I will praise him yet
My savior, my God. Psalm 42
“My children, I want you to think very seriously about the matter of your future together. It is very important that each of you consider the possibility of your remaining in New York City, and losing members; or going to the country, and losing members. [long pause] Whatever you do, you must feel the Holy Spirit moving you to do it. I cannot personally presume to stand in the way of the Holy Spirit by trying to influence your decision with my opinions. It is up to each of you to pray and listen carefully to God’s call to you through the Holy Spirit. You must think seriously and not get all tangled up in your emotions as you usually do when you are in the City. On tour you are the most Christian and you should make your decision while you are a Christian family. Now then, I will expect to see you when you return to discuss the matter.”
Having said that, he motioned for us to come up and kneel at the altar while he pronounced ancient words from an Orthodox rite of blessing. Moving solemnly, he placed his hands on each of our heads one by one saying, “The peace of God the Father and the love of God the Son go with you my child.” Thus blessed, we returned home and finished packing everything into the bus that we would need for the next month. Dorita arrived, climbed on board the bus and we were off (she would be dancing during our first concert performance).
As we bumped along on the four-hour trip to Marywood College in Pennsylvania, I reflected on the state of the various relationships in our small family. Dorian and Shipen were happily involved with one another and David and Dorita were deeply in love and excited to be engaged. Traveling through the lush green countryside, I felt oddly disconnected and alone, lost in my thoughts. It was a beautiful, warm summer day but I couldn’t help noticing the ominous gray storm clouds, resting low and threatening above the trees on the distant horizon.
Unfortunately, on the first day of the tour we already had colds and coughs, the scourge of every tour at some point or another. The evening concert went well with Dorita dancing dressed in her rust colored jumpsuit for Psalm 42, and a flowing white dress for Psalm 45, a psalm about a wedding and bride. During the banjo song, she danced with flowing ribbons and did cartwheels and the crowd seemed thrilled. There was a standing ovation and afterwards Mary sold quite a few records. Dorian’s parents had come to the performance and came up afterwards to congratulate us as did some very enthusiastic, bubbly students. Exhausted, we enjoyed a quiet dinner with Dorita on the bus. Shortly afterwards, we said goodbye and she returned to the city while we headed east along the highway. As we drove through the night, I grabbed the chronicle and turned to the blank pages in the back to capture my swirling emotions in poetry. Earlier, before Dorita left, I had overheard her whispering to David. Picking up my pen I was filled with a surge of jealousy and loneliness:
Leaning your heads together you whispered
fragments of words drift back to me
scrunched inside my sleeping bag…
“....but SHE won’t…she never was…
…but what if the community…
... married this spring.”
It’s 2:00 a.m. and sighing,
I turn my face to the window
Memories mingle with tired, worn out dreams.
The road’s too rough for sleep.
I need someone to talk to.
Curled up in my sleeping bag on top of the stove,
I watch ghostly black shapes
Virginia trees in early autumn
rushing by the window
interspersed with distant beacons
soft pinpricks of yellow light.
I weep, silently.
After awhile, unable to sleep
I climb out of my warm flannel bed
And shivering, move to sit
In the front seat of the bus
wondering, for the hundredth time
why I’m so disconnected,
shut off from those I love?
wondering if this loneliness
hounds others too
chasing us down like a blind phantom
hurtling us face down in despair
time after time.
Wondering what makes me want to strike out
against the seven people who share this traveling room,
too narrow for a person to stand beside you in the aisle?
Should I just ignore this gnawing pain
brought on by memories of what could have been?
Should I murmur excuse me again and again
as I bump fourteen elbows on the way to
my cup of cocoa at 2:00 a.m.?
Sipping from the steaming cup, I still wonder
What do we really mean to each other
isolated in our separate prisons?
Straining to recall fragments
of their private conversation
all I can hear is the faint clinking of bones
rattling against cold iron bars.
We drove on and on through the night until we made a brief five hour stop at 5:00 a.m., parked somewhere along the Ohio/Pennsylvania border. In the morning, we continued the rest of the way to Lakewood, Ohio (my home town) and set up at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. We lunched on sandwiches then rehearsed. Melody was feeling quite ill but joined us anyway.
