Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Beautiful Place


Hmmm, where to begin?  How about begin at the moment in which I find myself, sitting here crossed-legged on this dusty country love seat in a beautiful place, all my senses alive.  My body awake, my mind precise and directly connected to the rest of me.  The classical violins strum and serenade our collective moment.  The aroma wafting from the stove, another homemade vegetarian pizza gently layered with mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, sweet basil, onions, and green olives.  The fizz and bubble of the dry sparkling wine mixed with the never, ever “Not-From-Concentrate” orange juice, five women soon to toast the sunny Autumn Saturday and the vibrant colors that awaken the optic nerve. 

Five working women with busy lives mothering children and ailing parents, running companies, running households, running lives and minds and hearts somehow manage to find a weekend to be together to transcend all the living that must be done back home.  We packed four “Zsa Zsa’s” (not my word but our friend Sharon’s second husband’s name for us) into a sedan with a weekend’s worth of clothes, jackets, food, and accoutrement (perhaps there would be some meditation time, some study time, some yoga time, perhaps it would all be wine toasting).  Our fifth friend would be along the next morning to join.  In rapturous joy to just be together for this weekend, we headed through the fall scenery waving to us from the side of the thruway to the Finger Lakes Region of New York for a wine tasting weekend (and food love fest!).  The trip to A Beautiful Place went by in a dash with conversation, connection, and shared love between friends of the heart.

Exiting the New York Thruway, we wended our way through Geneva on the Lake, past Hobart and William Smith College, toward Keuka Lake and our rustic home for the weekend.  Two hours from departure, we all stood perched on the front porch fiddling with the lock box.  Opened, key in hand, we moved like a collective wave into the cabin and were greeted by "the beetles," hundreds of them teeming, scurrying, black and red things scampering every which way as we four women entered disrupting their nest under the door’s jam.

After we cleared out the nimble little critters beneath our feet, brushing them out the doorway back onto the outside porch, we entered the cabin and deposited all of our bags and groceries and homemade dishes.  I went into the bathroom and quickly realized that there was no hand towel, it occurred to me that my memory did serve me earlier that day when I phoned Sharon to ask, “Do we need to bring our own linens?”  It ended being a fleeting thought that never entered the realm of worry or concern, and lo and behold, the no hand towel moment of recognition in our sweet little cabin moved from minor annoyance to all out panic, 'what no hand towels, no bath towels, no bed sheets, oh gosh, what else?'

I lifted up the bedspread and informed the crowd, 'no sheets, no bed linens either.'  Maureen moved into full action and high tailed it to the nearest Wal-Mart.  There was no big box, cheap sheet place to buy linens within 100 miles. So we ended up with 1200 count nylon thread (not a stitch of cotton) sheets from the local drug store.  Better than nothing we all agreed.  Problem solved, we moved right into the prepping of assorted flat bread veggie pizzas for dinner.  Munching on pistachios and chips and salsa and guacamole, we poured out glasses of wine.

The evening was full of merriment, joy, dance, wine, food and assorted pestilences. After rocking out to AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long,” we changed the tone to something more subdued yet still 80’s, Barbra Streisand’s Home Concert with Barry Gibb’s on duet vocals.  We eventually settled into our respective country couches, in soft muted worn tones of pastel blue, pink and beige, and a couple of us curled up our minds and bodies with good books.  Maureen as she passed our little reading nook glanced down at the lampshade on one of the end tables and commented on the attached Walking Stick decoration ever so delicately gracing the edge of the shade, really only barely hanging onto the rim.  She asked, “Isn’t that real looking?” and, gently blew on it amazed by its impressive, realistic looking appearance.  As I glanced up from my computer screen, I saw the Walking Stick’s delicate body move to her outbreath, and knew within a fraction of a second that it was alive as any of us in that room, including those beetles from the afternoon.  After a few moments of excitement and surprise followed by double over belly laughter, I got up with a tissue in hand and gingerly took our latest bug friend for a ride outside into the lovely fall night.

