Another cool, brisk Tuesday morning I was up before the birds, again.  I loved hearing other sounds: the base-fiddle frogs; coyote yelps and screams; towels flapping against new wood railings; the cacophony of clucking geese and screeching herons; and then, song-bird whistles on the Temple deck.  It turns out that this was the one early morning Tuesday not to be missed.  I heard men’s voices coming down the path behind me, just as I settled in with my coffee on the deck, journal in hand and gazing across the pond at first light.  It was much too early for the residents, my neighbors in the other cabins, to be up and about, but sure ‘nuff, here come P. and R. running to the outdoor showers due East of my spot.  They waved a happy greeting!

Next moment under the halo of spray silhouetted against the rising sun I was treated to the priapic poses of each man photographing the other, in turn, from high up on the deck, looking down into the luminous cloud.  Both P. and R. have identical builds, very tall and lean, swimmers’ bodies from daily yoga practice.  “It is magic!” I thought to myself and waved again.  They were joyful, loving and playful with that camera.  Their laughter like pearls on a string sung to me: “unforgettable. That’s what you are…!”  I thought of Mike’s phrase.  “…Easton is like a toddler, running all over the place.”  They seemed not at all to be bothered by an unexpected observer.

Both P., an accomplished painter and photographer and currently the artist-in-residence, and R., a former resident at Easton, are Yoga masters, men who settle in to the practice daily in the lodge.  During R.’s visit I observed him several days in his pose in the great room of the lodge, centered in himself and solitary in the cavernous room.  I admired his concentration, his physical strength to maintain positions I’ve never even dreamed about and I loved the bulge in his gym shorts.  R. befriended me with conversation and warm hugs many times a day, and the night before at dinner we talked about the privilege of having attended the Lakota Sioux sacred Sun Dance in South Dakota at different times, as one of only a few whites among 5,000 American Indians.  It felt like something special we had shared.

I had earlier spotted a gorgeous photo of him on some California beach in the same warrior pose as under this morning’s shower.  He looked more muscular, a little younger in that one which hangs over P.’s desk downstairs.  I had wondered WHO was that attractive friend of P’s each time I had looked up from the guest computer.  Now, his good-bye hugs were all the hope and promise of flesh and blood feelings that I sensed he reciprocated.  How I hated to see him leave later that morning to catch a plane back to the West Coast.

What does living close to nature really do?  After a month here I begin to hear and observe more closely.  I am able to focus, be fully present in the moment to the benefit and blessings of the natural beauty surrounding me at every turn of my head.  I watch Mr. and Mrs. Canada Geese and five furry goslings swimming across the pond to the shelter of the Temple shore.  Dragonflies land on my foot, face and shoulder and linger to be admired for bejeweled colors of violet and green, iridescent in the sunlight.  Baby rabbits bound across my path unafraid, and another naked man, C., stands raking the volley ball “field”.  Muffin and Reilly, the resident pooches, chase rabbits and squirrels and brown nose me for kisses and hugs and tummy rubs.  How can such fatties run so fast, I ask myself?   Songbirds swing on the heavy cattails ringing the pond, whistling arpeggios.  This cacophony of symphony drowns out the rumble of a jet heading out of Albany.

(Copyright 2007 Frank Crowley) Our thanks to Frank for letting us use this essay, which he wrote in 2006, while staying here as a long-term volunteer.  If you are interested in the kind of volunteer experience Frank had, check out the volunteer page on our website.

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