Classes are over, the tulips are already blown, and the spring breeze carries with it murmurs of sultry summer afternoons—elsewhere.
The prospect of getting away is delightful but the reality is daunting. All the planning, booking, advance arrangements, packing—it tires one out just thinking about it. I never understood those people who spent half the year planning their next vacation and the other half talking about it. Now I sometimes wish I had one of them to take care of it all for me. Surely it would be easier, and almost as enjoyable, just to set up a tent in the nearby conservation area or sling a jungle hammock between two trees in the back garden. Or, easier still, to swing my feet up onto the sofa on the front porch with a cold drink and simply allow myself to drift.
But no, getting away—really away—is imperative. Sometimes to establish the conditions in which to relax fully, one has perforce to engage in a period of planning.
It’s not that I want to escape from reality, but rather that I want to slip out of the rut of everyday thinking, making the time to come alive more fully in a setting where there’s nothing to do but to be. One doesn’t need to go very far from home, but sufficiently far to be out of reach of that never-ending To Do list and sufficiently close that getting ready to go doesn’t have to be such a big hoo-hah.
That place is Temenos, a retreat at the top of a hill just half an hour’s drive from home, but one whose remove has been attended to with such thoughtful, loving care that it seems worlds upon worlds away. Just bring yourself, a sleeping bag, food and drink in ice-filled coolers; the caretakers of the trust provide the rest, making themselves scarce so that a space opens up for you to step into, but giving you quiet assurance that they are close at hand should you find yourself in need. After dispensing with your car a sufficient distance away, you load your things onto a little wagon and trundle it to your cabin, where you will find already-cut-and-split wood in all sizes should you wish to fire up a woodstove, but a propane cookstove as well. A metal-lined, heavy-lidded box keeps your food safe from bears, and there’s bedding, a simple wooden kitchen table, a hurricane lamp for light—no electricity or running water—and a little writing desk complete with log book in which those who have come before you have written over the years. Everything is clean and simple, basic but well-stocked. Large screened windows open up to the woods all round for light, air, and insect-free communing with nature. A sufficient walk away, just down the path from the woodshed, is the outhouse; but oh, what an outhouse, screened, sturdily constructed, scrupulously clean and fresh, with utter privacy and a view of the woods. There are no lights from the surrounding towns.
That’s it. Outside and down the road apiece there’s a pump where you can fill gallon jugs with a rust-colored minerally water (the spot used to be a health spa many years ago, and after all, it’s on Mount Mineral); a small pond where you can take a dip with the turtles in the heat of the summer; a small, homemade labyrinth for meditative walks; a bog walk, silence but for the rustling of the wind in the trees, and little red efts everywhere.