During the concert, the music seemed somehow hollow, flat, less expansive than it had with Christopher and Patricia. I missed the gentle warmth they brought to our songs. People had come and gone in the past, but this time it was much, much harder for me. I felt there were great gaping holes in the music. I missed Christopher’s melodic guitar parts and his wonderful organ improvisations. I missed the mellow richness of his voice. Though Dorian was trying to learn the organ and vocal parts, his untrained voice was more strained. I missed Patricia’s gaiety and spontaneous movements, her soap bubbles, laughter and dancing ribbons during the banjo songs. After Dorita left, Shipen had announced that for this tour there should be as little movement as possible. Huh? He felt we needed to return to a more meditative state with minimal movement and little to no eye contact with the audience (so much for my grandiose dance ideas). Personally, I was more frustrated that it seemed to be taking Dorian a long time to learn the dynamics and flow of the music. I was also annoyed with his habit of singing flat almost constantly. In an attempt to remedy the problem, I tried to show him how to match a tone and if anything come down onto the note rather than slide up to it. That seemed to help.
Having grown up in Lakewood, Ohio, it was lovely to see many of my old neighbors and childhood friends were in the audience. After a potluck dinner, David Lynch drove straight through to Birmingham, Michigan (another of my old stomping grounds). As we drove on and on into the wee hours of the morning, suddenly one of the rear tires went flat. It was a brand new tire too! We pulled into a truck stop at 3 am in the morning to discover it had a 3 inch bolt stuck in the tire. After a quick patch, we drove to Church of the Nativity and slept in the bus parked outside.
The next morning the phone started ringing nonstop at 9am so everyone gave up trying to sleep in and straggled in for breakfast. (All except for Melody who was having x-rays later so was restricted to a liquid diet). The local Episcopal priest named Father Plummer dropped by and introduced himself and then asked if there was anything he could do? Shipen suggested he celebrate communion, which he then did. The service was ultra 1928 straight out of his breast pocket Book of Common Prayer. He agreed to come back the next day to celebrate a Rite II Eucharist. He passed out holy cards, which amused Melody so much she promptly taped them into the chronicle. Later some Trees caught up on mail, worked on the Spirit of 76 tour, made chronicle entries and did other chores. Sarah and David talked, went boating and David played Mr. Lebzelter’s saxophone. Shipen prepared an excellent dinner of mixed grill and afterwards everyone sat around and watched the Trees slide show. Then Mr. Lebzelter entertained everyone by playing the saxophone (much better than David!).
Tuesday Father Plummer came over and led the Eucharist and again passed out holy cards. During the homily, both Shipen and Father Plummer spoke. Shipen was just talking about how God always seems to do what’s least expected when suddenly the phone rang. It was Melody’s doctor with test results advising her to keep on her bland diet. Afterwards brunch of bacon, eggs and waffles (oops, not very bland, sorry!)
The afternoon was spent relaxing, reading, boating, and learning to play music. Sarah and David took the boat out, tipped it and got to swim in 50 degree water! Later, David tried to teach Mary how to play Comfortless on guitar in open g-tuning. Unfortunately, his idea of “teaching” her meant he played it once and then said, “Okay, got it? Now you do it.” That didn’t work too well so eventually she just went for a walk.
Meanwhile, Shipen and Dorian went off into town to go shopping. For some reason they stopped off at the Lebzelter’s house in town, which was where, unfortunately, Father Plummer found them. He had knocked on the door and not getting any response, happened to peer in through the front window. When I heard about it afterwards, all that was said was something about his seeing Dorian and Shipen on the floor and there was some snide remark about their needing to “get a room”. Ta-da-boom! As Shipen reported later, “I guess he’d have to conclude that Dorian and I are very close Christian brothers.” Hmmm.
Shipen had been planning to bake zucchini as the main course for dinner. However, Dorothy Lebzelter brought over some delicious Coho salmon so Shipen’s zucchini was hustled away into the refrigerator for another time. For desert, instead of a spectacular cake failure we had a “pie flop” of rummy pie (not bad) and "tomatoes-apple-trial pie" (yuck).
