Surprisingly, driving 25 minutes across town to an airbandb CAN transform your perspective. I has betting on that when I booked the studio apartment at Tikkun Farm in Mt Healthy as my Mother’s Day gift. After weeks of non-stop family health issues and care giving, my body and spirit demanded the break.
My departure was timed to coincide with the close of Sunday’s Quaker worship, grounding me in a richer, deeper retreat for two nights and three days.
Choosing to spend my precious time at Tikkun (meaning repair or restore in Hebrew) was no accident. Mary Laymon, who runs the non-profit farm and healing center with her husband, had been my spiritual director sporadically over a couple of years and I had participated in her retreats. She has gifts for hospitality, listening, facilitating healing and collecting people and animals. I needed to be here.
You book one of her three spaces on airbandb. I had selected the larger farmhouse room and watched it fill as I waited to ensure family members were out of danger. Yet, I knew I could linger no longer and my husband convinced me to rent the apartment, it was a gift and cost shouldn’t matter, he said. And so I hit purchase. Of course, life became more complicated, but this was nonrefundable – as if I needed an excuse as a boundary – and I went.
A jaunt over Cross County Highway quickly landed me the other side of town, which may as well have been another city. There is something about a drive to soften the transition from the busyness of everyday life to a contemplative rhythm. As I eased off onto Hamilton Road, my mode shifted as the speedometer dipped. I ambled through a modest neighborhood of solid WWII houses, turned off onto a sleepy, leafy street and found the house with the split-rail fence, just as Mary had promised in her airbandb response.
I parked in front of the milk house, where the penthouse would be my cozy and comfortable headquarters for some alone-time and R & R. Mary was on vacation, so I let myself in via the lock codes, dragged my luggage up the steps – I had been forewarned – changed into farm clothes and decided to explore. I was enthralled with the Bhutanese men and women amassing trimmed honeysuckle branches in the garden and gravitated toward their children near the barn. They directed me to meet Spike, one of eight resident alpacas and the mayor of the farm. They nudged me to enter the pen. Spike was resting on a bare patch of circle, but arose when I called his name. He came forward, sniffed me, granting permission to pet him. When my hand went to his head, something slimy flung at my face. “He spit on you,” the kids called. That was a new experience. I later learned he does not like his head touched and was probably mad because I had no feed for him. Lesson learned. I will admire Spike from afar.
As I returned to my treetop space, I unpacked, opened my bottle of Bordeaux (I had stopped by Trader Joe’s for the basic food groups: red wine, chocolate and reduced-fat potato chips) and headed to my private patio to savor the New York Times, my Sunday treat. The sting of heat and humidity had dissipated during worship and it was gloriously cloudless, sunny, cool and windy. I spent hours reading before heading in to cook my dinner: a free-range chicken breast, steamed asparagus and herbed new potatoes. The thick breast took a bit of cooking, but I had all the time in the world. Over my rooftop, I observed the Bhutanese building structures in the garden and the rumble of cars coming and going over the gravel drive. I reveled in the air moving through the apartment.
Dinner savored, I made a cup of decaf and headed out for an evening jaunt as the sun began to set. The Bhutanese had gone, but I was greeted by Gypsy Rose Lee and Wesley, two hairy Chinese Cresteds belonging to CJ, who tends the garden, teaches yoga and helps with summer camp. I played fetch with Gypsy after she’d warmed up – she’s the shy one – while CJ weeded. A punk of incense laced with citronella smoked in her corner, warding off bugs and providing a gentle ambiance. She gave me a more formal tour – the gardens, pasture, milk house with a kitchen and art space – ending in the barn as we perched at the front window of Tikkun, overlooking the pasture, alpacas, chickens and guinea fowl. We watched the sky grow dark, a satellite dip lower and the fireflies turn on. Magic was in the air. CJ says she feels the imprint of the sacredness here. I do, too.
