There were way too many skinny people on the hike and I feared I might not be able to keep up.
I’d decided to forgo a traditional Christmas and spend the day at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in the Massachusetts Berkshires. This was my plan to cope with the loss of my husband on that day that everyone – whether they like each other or not – feel compelled to gather with family. Initially, giving up on a lifelong tradition was a bit like trying to swim upstream, but I was glad in the end.
I’d driven there that morning and rushed into the facility to try to make the 9 am guided hike. If you have never seen the Kripalu center, you’d be disappointed from the outset. The grounds are gorgeous but the building is uninspired brick. It looks like a home for wayward boys. I half expected a youthful Mickey Rooney to saunter out, matchstick in the corner of his mouth trying to organize an illicit crap game before the kindly priest could step in and steer him clear of his wayward ways.
In either case I made it just in time and joined a mixed group by a storage shed as the hike leader, a kindly middle-aged woman who worked at Kripalu, handed out spiked traction gear to put on our boots. There was snow on the ground and so the “snow tire chains” as I called them, came in handy. I had missed the organic, healthy breakfast option at Kripalu and so was glad I had consumed a giant black and white cookie from Zaro’s in NYC on the drive there. (Hey, I never said I was perfect!)
We set off on a snow-packed path across the grounds and began the tentative dance of getting to know each other. A mother was there with her three college-aged girls. They were lithe and coltish, sporting matching hats topped with giant pom-poms.
“I wasn’t sure they’d like it here,” she confessed to me. She was a regular visitor and had surprised her daughters for Christmas with the getaway. They seemed to enjoy it well enough, and kept busy with their phones taking selfies (you can lead a horse to water, blah blah blah).
My initial fear about not being able to keep up proved unfounded. It was as misguided as my first impression of the Center when I drove in and beheld its imposing brick structure. We kept a leisurely pace and it was great to breathe fresh air and leave the confines of my familiar, albeit sad world behind.
My day at the yoga center was full. I took a yoga dance class, got a massage by a kindly female masseuse (who bore a striking resemblance to Jeffrey Tambor in “Transparent”) wandered and unplugged. While there I renewed my lifelong love of reading – an actual, paper and ink book. “The House of Seven Gables” by good ole’ Nate Hawthorne has been a favorite of mine for years. There is a passage early on in the book that resonates:
“Life is made up of marble and mud. And, without all the deeper trust in a comprehensive sympathy above us, we might hence be led to suspect the insult of a sneer, as well as the immitigable frown, on the iron countenance of fate.”
I may be off track, but to me it means don’t worry about what others may think of you since a greater spiritual presence has your back. And I’m reminded yet again not to judge a book by its cover – or a hike by the facade of the hikers, or the beauty of a retreat by its brick and mortar surface.