On Wednesday I hitchhiked in from Bay City and got to hear all the gossip and goings on that had occurred during my absence. My! I also learned that Dorothy and others had been attempting to give Melody a variety of home remedies and unwanted advice about her ulcer which was starting to wear thin, comments like: “Oh, dear, how pale and sick you are....just drink more milk.” Finally, Sarah treated Melody to a makeover with some makeup, a new seersucker dress and a baby blue 1920’s style scarf that matched her eyes. She looked lovely! Everyone commented on how beautiful she looked and never once mentioned her stomach problems. Dinner was lamb, mint jelly, mashed potatoes, squash, homemade applesauce and tomato aspic. The Lebzelters left early and we kicked back to watch TV, drink or take walks. Lovely.
Thursday it was back to work. We packed up and left the Clear Lake cottage and played a concert for the United Methodist Church. Unfortunately, Dorian had the flu but we had to perform, sick or not. It did not go over well and we only sold 5 records afterwards. We drove through the night to Traverse City, parked at a rest stop and slept in the bus.
By Friday all of us had the flu except Stephen and David. Sick and grumpy, everyone was getting worn down. Melody warned that she was entering what she called “a blue funk” and asked us to pray for her. She explained the funk would last about 4-6 days starting with her feeling upbeat and manic. Then she would slam down into depression and ulcer attacks. Lord please bring your healing to us all.
We drove to Grace Episcopal Church in Traverse City and were met by a tall, lanky, sandy haired priest named Father Tom. The church itself was beautiful with rich wood, stained glass and a dark ancient looking interior. I loved it! This time the concert went wonderfully which boosted our moral. A few people complained to the priest that they didn’t like the exotic music (too strange). Afterwards we met Judy (Shipen’s sister) and her family, Bill, Allie and Jill Hottentott from Roller Mills Studio and other friends. We left everything set up and then we drove to Father Tom’s farm for dinner and slept in farm beds.
Sept. 13th. The concerts the next day were sparsely attended (70 people). Still it went quite well and we were paid $600 for the two performances. Splendid! As Sarah sat in the audience watching us, she seemed overcome with emotion. Then as we slowly processed through the parish singing Jesus He knows sure enough, she began singing along. Afterwards, she came up and embraced us explaining that she felt God calling her to come back to the Trees! I was delighted, amazed and overjoyed. At once we surrounded her, hugging and welcoming her back to the Trees (after a two-year hiatus). As we talked later, she filled us in on what had been going on with her. Just before we had arrived, things had been falling through for her. She had planned to enroll in fall classes but when she went to register, learned they were all filled up. Other things fell through until she realized it had been happening for a reason. She felt the Holy Spirit move her to reconsider being in The Trees. It was truly a miracle to everyone and a great surprise! I was very happy and the two of us spent hours laughing and talking trying to catch up on things. It was an answer to my prayers! I had lost Patricia and then the Lord had heard my prayers and sent my best friend back to us. I was so pleased and shocked it was hard to believe at first! What would happen next? I went from feeling sick and depressed to bright joyous enthusiasm in one moment. Now I was even more certain that the Lord wanted us to stay together and that he had a purpose for The Trees Community.
After the concert, we packed up, attended communion then left for our next stop. The priest’s wife Sterling gave us a big box of preserves then off we drove through the night. Along the way we cooked steaks, tatter tots, peas and salad for a Festival night dinner in honor of Sarah’s first day back. Shipen pulled into a Jehovah’s Witness chapel where we ate parked in their driveway. Then we cleaned up and drove to the Lebzelter cottage in West Branch. It was quite late when we pulled in to greet Dorothy and Paul Lebzelter so we went straight to bed without Compline.
Sunday September 14th. No morning service again (were we setting a bad precedent?). We had a huge breakfast with the Lebzelters then off we drove down to Sarah Benstein’s house to help her load her belongings onto the bus. Next stop was Cantebury House in Ann Arbor. We were welcomed by Father Andrew, a striking man with a full beard and long hair that somehow didn’t seem to conflict with his neatly pressed suit. Our concert was in a huge second floor ballroom of the Michigan League. We used their large platform since there were no pews to use in setting up our usual “barge” style stage. About 80 people came to the concert, many of whom were from the Word of God community. In the crowd were my brother Dan and his friends, Ted Tate and his wife from the Finger Lakes Conference and Sister Sara James from Denver who had seen us three years before. Despite the poor acoustics and tuning difficulties, we were given a standing ovation and most the crowd stayed after to ask questions and purchase records. Then we sat and reminisced over old times over a meal of zucchini casserole, bread and cheese at the Canterbury House in Ann Arbor.