As the weekend went on, I was the savior of small insects throughout the cabin, rescuing them via tissue capture and release.  Spiders, Walking Sticks, bees, beetle bugs, any little critter that crawled, flew or walked found safe passage back to the great outdoors.

On Friday night, we four settled into our respective bedrooms, Maureen and I upstairs in the loft and Sharon and Lora downstairs in the bedroom right off the bath.  Just as I was finding a fix on a comfortable position and ready to fall asleep upon the scratchy heat of the nylon sheets, someone below let loose a blood curdling scream which was shortly followed by two adult women in their forties very rapidly ascending the loft stairs.  Out of breath and in a panic which was frankly from where I stood, or rather lay, tremendously funny, they asked, “Did you hear that noise, there is something clearly in the walls which is trying to gain entrance into this cabin?”  I had not heard anything other than the Psycho-style shriek which had no doubt terrified whatever would-be intruder whom in my mind would certainly not be returning too soon.  Getting out of bed, knowing it was the right thing to do; I went down with them to check out the situation, went into the bathroom and found nothing amiss.  Just in case, I took a dining room chair and barred the downstairs cellar door which did not lock and brought up the painfully dull butcher knife to keep on the bedside table between the second loft room bed that they had decided to sleep in that night.  All settled, we eventually went to sleep upon what felt like great big nylon stockings, laughter mixed with a bit of unease in our minds and hearts.

The pestilences aside, we knew we were surrounded by the stunning beauty of a fleeting fall weekend.  We were breathing in each moment, in each other, in our joys, in our irritations and sensibilities and wave lengths.  It is not easy to make yourself vulnerable to other humans and that is exactly what happens when you allow yourself to be taken away with others.  There are plenty of laughs but also annoyances, uncertainties that come from our individual habitual patterns rolled up into a collective of five women away.  It is funny because it is so true the statement “best pick your battles.” 

If something just doesn’t mean a lot to you than it is important not to cling to it.  If you know it means a great deal to another, give space for the other person to step in and just go along with them.  Being right is not the way to make and keep friends, particularly friends of the heart.  And, who knows when a weekend like this will happen again for all of us to be together in this way.  Life moves and it moves quickly and the gift is found in the present.  The important thing may be to let the other person tell their story or apply their skillfulness but when it starts to move into fear and continuing the perpetuation of cocoons and defenses, it is best to not say anything at all.  Find a way to stop feeding the fear and drama and realize that showing compassion for other’s neuroses and fears starts with allowing space for all this human stuff to simply be. 

Our Saturday morning started out rainy with overcast gray skies yet that didn’t not present an obstacle to hiking on a trail along a creek and wooded path.  We traversed a trail of fallen black walnuts and at the outset of our walk one such nut speedily fell to the path below hitting Lora on her hand and muddying up her sneakers and pants.  We took it as a sign to find a different path. After our morning walk, we came back to the cabin ravenous and to meet Jan who would be joining our weekend and the wine tour we had planned for the day.  Each with a Mimosa in hand to toast our good fortune and the celebration of color outside, we enjoyed more veggie pizzas and then headed over to the neighboring Finger Lake, Seneca Lake, and wineries, a distillery and a craft brew pub.

Back to the cabin, we made dinner of chicken vegetable stew, salad, peach cobbler and more wine.  We talked late into the night, then nestled into our beds to sleep.  Jan decided that the night was ready to end, so came up to the loft and inspired us to dance, extending the night until we all finally fell asleep tired, content, at peace with a smile still on our faces despite those damn sheets.

The morning came after once again feeling relieved to not have to endure yet another night of the nylon abrasion from those hastily purchased sheets (we later found out after reading the note on the fridge that “If you forget your linens, just call us.  Proprietors of A Beautiful Place”), and as there can be with a group of humans, there was some drama that inevitably came up.  A few of us went on a long walk to release any built up tension, while I hung back with Jan to write, read, and sit quietly.

As the time came to set out, we tidied up "A Beautiful Place," our small, rustic, insect-ridden cabin without linens, and headed home.  A weekend for five women who carved out enough time to rejoice in our strengths, our differences, our joys and our collective struggles in this beautiful place and in this beautiful world of ours.

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