I was primed for tranquil sleep in the fluffy king bed and open windows. I’d set the alarm for 8 am to make yoga, but the natural light woke me earlier. I laid in bed a bit, emerging from my cocoon with enough time to drive to College Hill Coffee, grab a cup and change for the yoga donation. Unfortunately, the coffee shop is closed Mondays, so I landed a not-so-good, fast-food blend to tide me over. Wesley greeted my return; CJ and Gypsy were not far behind. We sat on the patio until Cassie arrived to teach yoga. I’ve done yoga at the beach and on the pool deck, but never on a barn floor. With two layers of cushion and a bright breeze flowing through the chinks in the barn’s armor, it was delicious; yummy as my beloved first yoga teacher, Renee, would say. Cassie was gentle and CJ showed me some better alignment. Yoga at the gym is not the same as in a smaller, hands-on session. Cassie reiterated that self care was essential and nudged us toward an intention. I chose to be peaceful here and now and to carry that with me, away from Tikkun. Her skilled hands smudged with lavender oil relaxed my shoulders, cupped my face and cradled my head. Her touch was healing.
CJ escorted me to the main house for breakfast eggs and a cup of coffee. There I met the housemaid Lissa and a contractor/farm friend dressed in a kilt preparing for the summer-camp onslaught. Lissa, too, had been an airbandb guest and stayed on. “So, Mary added you to her menagerie,” I said. She laughed and agreed. I dawdled over two cups of coffee, an introduction to alpaca-wool production, then collected my beautifully dirty, unrefrigerated eggs to head back to my quarters.
I putzed around, read, wrote and showered, then headed out for a walkabout in the neighborhood. I wanted to explore on foot where I was. I traveled down the lane, grabbing a good view of the farm, doubling back accompanied by one of the Bhutan farmers. We parted ways as I headed toward downtown Mt. Healthy, three blocks away. I waited an eternity at the intersection of Adams and Hamilton. The Animal House pet store lured me across the bustling artery. The bright blue Victorian clapboard is filled with a multitude of furry pets – dogs, cats, rabbits, Guinea pigs, gerbils, hamsters and, sadly, feeder rats. I steered clear of more slimy creatures. If you’re over 18, you can handle the pets. The employees seem to care about what they do and it’s a pleasant antidote to the big-box pet marts. I had no idea neighborhood pet shops existed outside of Marc Brown’s Arthur books. A brown-and-cream teddy bear bichon/shih tzu clamored for my attention and I carried him around the pet store. Wesley had broken me in the night before. I can see myself in the future with something similar, although the hairless Chi-chi would be better for my allergies. Petting him was not pleasurable, more like rubbing my hand on sandpaper.
After visiting the Animal House, I ventured back across the street to Mt Healthy Dairy bar for a cool drink on another, dry, breezy, sunny day. I met a local woman, feeding her 18-month-old great niece ice cream. I never witnessed a bigger smile. I piddled back through the neighborhood of eclectic houses and down the lane to the farm. This is a neighborhood I could embrace: a bit more edgy, working-class than mine with some eccentricities such as a small dairy-farm turned retreat center, refugee families and native Westsiders.
I sipped a glass of wine of on the patio and read til dinner, tossing my leftovers into a festive salad. CJ turned up, naturally after Wesley, and we chatted. Karen, who rented the room I originally wanted, returned from a full day in the sun, dressed in long sleeves and a becoming Indiana Jones hat. Turns out she really is an archaeologist and peruses public-works construction sites to ensure they’re not displacing history. While she could not reveal the location, she said despite advanced technology, the crews’ human experience located an ancient farm site. It was a good day, she said. I agree.
After another cool, breezy night in the treetops, I awakened early with the sun and began packing. I relished time for yoga, connecting with Mary, whom I heard return late from vacation, and getting ready for an afternoon work assignment. Cassie opted for yoga inside the farmhouse for fear of the pestering guinea hens. Mary told her she just had to stomp hard and they’d flea. “You should not be afraid of any animals on the farm.”
We pushed aside furniture I the communal living room and, instantly, we were transported with Cassie’s subdued style. Again, she ended her class with gently touch ad lavender oil.
I cooked my farm egg, readied for work, packed the car and took a final stroll around the farm, breathing in the relaxation to hold for when I needed a reminder. I found Mary in the barn giving a tour, thanked her and drove off to the world of work, caregiving and busyness, certain to return.