We held our Compline service (good!) and then when we went to leave, we couldn’t find Lavrans the kitten anywhere. (Patricia had been unable to take him with her when she left). He must have snuck out when we loaded up the bus! We searched for several hours finally deciding to stay there for the night in the hopes he would find his way back to the bus. I had the flu and Melody had another ulcer attack.
The next day we searched desperately for our little black and white kitty Lavrans but never did find him. Was it a harbinger of things to come? Was he merely the first to bail out? Stephen left instructions on what to do should Lavrans be found, hoping against hope that someone might find him after we had left. Saddened, we left for St. Gregory’s Abbey in Three Rivers, Michigan.
The moment we arrived, the men were whisked away to lunch with the monks leaving us woman standing there somewhat dumbfounded. One of the brothers lingered long enough to inform us that, unfortunately, there was no lunch available for the women but didn’t we have something of our own to eat? Feeling ostracized and mistreated, we four woman returned to the bus and heated up a can of soup and scrounged up some crackers and cheese. How rude! Eventually, another brother returned and took us over to St. Dennis where the men were waiting. We rested, showered or talked with Brothers Gabriel and Peter. It was nice to see familiar faces and catch up on what had transpired since our last visit.
Several hours before the concert, as was our custom, we held a family meeting. Melody brought up her difficulties with her ulcer and how she was tired of being lectured and told it was all in her head. Ulcers aren't caused by “wrong thinking”, etc. Dorian suggested none of us should foist our opinions on her and we should stop trying to pretend we were medical doctors. (excellent point) Sarah pointed out how hard it had been for her when David and Shipen had insisted her hypoglycemia was just “something in her mind.” (Shades of Christian Science!) Dorian’s point was well taken so we agreed to lay off her. Mary gently suggested that Melody should just “be herself” and not feel she had to pretend she was happy or well when she wasn’t.
About 15 brothers attended the concert (including Father Leo, Father Anthony, Brothers Peter, Jude, Bernard and Gabriel) and Peter remarked later that it was better to see the visual than just hear the music on a record. For his part, Dorian commented that the music seemed heavy and less buoyant. I sniped back nastily that his singing parts were flat. Ouch! After the concert we changed out of our costumes and joined the brethren for Compline.
We had dinner with Brothers Bernard, Jude and Peter in St. Dennis. Brother Bernard, kind soul, had slipped us a lot of fresh tomatoes, bread and a kettle of steaming homemade chicken soup along with fresh fruit. Delicious! How grand to visit with Brother Bernard again, bantering about New York City, 42nd Street, Japanese music, his mead and what had become of the crowd of postulants we had gotten to know the last time we were there. We chatted about the “horrible” documentary that had just been done about St. Gregory’s. After dinner, Shipen and I met with Brother Peter, at his request, to discuss his reasons for leaving St. Gregory’s and why he’d decided to move to Church of the Messiah in Michigan. As we talked, he mentioned how painful the whole experience was for him and how uncertain and hurt he felt. Shipen suggested this was an artist’s lot and maybe it wasn’t a bad thing to experience a season of “pain of the desert.” He pointed out that Brother Lavrans and the monks at Gethsemani welcomed this kind of discomfort, likening it to being like John the Baptist during his days in the wilderness. He encouraged Peter saying that this was preferable to being a charismatic who equates confidence and comfort with God’s word but discourages the artist’s constant experience of heightened sensitivity to pain and darkness. Peter shared his misgivings about playing music and living comfortably when there were so many starving people who were destitute without a job or place to go. He felt guilty that God had given him so many possibilities to choose from when others had none. We talked on and on into the night and eventually parted by asking Peter to still consider the possibility of joining the Trees in his prayers. Bed at 1 a.m.
