This is the story of The Trees Community, a semi monastic Christian group that left NYC on a bus in 1971 on a journey of faith. When most of our money burned up the first night, we relied on God for all our needs and he provided! We traveled the United States growing in our new faith, finding a ministry in music and eventually becoming artists in residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Seven years, seven "stories" are woven into this amazing journey.

Spring Tour of Maine and Vermont

St. Paul's Episcopal Church - Brunswick, Maine

On April 21, 1974 we kicked off the spring tour, arriving at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brunswick, Maine where we met Glen Richards. A cheerful, robust and friendly man, he seemed quite proud of his alma mater and delighted in showing us all around the church and Bowdoin College campus. He reminded me somewhat of a tweedy professor.

We set up in the chapel, which was a long, dark room with high ceilings that created a rather interesting acoustical challenge. The concert was well attended that evening by mix of teachers, older couples, students, and families. Glen then had dinner for us in the rectory which we dubbed “the mansion” and we talked and talked late into the night.

St. Marks Episcopal Church - Augusta, Maine

The next stop was St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Augusta, Maine, which was a beautiful, old stone church. Even though it had rained all day, a sizeable crowd still showed up, including a rather large contingent of noisy and restless teenagers. Later on we learned that some of them were from a nearby reformatory. Despite their rowdiness during our concert, at the reception the youth were gregarious and congratulatory to my total surprise. We packed up the bus and drove back to the rectory listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon at full volume through the quadraphonic speakers.

The following morning we played back at Glen’s church, St. Paul’s Episcoal to a lively and responsive crowd. But the best part came afterwards. We returned to “the mansion” (the rectory) for a fabulous meal of Maine lobster. Having never eaten lobster, I was completely shocked when Glen took the wriggling, tentacled creatures and dropped them in a huge boiling pot of hot water. Even worse, they seemed to scream! Horrors! Then to my surprise they turned from a dark burgundy/black to a bright orange color. A little repulsed, I agreed to try a bite and it was delicious dipped in melted butter! We ate two lobsters each, mmmmmm. Once again, we talked way into the wee hours of the morning.

Reluctant to leave such wonderful hospitality, we hugged and said goodbye to Glen then drove to the University of Maine Campus in Orono. We were welcomed by a priest named Walter Thompson, his wife and daughter. They swept us into the Canterbury House for tea and organic ginger snaps, after which we played at the campus coffee house to a small crowd of about 25 enthusiastic students. After a day of rest and relaxation, we set up and performed in the “Damn Yankee” room for a large crowd. It turned out to be one of the best concerts of the tour!

April 27th we set off for Vermont, driving all day. The bus was making ominous rattling noises, however we managed to make it to St. Paul’s Cathedral. As usual, we set up and rehearsed, to allow the instruments (especially the stringed instruments) to adjust to the environment overnight.

The following morning we performed at the Cathedral for the mass and later in the afternoon gave a concert. On the 29th we left for Weston Priory, a benedictine monastery located on the edge of the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont. That concert was given in their barn. It was windy and drafty which created some serious tuning problems, but thankfully it was shortened to a half hour so as to fit in just before Vespers.

Weston Priory - Vermont

May 1, 1974. Early in the morning we were awakened by the sound of 100 bells ringing just outside of our bus door. I crawled out of my sleeping bag, dressed and struggled in to Vigils with the others, which was held in the back of the monastery. The seven Benedictine brothers were already seated on the floor in a semi circle facing a wide bay window overlooking a stunningly beautiful view so we sat down cross legged and joined them. The mountains were silhouetted in the faint pink and lavender glow of dawn with birds flying down to wash and drink in the lake. Prayers and songs were interspersed with long periods of silence. This was followed by poetry readings and gentle guitar music, then the music of Judy Collins singing, “I must learn to live without you now” as all of us sat meditating on the approach of the new day.

Greater silence continued through breakfast after which we met and talked with the brothers about our lives, our ideas for our religious order and the difficulties of monastic life. They sent us off with well wishes and two jugs of their Cider and a loaf of bread.

May 1, 1974 we finished our brief tour and headed back to New York City and home. Spying some tall wispy Phragmites fronds beside the road that we passed out to the audience (a reedy plant we called “winter wheat”) we decided this would be a good spot to stop for lunch.

Suddenly we heard a loud grating sound and Shipen immediately pulled over and parked the bus alongside of the road. What next? Was it the fan belt? Shipen, Steven and David Lynch set off to find help while David K. and I stayed behind to fix a lunch of soup, beans and tuna fish sandwiches. A tow truck arrived shortly after we finished eating and towed us to a garage in Hartford, Connecticut. There we were, stranded again, waiting for the mechanic to assess the repairs this time.

I was shocked by the verdict. This time we needed a complete crankshaft and the cost of the repair far exceeded the value of the bus. Our old white bus was dead! Was this really the end of our wonderful old home? Unfortunately, it was. It was amazing how sad I felt as we began the slow process of stripping out all of the beds, shelving, stove, pump, instruments and other possessions. Each shelf, each bed, each bit of wood had a different story to tell and I found it very difficult to watch the dismantling of our old metal companion.

Our first bus

Dejected, we rented a truck and packed up our lives into it, then stood on the old white bus for our last prayers in the shell of what had been our traveling home. Curiously it had been exactly two years since we had built her interior and now it was time to say goodbye. Funny how much emotion I had attached to metal and machine but driving home I found myself sifting back through all the adventures she had taken us on. It had been our home away from home for two years and I would miss her!