most of the others don’t stir outside before breakfast, so I am pretty much alone. I don’t disturb the brothers working inside the kitchen. I begin my daily visit to those that are awake with me: several cows, two horses and some chickens. “Hello, Cow”, I say to one. She looks at me, only mildly interested, but it is enough.
I continue on my walk. There are acres to explore, should I wish to do so. I hear the bell. I slip into the chapel for the morning meditation. Then, it’s breakfast time, and my world is suddenly noisy. There are residents, visitors, and staff. I choose a table and try to blend in. I help to clean up. I don’t like to sweep the floors, but I don’t mind sorting the silverware and putting it into the powerful industrial-strength dishwasher.
It has warmed a bit. I take off the thick sweater and stretch; the remaining two shirts feel light and free. I spend the rest of the morning writing and reading; there will be a music class later this afternoon.
My next job is to chop vegetables. Apparently, we’re having vegetable soup for lunch, along with a variety of sandwiches. I’m very hungry, and lunch is very good. We have a quiet time after lunch. It’s one of the few places in California that actively observes Siesta, in my experience. I stay quiet, write letters…some days I fall asleep.
Now for the class: This week, there is a music camp here. The clear air and the beautiful rolling hills seem to inspire the singers to give it their all! After: shall I take a dip in the pool? Perhaps attend the Tai Chi class? Go for a really long walk? I try to move around every day; I like to stay fit. I extend myself, physically, in some way, and then have a nice refreshing shower.
The sun begins to lower in the sky. Evensong. I like the name. I’m not, totally, aligned with the belief system presented, but I am able to experience Evensong at the level of intention. My song this even’ is one of joy! I feel cleansed; purified, in a way I had not felt often in my secular life in the city. I amble over to the kitchen to help with dinner. This might actually be my favorite time of day.
In the evening, if there is a group, there is usually a party. I am an individual resident, neither a part of the permanent community, nor of the visiting group, but I linger on the fringe of the activity, sometimes worming my way in. There might be a movie, a dance, a lecture or a book discussion. If it’s not for me, or if there is no group this week, I am invited to join the residential community for television. They are warm and welcoming. I feel privileged to be included. If there is no group, we “say compline” right in the living room; otherwise we trudge over to the chapel.
Then, it’s bed time. I snuggle in; it’s gotten cool again. I read; write; contemplate. I actually go to sleep at a decent hour—unlike me these days. I love this life. This time, in that place, is one of my very cherished memories. Now, when I wish to capture the essence of at-one-ness, I remember how I/it was, when I lived among those who knew.