Sept. 16, 1975 We packed to leave. Once we were ready to go, we posed for photographs in front of the chapel with Brother Gabriel, Father Anthony and Father Jude. Then off we drove to Chicago, a quick 3 hour drive (or so we thought!) Midway there the generator (?) started acting up so we were forced to stop to check out the problem. It appeared we’d be able to limp along so we eventually lurched into a parking space outside of the Cathedral of St. James and switched off the bus. Phew, we made it! We shopped for salad fixings for dinner and others picked up a new water pump for inside the bus and a new stove pipe lid. When we returned, Shipen whipped up a delicious chef’s salad with artichokes, nuts, olives, cheeses, meat, peppers, onions, pickles, cauliflower, peas and two kinds of dressing. Excellent! Then David, Sarah, Mary and I took a cab to see the movie Jaws while Stephen while others relaxed or went for walks. We skipped Compline for a change.
September 17th. After a makeshift breakfast and morning prayers, Shipen called another family meeting. He brought up the problem he perceived of our “attitudes” during the concert. He echoed Dorian’s earlier sentiments about the fact the music had been dragged down by people’s attitudes of not “being all there” or putting in enough effort. Someone else pointed out it was not helpful to start glaring at someone who was singing flat or inadvertently making a mistake (ah…that would be me doing that). I expressed my opinion that Dorian and Stephen both struggled with singing on key and how that dragged the melody flat. Shipen countered that he felt the essence of the problem was within the family. That if we were in harmony spiritually, the flatness and singing in key would right itself. I remained skeptical thinking it had nothing to do with attitudes, but I literally bit my tongue to keep from repeating what I had said already too many times. Shipen was already launching in to our spiritual problems bit when, thankfully, Father Pitcher walked onto the bus and that was the end of that conversation. Phew! He helped us set up platforms outside the Cathedral in the heart of downtown Chicago.
It was our first outdoor, street concert in a long while. We set up our amplification system, and took extra care in tuning up. About 100 people came to the concert that afternoon which was the final event of their Summer Concert series. The show went smoothly and was warmly received. We packed up quickly and grabbed a bite to eat at McDonald’s and then zipped over to Ridge Lutheran Church in South Chicago where we gave an 8pm concert to a packed congregation. The audience was made up mostly of elderly parishioners who were quite shocked when Shipen and Stephen did their barefoot “pew walk” while shaking Sanctus bells over their heads. They also reacted with surprise when Shipen reached his fingers into a bowl of holy water and then flicked it onto them as we passed by singing, “the people of Tyre come laden with gifts…the wealthiest nations with jewels set in gold.” Still, they applauded heartily and peppered us with questions over cake and coffee afterwards. Well, if nothing else, at least we were controversial. For dinner, we had baked stuffed green peppers and brown rice, relaxing in the bus after a long and busy day. That night we picked our own rooms in the church’s grade school. As I curled up in my sleeping bag in the kindergarten room, I relished the fact that the next two days were concert-free.
September 18-19th. Melody spent the day with her aunt who lived nearby while Sarah and I went to visit our old school friend Annie and her son. They were living in Reba Place, the Christian community we had visited back in 1971. Her household had 19 members headed up by an elder. Things seemed quite similar to the lifestyle of members of Church of the Redeemer with evening worship and sing-alongs featuring many of the same hymns and songs we had learned at Redeemer. Each household had various individuals living together under the authority of an elder. I found it fascinating to learn more about the history of their community and their relationship with Redeemer, especially in the context of our misadventures there. We had a completely different experience at Redeemer and it became clear that it was quite different than theirs. Nevertheless, Annie seemed happy to see us and I enjoyed visiting with her again and catching up on current events and reminiscing a bit about old times at Leelanau and the Loft.
In the morning, we packed up the bus with the gracious help of one of the parishioners. He also helped us install a gadget to the outside of the bus for our water pump. Thank God for anonymous angels! By 1pm we were off for Springfield, Illinois to The Cathedral Church of St. Paul. We spent the night once again sleeping on our foam pads on the floor in various Sunday school rooms. Melody cooked up a delectable dinner of chicken, biscuits and vegetables while Sarah and I gathered up piles of dirty laundry to wash the next day. After eating, we met in a side chapel of the Cathedral for Compline. During the portion of our service that called for open prayers, one by one we poured out our hearts, asking for healing and guidance in following the Lord’s will for us. This was followed by a long period of peaceful silence. Then, with candles flickering on the altar surrounded by the vast dark expanse of the Cathedral, David Lynch began to prophecy in tongues. Shipen interpreted: “Remember my burden is not heavy, it is light. If you remember that and are not too sober and preoccupied with yourselves and rest in me, I will fill you with all Spiritual delights.”
It took me completely by surprise! I was deeply moved by the unexpected outpouring of God’s Word. It had been a long time since any of us had received the Word in tongues or a prophecy and it was refreshing and very reassuring. Silently, we filed out after Compline and went to our separate beds to think and pray about what had just happened and what it meant.
Sept. 20, 1975 Saturday. Father DeKay helped us run errands. Sarah and I did nine loads of laundry at the Laundromat. I felt down and out with a cold that was relentlessly making its rounds among us.
Interior of St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Springfield, Illinois
At 8pm we began our concert in the Cathedral. What was disconcerting was the fact that the space inside was cavernous coupled with the fact that the audience sat huddled in the very back pews. Realizing that such a vast, empty space is counterproductive to creating an intimate musical experience, Shipen tried to encourage everyone to move forward, explaining it would be much easier to hear the music. Only about half of the 200 people reluctantly straggled toward the front. Even so, an hour and a half later we were given a standing ovation and we sold 10 records afterwards. It was a very, very good concert and I found it very encouraging. I felt that our music was much more cohesive and polished.
Just as Canon West had said, we were finding healing through the performances. Dorian was more confident and, praise God, was now doing better singing in tune. Sarah was back and adding beautiful harmonies and instrumental parts. I only hoped we had turned the corner on our previous problems and things would now be looking up! After we packed up, we joined a cheery champagne reception and then drove through the night to Berea, Kentucky over a bumpy, bumpy road. (Not conducive to sleep!) Finally at 4:00 a.m. David pulled into a truck stop and we slept.
Sept. 21st, Sunday morning we rose and said Morning prayers together. We headed off the next day for Berea for our evening concert there. Unfortunately, we had entered our “Bermuda triangle” and just 30 miles outside of Louisville, Kentucky the bus once again broke down. We managed to creep into a truck stop where we had to call ahead and cancel our concert at Saplding College. We sat reading, writing or playing cards all day while the bus was being repaired. Maybe we should learn not to arrange concerts when we were anywhere near the vicinity of Gethsemani!
Tuesday, Sept. 23, 1975. After the bus was allegedly fixed, we drove to Gethsemani in Bardstown, Kentucky, arriving in the middle of the night in a drizzly rain. My chronicle entry reflects my thoughts on how the tour had been going and some of my unhappiness with the messy lifestyles of the men. Here is part of my entry:
“This tour is going well, in the sense that we are beginning to work together as a tight, complete unit. Dorian has begun to become confident and is therefore singing less flat and a bit more in key. Sarah has rolled up her sleeves and for the first time in weeks the bus is beginning to look clean and neat in the midst of a tour. Stephen can often be found set up in his “office” – which means you might walk into a restaurant and find him with his brief case open and writing away madly. Lately, he’s been working on our part in the Bishop’s “Spirit of 76 Program” and trying to arrange a Trees Tour through the New York diocese for this fall.
One major observation we made at 2:30 a.m. at Gethsemani, upon being dumped off the bus onto the road while the men stonily waited impatiently for the “ladies” to get out, was that there was a certain rudeness attached to the action. Mary stumbled out the door, feeling nauseated but trying to hurry and all four of the women [Mary, Shishonee, Melody and Sarah] trudged through the rain up to the guesthouse. We had all intended to go to Vigils together (only a half hour hence) and so had expected to wait in the bus to go (just as we had the last time we were at Gethsemani). So we came face to face with the attitude of the men – something that had been subtly revealing itself more and more. Sarah was amazed and said, as we lay in the semi darkness waiting to go to Vigils, “Boy, I can’t believe how malechauvinist the men still are after four years!” I jokingly suggested we women should draw up our own list of 27 points! But Mary countered that it would only harm not help.
Main beefs: the men rarely if ever clean the dishes after meals; they don’t clean up the bus when it’s a mess; the false floor hasn’t been built – which we need so as not to have to keep using the kitchen counter as a bed; David Lynch has gotten very self centered; Shipen and Dorian remain a world unto themselves without being too aware of their surroundings; Dorian seems to be another David Karasek taking his shirt off and putting on a new one, leaving the dirty one wherever it’s fallen, or, he keeps asking where the blue case is kept or where is the “refrigerator” when he’s been shown over and over again. What is most perturbing to Sarah and I is that after we’ve cleaned up the bus, a half day later, the bus will be scattered with dirty t-shirts, socks, jackets taken off and laid anywhere, dirty coffee cups, shoes lying about, crumpled blankets, half opened food on the counters, and writing books stuffed into the nearest silverware drawer! The floor is usually grimy and strewn with shoes, garbage, empty coke cans and books. The new tank for the water pump remains uninstalled, the counters are nearly always sticky and the floor most often is wet. To add to this, David plays the tape deck with what HE wants to hear even when we ask to hear other songs, etc. etc…
But in spite of all this, we do seem to be getting along better on the tour, than we do in New York City!”
Well, at least I tried to end my Chronicle tirade on a happy note, hah! We stayed at Gethsemani for over a week. During our meetings, walks and discussions with Brother Lavrans he confessed that he sometimes wondered if God was calling him away from the monastery. He wondered if God was calling him to join the Trees or some other life. He often confided in Shipen talking long into the night or going off with him on long walks in the countryside. I had deep admiration for Brother Lavrans and cherished how he made me feel so welcome and loved. To me he was like a dear, special older brother. I can still envision him striding up the winding road to the guesthouse to meet us for dinner, dressed in his long black and white robe. A poem I wrote on September 26, 1975 captures a little of the feeling of those days and how much Lavrans meant to me and to each of us:
Alone in the late night, here I lie
on my bed…wondering of you
alone on your bed in the night.
I remember how you sat, gazing at us,
eyes crinkled with merriment and unspoken laughter
during our feast where we sat together
the ten of us, eating cross-legged on mats
a feast your gentle hands had prepared.
I gazed in wonder at the banquet you’d laid out
and then quietly, you stood, waiting
to offer us more wine, or bread or food.
Then you sat down again, a halo of love
spreading an arc around you.
How freely you laughed, eyes twinkling
bent over as you poured wine,
laughing then quiet again.
I watched you.
While we talked of our mistakes and former haunts,
you drank in every moment of the evening
tasting each smile, memorizing each word
to savor when we were suddenly gone again.
How you hinted that each time we leave
you wish you could come but for your vows…
you took the summer off from painting
and yet how busy you were
searching and designing costumes,
movements for our symphony
alone in the desert
on your bed
you dreamed of masks and robes
giving wings to our simplest visions
even while we were questioning whether
to continue or disband in our doubts,
you remained faithful, when we hardly even knew…
and then, tall brother, as we embraced
we were engulfed in your arms
suddenly aware in that vulnerable act
of the wealth of your gifts
freely given to us.
Lying here, I wish that I
could kiss the soft skin of your eyes
and ask you of the cool winds
that refresh in the desert…
and tell you sweet monk, sweet brother,
that I love you.
We were to have several more dinners and meals with both Brother Lavrans and Brother Mark before we left. I always had the sense that we had made a very special connection with both of them, as we had with so many of those holy men. We would write back and forth, and pray for one another after we left, before we returned again during the next tour. Still I was surprised at how close I felt to them - not in any kind of a physical way – the connection was on a spiritual level with a much purer love - like brothers and sisters.
October 6th, 1975 [Curiously, there were no further entries in the Chronicle until twelve days later, after we had ended the tour and returned to New York City. The pages are blank where I left room to write about it, or, as was often the case, when I delegated the writing to someone else, but for whatever reason it was never done. It does appear by one brief entry that we went to pick up the bus a week after our arrival at Gethsemani, after it was repaired. (Probably a part had to be ordered and then installed). There is some mention of a ritzy luncheon at “The Arts Club” where we met with Art Crowley and someone named George from Christ Church Cathedral. I assume that after we left Gethsemani, we must have performed at several more places on our way back to the city. By the 6th of October, the tour was over.